Editor’s note: This article was updated on Aug. 15, 2023.
As a Brownie, I may not have received (nor would I probably currently receive) the cooking badge, but I did make a strong effort to follow the “Be Prepared” motto. With that in mind, here’s how to set your family up for a great school year with some back-to-school tips.
We all know that kids thrive on the comfort and security of routines. Setting a routine for bedtime, meals, family time, and homework will give kids the structure they need for their day to run more smoothly. Implement your routines before school starts so there are no surprises when the year begins.
It’s undeniable that sleep is SO important for all of us. For school-aged kids, a lack of sleep can lead to behavioural issues, the inability to focus, to problem-solve, or to retain information. Current guidelines recommend nine to 12 hours of sleep for kids between the ages of six to 12 years.
You can help ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep with a routine, which could include a bath, story, or other wind-down activities such as listening to relaxing music or meditation. Also, be sure that screens are turned off at least one hour before bedtime.
It’s widely accepted and understood that nutrition is a critical part of health and development and that academic performance and quality nutrition are linked. Just as with sleep, a diet lacking in adequate vitamins and minerals can lead to lack of focus, fatigue, anxiety, language skills delay, and behavioural issues.
Canada’s Food Guide recommends plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, protein, and water every day. Looking for some healthy snack and meal ideas? Check these out:
- Healthy on-the-go snacks for active kids
- 30 healthy snacks for active kids
- What to feed your active child
When your kids are involved in clubs, teams, or other activities outside of school time, they get to explore various interests, make friends, experience the value of teamwork, and learn a whole lot of life skills.
Chat with your kid and find out what they’re interested in. Perhaps they love coding or dance or soccer or sewing or guitar or martial arts or… the list is endless! Programs can be found in schools, in local community rec centres, or in clubs.
If the pandemic taught many of us anything, it’s that slowing down when locked out of many of life’s activities has caused us less anxiety and stress. Overscheduling leads to burnout, less healthy meals (I don’t want to even admit what my kids sometimes ate in the car), and less time to spend with family members. Instead of filling your child’s (and your own) calendar with activities, leave time for unstructured play in the backyard and for having meals together.
6. Include time for movement
We know that active bodies = happier kids. Not only does movement have a positive effect on mental health, it also leads to better outcomes in the classroom. Kids who live an active lifestyle are able to concentrate and be collaborative, more confident, and disciplined.
Have your child walk or bike to school in the morning, play in the schoolyard at the end of the day, have a dance party at home, play soccer in the backyard, or join a team.
Looking for some ideas to help keep your kid moving? Try these:
- The easiest way to get active as a family? Add a daily walk to your routine
- The simple joy of climbing trees
7. Include some down time in your schedule
Quiet time—it’s not just for adults (also known as racing to the washroom alone!). When kids are given unstructured time to be still, to daydream, to draw, to read, or to play quietly with their toys, it provides them with the chance to be creative and to reflect.
8. Homework organization
Setting up a routine of when and where homework is done will result in homework being completed on time and in kids learning about time management.
For some kids, coming home and “getting it out of the way” while lessons are still fresh in their minds works well. Others need a rest, a snack, or time for play before they begin their work. Keeping the time as regular as possible will provide the routine that gives kids the knowledge and comfort that they’ll be well-prepared for school.
The location of where kids do their homework can be a desk or a dining room or kitchen table. Find a spot where kids can have quiet, with no (or few) distractions such as a TV or loud siblings.
Take time to chat with your kids. Let them know that you and their teacher are available for any schoolwork or other issues they’re struggling with. Similarly, keep an open line of contact with your child’s teacher to make them aware of any issues that might be impacting your child’s progress.
10. The night before
Make the “getting out the door” portion of the day a smooth process by having kids put their shoes, coats, etc. in a set spot when they arrive home so they’re quickly available in the morning. The old “one mitt is missing!” panic will no longer be an issue. Similarly, having knapsacks with homework and school supplies by the door and lunches and snacks made in advance will make the morning a breeze (or at least a lot less of a hurricane).
11. Family calendar
Increase your chances of remembering when Kid 1 has soccer and Kid 2 has a project due by keeping a family calendar in a location where everyone can see. Use a chalkboard, a standard wall calendar, or print a calendar template from the internet. Colour code it for each member of the family (and don’t forget the furry ones who might have their own appointments).
A second poster for reminding everyone of the daily routine goes a long way to having your days go smoothly. Younger kids can help update the calendar by adding stickers such as a soccer ball on their game days or cake stickers for birthdays. As kids get older, teach them the responsibility of time management by having them write in their own homework duedates or activities on the calendar.
As the school year approaches, be mindful that we’re all a bit rusty after summer vacation. Give yourself a break if things don’t run 100% smoothly every day and remember to take care of yourself too. A happy and healthy parent = a helpful and available one.
If my Brownie training has taught me anything, it’s that being prepared goes a long way to giving kids a smooth transition from summer to school and every day along the way.