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4 Tips for Preparing Your Child for Back-to-School

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Has anyone else been singing “The Wheels on the Bus” nonstop these days?! We’ve pulled out all the “school” books we have and are getting excited for the school year to officially begin.

I even have Bram’s first picture day officially marked on my calendar…I swear, as I type this, I’m trying not to cry!

He will be in 3K this year (he turns four in September) and will only be going 2 mornings a week, but still, it feels *really official* to have his first picture day highlighted on my calendar.

So, we are working to transition from our slow and flexible summer days to a little more structure with our schedules needing to adjust in the next week or two.

As a mom, sleep consultant, and former teacher, I’ve got some thoughts and recommendations for helping your little one get ready to go to school, whether it’s for the first time or the fifth!

Start to tighten up daily and sleep routines again.

Start setting out clothes the night before. Have your child pick them out. If they’re younger, give them a choice between two outfits. If they’re older, have them do it all on their own. If you can start building this into their routine now, it’s going to make the rushed mornings when school starts just a little easier. We’re all about ease, right?!

Have your child help with preparing and eventually packing lunches. Kids love to help, and eventually, this is something they can do on their own! One less thing for mom or dad to do. ;)

If your bedtime routine during the summer months was a little more lenient, that’s perfectly okay, but now that the school year is about to begin, it’s time to get back to your regularly scheduled programming. You might have skipped bathtime or books on nights that were later, but now it’s time to slow down and refocus on spending that quality time together with a calming, unhurried bedtime routine.

With your child being at school all day, they’ll benefit from a solid bedtime routine each night, about 30-40 minutes long, that focuses on connection with you. Start your evening by preparing a meal (together or while your child chills while watching tv for a bit…trust me, as a former teacher, they’re going to benefit from some downtime when they get home after a long day of learning), followed by some large motor playtime.

I highly recommend getting outside and playing together as a family in the evening if possible. Spending time outside while the sun is lower in the sky supports a healthy circadian rhythm and will naturally boost melatonin production. Go for a walk or bike ride and tire them out completely, so they’re ready for their calming bedtime routine when you get back inside.

Do bathtime (or a shower), get pajamas on, help them brush their teeth, and head into their bedroom. Snuggle up against or in their bed and grab a few books. Use this time for cuddles and connection. I also love to do a meditation with my older son on his screen-free Zenimal device (use this link or the code LAKECOUNTRYSLEEP for 5% off). Give hugs and kisses and say goodnight. Before you know it, your little sweetheart will be in dreamland.

Move towards your school year schedule a week or so in advance.

I’m guessing bedtimes and naptimes got pushed a little later this summer, and that’s to be expected. I’m also hoping your child is still getting 10-12 hours of sleep at night! ;)

Now that school is about to start up again, we want to ensure your child is still getting that 10-12 hours of sleep at night, even though their mornings may need to be a bit earlier.

Let’s say your child has been sleeping from 8:30 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. this summer. School starts at 7:30 a.m., so now they’ll need to be waking by 6:30 a.m. to make sure they have time to get dressed, make their bed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and get to school on time! Here’s what you can do: gradually bring bedtime earlier every few nights. After about a week, they should be in bed by 7:30 p.m.

Make sure sleep is stellar for all the learning that’s about to happen!

Sleep is SO important for everyone’s well-being, and especially for your child’s learning and development.

Did you know that growth hormones are released when your child is sleeping? They may literally look like grew overnight…because they probably did! Memories from the day also get pruned or stored when your child is sleeping. Their brain basically goes through the day and decides what information was important enough to keep and what can be forgotten. This is where learning, over the course of time, practice, and repetition, turns into knowledge.

If your child isn’t getting the quality sleep they need, you may notice some struggles with learning and/or retention.

Set your child up for success by ensuring they’re sleeping well every night. If they’re not, we’d encourage you to reach out to us (did you know we work with children through age 10?) or your child’s physician to come up with a plan to get them on track. We’re currently offering Back to School and Starting Daycare 30-minute sessions with me, a former kindergarten teacher, and early childhood director.

School-age children (grade or elementary school) will need around 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep at night for all this magic to happen.

Work on independence with self-help skills.

Just like with sleep, we want to make sure your child has a solid foundation of self-help skills so that when they get to school, their brain can be fully focused on the content and learning!

If they already know how to open their snacks, put their own clothes on, and zip their jacket, you’re on the right track!

Learning new information is hard work for a little brain. Make things easier for them by teaching them how to do these other things (the self-help things) before they go to school, so it’s second nature by then.

Trust me, worrying about how they’re going to tie their shoes shouldn’t be taking up that valuable real estate in their brain space when they should really be focusing on the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking and fluently adding and subtracting within 5 (yes, these are kindergarten standards!).

Quality sleep and nutrition are the foundations of all of these other skills. Start there, and then teach them independence so they can bloom and grow all year long!

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