Back-to-school checklist

While the return to the classroom is thrilling for parents and kids, there’s just so much to be done. Samantha Ball has the rundown on what parents need to get ready for the new school year.

First Steps

• Call your child’s school about any questions/concerns.
• Find out the date/time of the first day.
• If your child is new to the bus, consider attending a school bus safety awareness session.
• Fill out all emergency contact sheets and required forms. The more information shared, the better. “Tell teachers about any special concerns … in writing so they can get to know your child more quickly,” says teacher Shannon Keeling.
• Ensure your child has all required immunizations.
• Notify school about health problems or medications. Keeling advises medications be organized well ahead of time.

Back-to-school shopping

• Check the school or board website for a school supply list. Note: purchasing supplies is voluntary. Those in need of financial assistance can contact 211.
Ottawa mom Heather Phillips has four daughters, ranging in age from four to 13 years. She recommends reviewing your child’s closet before shopping to get an idea of what they actually need. Investing in a quality school bag is a must, she adds, because they can be reused – and make sure it properly fits your child.

Help your child prepare

Colleen McDonald of the Ottawa Catholic School Board offers the following tips to reduce stress and help ready students:

• Sleep/bedtime routines are important so your child will have energy to learn. Try to “unplug” well before bedtime.
• Physical activities/outdoor play calm the brain and relax the body, allowing children to be ready to learn. Limit screen time to encourage active play.
• Healthy eating and proper hydration ensure children are able to function and provide the energy needed to learn.
• Set aside some quiet time in the day to relax and rejuvenate.

For children entering kindergarten

It’s important to practise:

• self-help strategies
• bathroom/hygiene routines
• dressing routines
• choosing snacks and lunch items and opening/closing containers

And provide plenty of opportunities for:

• cooperating and playing with other children
• free play, to allow your child to be creative
• experiencing separation from mommy/daddy, but be sure to tell them where you are going and that you will be back
• playing games, to model turn-taking and perseverance
• talking to your child about school and helping them express their feelings. Share your positive school experiences.
• visiting the school and playing in the yard. Reinforce safety routines.

Stay informed/get involved

• Keeling suggests finding the best way to communicate with the teacher: phone, email, office appointments, etc.
• She emphasizes the importance of reading all school/class information and retaining it for reference.
• Sign forms immediately or have a dedicated drop-off space.
• Mark down school events or important dates right away.
• Phillips notes many teachers are maintaining classroom blogs and e-newsletters, which she finds helpful.
• She suggests checking school and board websites, as well as social media such as Facebook or Twitter.
• Getting involved with the school parent council is a great way to be a “voice in the decision-making,” says Phillips.
• Volunteer for special events or fundraisers.
• Create before- and after-school systems that work for your family.
• Make sure your kids know the plan for before school, getting to school, and getting home.
• Make before- and after-school routines as simple and seamless as possible.
• Another tip to help breakfast run smoothly is to use a kitchen timer so the kids know when time is up!

Phillips believes in teaching self-reliance. After school, Catriona, 13, and Sophie, 10, empty their lunch bags, pack their lunch for the next day and do their homework, followed by supper, bath and social time. They are also responsible for ensuring their school bags are ready by the front door.
The older girls get themselves dressed as soon as they wake up, and Phillips finds that giving her younger daughters a choice of two outfits helps.

A few final tips

• Avoid overscheduling extracurricular activities to main- tain balance.
• Have a network of family and/or friends who can help if needed.
• Above all, have fun!




Photo: © andresr