30 Back to School Tips for Parents

Back to school season is here! From organizing the flow of information and replenishing snack centers, to creating cute homework caddies, a few moments of preparation will go a long way toward acing the school year. Set your family up for success with these 30 tips and ideas that will send you to the top of the class. 

  1. Take an Assessment - Think back to last school year and reflect on which systems and routines worked well and what could be improved.
  2. Prioritize Activities - Ask your kids about their favorite afterschool activities from the last school year, and what they would like to continue this fall. Discuss what activity is at the top of their list (and the next few) to help prioritize sign ups and scheduling.  
  3. Car Prep - Make sure the family taxi is ready to hit the road. Schedule a tune up, clean the car inside and out and restock the necessary supplies. 
  4. Calendar - Start adding important dates to the family calendar as soon as you have them. Use color coding to indicate school holidays, sports practices, vacations, appointments, etc.
  5. Clean Out Drawers - Before you go back to school shopping, clean out drawers and take stock of what you already have. If you find items in good condition that you no longer need, donate them to the school or local nonprofit organizations. 
  6. Set Expectations - Call a family meeting and clearly define what you expect of each child. Outline chore duties, academic expectations and other responsibilities. List this information on an index card and keep it in view.
  7. Colored Folders - Assign each child a colored folder for information that needs parental attention. Keep the folder in their backpack and review it every night to stay updated on the latest news! 
  8. First Week Meals - The first week of back to school is hectic - make dinner time easier (and tastier) with pre-planned meals. Stock the freezer, plan a pizza night and fill the pantry with ingredients for quick grab and go options.
  9. Homework Caddy - Make your students feel special with their very own homework caddy. Include pens, crayons, pencils, a ruler, calculator and other items from the school supply list. 
  10. Grow Your Parent Network - Seek out other parents and caregivers in person and create a support network. Reach out to this group when you need a tutor, recommendations for services, carpool buddies or advice about the school. 
  11. Morning Rehearsal - Put your morning routine to the test before the first bell rings. Set alarms and see how long it takes everyone to get out the door. Make any adjustments as needed for the first day.
  12. First Day Pictures - Decide on first day of school outfits and gather signs and props for that all important moment. Build in time for first morning pics or take them prior to the first day of school. 
  13. Transportation Plan - Talk through how the kids are going to get to school if they miss the bus or their carpool ride.
  14. Vaccinations and Physicals - Make an appointment with your child's doctor prior to the start of school. If your child is participating in a school activity, you will most likely need an updated physical and accompanying paperwork. Also check the school's vaccination requirements. 
  15. Stay in the Know - Subscribe to the school's social media channels to stay up to date on events, news and volunteer opportunities.
  16. Open House - Mark your calendar for the open house! Even if you have a returning student, don't pass up the opportunity to meet teachers and see where your student will be learning! 
  17. Dietary/Medical Needs - If your child has special medical or dietary needs, reach out to the school and find out what is needed to have their needs met during the school day. 
  18. Goal Setting- A new school year is the perfect opportunity to accomplish new things! Ask your child to write down three or four goals. The lists could include academic or sports achievements, developing better study habits or taking more responsibility for getting themselves ready in the morning.
  19. Neighborhood Playdate - Invite friends and neighbors who will be attending the same school as your child for a playdate or a picnic at the park. 
  20. Electronics Contract - Make an electronics contract with each child that outlines how much screen time is allowed on phones, computers, TV and social media during the school week. 
  21. Eye Exam - A lot can change in a year - including vision. Visit your local ophthalmologist and "see" if anyone in the family needs glasses or an updated prescription.
  22. Emergency Contacts - When outfitting backpacks, include a list of emergency contacts and phone numbers.
  23. Clean House - Start the year off fresh with a deep house cleaning. This is a great time to declutter, organize and toss items.
  24. Give Back - As you tick off the school supply list, pick up a few extra items and donate them to the school or nonprofit that collects items for those in need.
  25. Celebrate the New School Year - Schedule a family fun night before the first day of school. Head to a favorite dinner spot or play games you enjoy. Ask your kids what they are excited about for the new school year.  
  26. Stock Up on Snacks - Hectic life on the go means being ready with yummy snacks! Keep a supply in the car, backpacks, sports bags and anywhere you find hungry kids. Check out these tasty after school snack ideas. 
  27. Bathroom Schedule - Make a bathroom schedule with shower, hair and basic grooming time blocks. If you are CHD (chief hair doer), let your kids know when they need to be ready to get styled for the day. 
  28. Storage Plus - Take stock of your storage systems and determine if you need more bins and baskets to keep things clean and organized.
  29. Lift Kits - Fill a large plastic zip bag with basic first aid items, lip balm, pens, feminine products, snacks, masks or other necessities a busy student might need. Keep this in their backpack and include a little note of encouragement.
  30. Gifts - Send your little people off on the first day with a little something to let them know you care. 
Add these recommendations to your back-to-school toolkit and make it the best year ever! 

Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C. She gratefully shares her life, home and heart with her daughter and their dog.