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20 Best Back-to-School Tips from ParentMap Readers

Our readers' top tips on school supplies, lunches, organization and more

Nancy Chaney

Published on: August 08, 2019


Remember when you were a kid and a summer or a school year seemed like practically an eternity? I miss those days. These days, I feel like the proverbial pages of the calendar flip by at warp speed. Another summer of camps and swim lessons and play dates and family trips is nearing its end. I want to grab all those calendar pages and hold them tight.

Wishing or not, time stops for no mom.

Back-to-school is around the corner. To soften the blow, we've compiled a list of super back-to-school tips from you, our readers, our village. Whether you’re laughing or crying, rolling your eyes or considering sniffing glue, back-to-school is almost here.

School-suppliesSchool supplies tips

  • Buy school supplies early or online (or end up like this mom).
  • Recycle! Look through last year’s supplies and see what you still have.
  • Have kids help as much as possible.
  • Keep the supply list in the car so you can take advantage of sales as they pop up.
  • "We hang backpacks open, with the supply last clipped to the outside, and cross things off as we fill the backpacks, almost like a scavenger hunt!"

Routines and organization

  • "Start the school-year bedtime and wake-up time routine well before school starts."
  • "Have everything ready the night before — bags packed, lunches made, clothes laid out — to avoid morning craziness and stress!"
  • Make and post checklists that everyone can see and be responsible for.
  • "I put all the dates for the school year on my Google calendar as soon as the school sends them in the summer."
  • "The same day kids bring stuff home it either gets recycled, signed and returned to their school folder, or labeled/dated and placed in their magnetic 'inbox' on the side of the fridge. At the start of each month we go through the inbox to see if we really still need or are in love with all the art and schoolwork."
  • Display a family calendar for events, work schedules, tests, practices and lessons, so that everyone knows what is coming up.
  • "Labeled boxes and bins for each kid!"

ConverseClothes shopping

  • Sort through kids’ closets and consign or donate outgrown clothes before buying new ones. Same with shoes.
  • Keep kids' new clothes and shoes packed away so they’re not worn out by the start of school.
  • "We don't back-to-school shop for clothes. We buy as the seasons change so we don't have to deal with the crowds."
  • "Hit the Goodwill and Value Village for new kid wardrobes."

Lunch tips

  • Make ahead and freeze lunch stuff for at least the first week of school.
  • Plan some menus for lunches (with your child's "help") and have your child help make his own lunch for the next day.
  • Freeze yogurt tubes, grapes or even chocolate milk so that when lunchtime rolls around, food is ready but still chilled.
  • Bento box-type lunch boxes with containers that fit together help kids keep their lunches organized.

Boy-at-deskHomework tips

  • Use stacking trays for homework, with labels such as “completed work” and “must finish.”
  • Create a study space where kids can do their homework.
  • For older kids, prepare a hanging file for each subject or class.

A veritable chorus of parents encouraged starting back-to-school prep early: “Do as much as you can as early as you can!” urged one. That probably means right this instant, or better, last week. But one reader bucked the trend and offered this advice: “Leave it until the end. Enjoy the summer and the time you have with your kids. It's over all too fast.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2017 and updated for 2019.

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