As the summer draws to a close, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators are urging parents and caregivers to address back-to-school basics now to help their children get the school year off to a good start.
"Back-to-school time is an exciting time for most children it's a time to make new friends, reconnect with old friends and meet new teachers," said Carrie Shrier, MSU Extension children and youth educator.
"As exciting as school can be, however, it often is a source of anxiety for children," Shrier said in a statement. "As the summer winds down, take time to plan ahead for the start of school to avoid complications and reduce anxiety."
Ten tips to help your child be ready for the school year:
1. Visit school.
Most school buildings open a few weeks before the first day. Take your children to school for a tour. Where is the lunchroom? The playground? Where do they hang their coats? Where are their classrooms? How do they get from the front door to the classroom? Many schools offer a special open house or picnic, a time to meet up with old friends and make new ones. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.
2. Meet the teacher.
Once the coveted teacher assignment arrives in the mail, plan a meet-the-teacher visit. Call ahead to see if you can make an appointment to stop in and say "hello." Help your child find his/her coat hook, locker, desk, etc. Talk with the teacher about any concerns you may have and any special needs, allergies or other issues that may arise.
3. Make new friends.
If your child is new to the building, see if you can arrange for a play date with other children going into the same grade or in the same class. Having a few familiar faces that first day can help your child feel much more confident and comfortable.
4. Be prepared.
Include your child in back-to-school shopping. Even kindergarteners have strong opinions about what they would like on their backpacks or what they want to wear to school the first day. If the teacher has provided a supply list, take your child shopping to help select those special items.
5. Adjust the schedule.
As the final days of summer draw to a close, start moving your child onto the school schedule. Those late bedtimes have been fun all summer but not so much when kids have to get up and moving early. Begin by moving up bedtime 10 to 20 minutes a day until you have adjusted children to their normal school-day bedtime and wake-up time. Remember, elementary-school- aged children should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night.
6. Practice the routine.
In the last few days before school starts, take time to run through a typical school morning. Get your child up and dressed as if he/she were headed to school. After a healthy breakfast, head out to the bus stop or the car on time. Look for potential glitches in your routine and plan ahead to avoid "morning madness."
7. Think safety.
As you plan for your child's day, be sure to think about safety coming and going from school. Walking, carpooling and riding the bus present different potential safety risks. Be sure to talk to your children about their specific situation and make sure they know how to cross streets safely, are using an appropriate booster seat in a car, if needed, or that they understand bus rules. More back-to-school safety information can be found at SafeKids.org.
8. Immunizations and physicals.
Check with your child's pediatrician to be sure immunizations are up to date. Back-to-school time is a good time to schedule annual well-child exams. An exam may be required if your child is planning to participate in a sport. More information about the Michigan school vaccine requirements, as well as contact information for your local health department, can be found online at the Michigan Department of Community Health website.
9. Plan for healthy meals.
Research has shown that kids who eat a healthy breakfast and lunch get better grades and are more attentive at school. Talk with your children about what they would like to eat and help them choose a well-balanced selection of "brain foods." More information on children's nutrition can be found at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate website.
10. Assistance is available.
Your family may qualify for nutrition assistance through the National School Lunch Program. This federal program provides for free or reduced-price school lunches and in some cases breakfast as well. Contact your school's nutrition program for an application.
Some districts make this application available online. Many community agencies also offer additional back-to-school support, such as free backpack events and discounted or free school supplies and clothes. If you are in need of support to help get your children ready for school, be sure to contact your local community service agencies for more information on events in your area.
"Taking time to plan ahead for the new school year is well worth the effort," Shrier said. "Confident, calm, well-rested children are more likely to have an excellent first day and a fabulous year ahead!"
For more information on childhood development and resources for families, visit the Family webpage on the MSU Extension website at msue.anr.msu.edu.