A Maryland State Department of Education Resource


9 Back-to-School Organizational Tips for Parents and Families

Back-to-school routines can help kids cope with in-person learning.

9 Back-to-School Organizational Tips for Parents and Families
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9 Back-to-School Organizational Tips for Parents and FamiliesHow do you help kids get ready for back to school?

As summer ends, parents and families start preparing for back-to-school schedules by adjusting their routines. It is often a stressful time for families as they transition from a laid-back summer to a hectic school schedule and, in many cases, to a new program or school.

Whether it’s from preschool to kindergarten or middle to high school, the stress and challenges associated with back-to-school transitions are at an unprecedented high due to the trauma and uncertainty associated with COVID-19. It will be the first time moving from a remote or hybrid model to in-person learning for many school districts across the country. For educators, experts recommend adding mental health activities to daily lesson plans.

“If kids don’t return to school and get a lot of attention paid to security, safety, predictability and re-establishing of strong, secure relationships, [they] are not gonna be able to make up ground academically,” Matt Biel, a child psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said during an NPR Podcast.

mother and father watch over the shoulders of son and daughter as they pack their backpacksMany families, however, still have questions and concerns. How to prepare kids for a return to in-person learning? How do I get my children back into a school routine?

For families, experts suggest having conversations with children in advance to go over expectations and any upcoming changes. According to PBS for Parents, when you talk about what to expect, you can answer many of their unspoken questions — and better help your child navigate those unexpected moments.  In addition, practicing back-to-school routines before the first day can help kids cope with the return to in-person learning.

By putting the following simple organizational strategies in place at the beginning of the school year, families can ease stress and help children and their teachers have a smoother transition.

1. COVID-19

The education and health departments updated Maryland’s School and Child Care Guidance that strongly recommends indoor mask usage in schools, regardless of vaccination status. Ensure children and educators have a safe and healthy return to in-person learning by getting familiar with the state’s back-to-school masks and additional layered prevention strategies, policies and recommendations.

2. Vaccinations

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, immunizations usually occur at your child’s check-ups. (Here are the recommended vaccination schedules for birth through age 6 and 7-18.) Making sure your children are up-to-date on their vaccinations is one of the best things you can do to protect them!

3. Bedtime

According to WebMD, bedtime routines are important for children. Regardless of age, regular schedules and bedtime rituals help us get the sleep we need and give us the ability to function at peak levels. Learn about the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines outlining recommended sleep duration for children from infants to teens.

Are you struggling to get the little ones to sleep? A mini-assessment or the Bedtime Conversations Checklist and Action Plan can identify areas where educators can provide support.

4. Mental Health

It has been a stressful year for everyone. If your child is struggling, you are not alone. Children thrive when they have healthy social interactions. The IECMH Consultation is here to support you.

5. Healthy Diet 

Returning to your back-to-school fall routine also means ensuring children have access to healthy and quick weekday meals. To make lunch preparation easy, separate your children’s favorite lunch items into plastic containers. Teach them independence by pre-packaging lunch items. This preparation allows your children to access them quickly and put them in their own lunch boxes.

Encourage children to develop healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Check out MFE’s Back-To-School Green Meals and our Top 5 Green Sandwich Recipes! Go green for a boost of energy this school year. Take the MFE Back-To-School Meals Challenge. For breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, try adding two greens to meals daily for 30 days. Also, discover nutrition tips and creative recipes in The MFE Nutrition Collection on the resources page. New resources are coming! So visit the nutrition collection often.

Is your child eligible for free or reduced-price school meals? P-EBT benefits are provided to families whose school-aged children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals at school but could not access those meals due to COVID-19.

6. Schedules

Coordinating the schedules of all family members is challenging. Hang a large paper or dry-erase calendar in a place where everyone sees it daily. Choose a different color for each family member so children can identify their own activities.

7. Paperwork

Keeping track of the papers children bring home can be overwhelming. Organize all paperwork relating to school activities and assignments in labeled folders that are stored in one place.

8. Everyday Supplies

Create a box of school supplies your children often use, such as glue, scissors, pencils, crayons, markers, rulers, paper and sticky notes. Keep this well-stocked box in a central area so children always have what they need for projects and assignments.

9. Daily Life

To help make mornings less hectic, create a closet organizer with pockets or shelves. Label each shelf with each day of the school week. Have your child help pick out clothes for each day and then put them into the organizer.

Have one central location for clean masks, backpacks and lunch boxes. When children complete their homework, ask them to put it in their backpacks so everything is ready to go in the morning.

Making even a few minor changes in your routine can have a significant effect on helping the school year go smoothly. For additional support, discover how family routines make the structure and how you can set up that structure to help your child get through the day with this Creating Structure and Rules for Child video or Parenting Tips for Establishing Routines.

The best way to prepare for back-to-school transitions is by establishing strong, lasting, positive relationships with your teachers or providers and other school staff.

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