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10 Tips to Preparing Your Kids for Back to School!
By Caroline Taggart,
Author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Back to school can be stressful for kids and parents alike, so here are Ten Helpful Hints for busy moms (and dads). The aim is to make the whole thing a bit more fun and perhaps teach the kids something at the same time. Some of this program needs to run through the vacation, so set a good example -- don't leave everything till the night before school starts!

During vacation

1) If your kids are going to a new school, see if there is an open day when they can go and look around, find out where their classroom and the cafeteria and the bathroom are, so that they feel a bit less lost on the first day. If they are worried, tell them the story of Theseus killing a monster called the Minotaur and unwinding a ball of string behind him so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth it lived in: even Ancient Greek heroes felt a bit lost sometimes. If there is no official arrangement for this sort of thing, ask if you can do it informally.

2) Make sure everyone knows the way to school. If you are driving, do a dry run with the kids so that you know how long it takes and where you can park. If they are going by bus or other public transit, check out timetables and fares. Find out which other kids are taking the same journey so that they can travel together.

3) Find out what they need for the first day and take them with you when you shop for books, stationery or sports kit -- they're much more likely to enjoy using a notebook they have chosen for themselves and if they are there to help it will spared the embarrassment of you buying something uncool for them to wear in gym class.

4) If you know they are weak in some subjects -- or are about to take a subject they have never studied before -- find some games that might help. www.coolmath4kids.com has lots of ideas if they are struggling with math. Games like Scrabble are brilliant for spelling and vocabulary; and Trivial Pursuit will get their summer-soaked brain ticking over again and perhaps teach them a bit of history and geography as well. Take walks in the local park or woods: they can see what the wildlife is up to and how the leaves on the trees are changing colour. Brush up on your knowledge of photosynthesis and explain how the plants produce less of the green pigment chlorophyll as the days get shorter, so the yellows and oranges we see in the leaves emerge because of the absence of the normal green colour. It might just spark an interest in science

5) Read to them -- or, with older children, encourage them to read -- in bed for 15-30 minutes. A quiet time at the end of the day will help them to sleep. Also, seeing reading as a pleasure rather than a chore is the beginning of an enriching experience that will last them all their life. Stories spark the imagination, get kids caring about the characters and thinking about the choices those characters have to make -- choices that may crop up in their own lives one day. If nothing else, it also delays the moment of putting the light out.

A few days before

6) Introduce a "back to school" timetable a few days before the big day. Warn the kids in advance that come Thursday (or whenever) they will be going to bed at their normal school-day time, not the more flexible vacation time. Try to get them out of bed earlier too -- that way the first day back won't be quite so painful. If (when?) they argue, shut them up with another bit of science: when it gets dark, our levels of the sleep hormone melatonin rise and those of the stress-related hormone cortisol lower, making it easier for us to unwind and go to sleep. Using artificial light to enable us to stay up late disrupts this pattern and increases physical and mental wear and tear. Annoyingly, going to bed early really is good for you.

7) Make a list of everything they are going to need on the first day and do any last-minute shopping.

The night before

8)Make sure they know what they are going to wear and that they have packed their bags in order to minimize panic in the morning.

9) Organize lunch or lunch money. If they are taking their own lunch, include a piece of fruit and a few pieces of raw vegetable such as carrot or celery. Emphasize balance -- a little bit of lots of different foods is likelier to be healthier than a single portion of the same thing. Too many carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes) will make them sleepy in the afternoon and lessons will drag. Milk, water or fruit juice is better than soda: so perhaps include soda once a week as a treat. If they are eating in the cafeteria, try to get them to follow the same principles: having a burger and fries every day will make them feel sluggish (and eventually sick). It'll also be boring: impress upon them that if they are finding food boring they are doing something wrong. Or fall back on a horror story: tell them about xerophthalmia, beriberi, scurvy, rickets (the diseases caused by a deficiency of vitamins A, B, C and D respectively) as you slip an orange into their backpack.

On the day

10) Famous last words: get them out of the door in plenty of time. If you have more than one child, make it a race to see who can be ready first. There's always lots to do on the first morning -- homerooms to find, friends to catch up with -- and they don't want to miss out on the fun.

©2009 Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio

Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writer's Market UK 2009.

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