Preparing Kids for the First Day of School

The first day of school is months away, but it’s never too early to prepare your child—especially if they’re stepping into a classroom for the first time. It’s a pretty harsh lifestyle change, after all, from TV and playdates to being cooped up in a classroom eight hours a day for the next decade or two.

Today’s Parent offers a detailed guide to preparing your child for school, from practical tips and safety measures to emotional conditioning. They start with some simple pointers, such as getting kids’ brains working by upping the reading time and waking them up early a week or two before to get them used to the new routine.

They also advised against doing anything big on Labor Day weekend, typically the last weekend before the start of school. Children should be able to relax the day before rather than go to bed tired. Lay out their clothes and pack their lunches before going to bed yourself, so the next morning isn’t too hectic. Pick a spot for their backpacks to avoid the last-minute scrambling for supplies before heading out the door.

Limit shopping to the basics, such as paper, pencils, and crayons. Teachers usually send kids home on the first day with a list of the things they’ll need—that’s a better time to hit the stores, as you’ll know exactly what to look for.

The authors also offer a few safety reminders; for instance, they said children should know the home phone number and address by heart by the time they start first grade. They should also know how to call 911. If they walk or cycle to school, do several test runs and make sure to point out areas to avoid, such as alleys.

According to the article, most school bus accidents happen when kids get on or off. Teach them to wait a good distance from the curb, and never to walk right behind or in front of the bus (or any vehicle, for that matter).

Emotional preparations are also important. Show enthusiasm for their first day, but don’t go overboard. Explain that it’s okay to be nervous, that teachers will understand if they are, and that making friends is a great way to cope. Sticking a note or a family photo into the child’s bag can help relieve separation anxiety. If possible, schedule a tour of the school so they’ll know where their classrooms are and meet their teachers.

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