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5 Ways to Help Your Child Get Ready for Back-to-School

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

As the long summer days come to an end, you may be gearing up for the back-to-school season, full of earlier mornings, more predictable schedules, and all of the school activities.

Depending on how your summer went, this may be a huge change for your family – maybe even one that you’re not looking forward to.

While changes in routines and schedules can be hard, we’ve found some tried and true tips that help as you transition to a new school year. And the best part is, these tips can be applied year round for any change your little one is experiencing.

Let’s dive right in!

Tip #1: Start Shifting Schedules Earlier

Gone are the mornings where your little one can ease their way out of bed and slowly get ready for the day…at least until the weekend comes around!

With the school days approaching, your little one likely will have an earlier morning than they’re used to, unless they had summer camps and daycare that had an early start.

For some families, this is the hardest adjustment as they prepare for the school year, so starting as soon as you can will only help in the transition.

When possible, start shifting your child’s schedule earlier. Wake them up in the morning earlier to allow their body time to get used to their new wake time. Make sure you allow plenty of room so that you’re not feeling overwhelmed and rushed each morning.

The same applies for their bedtime routine and their bedtime. As you slowly shift their daily schedule earlier, their bodies will adapt to their new routine, making the overall transition once school gears back up much easier.

Tip #2: Enlist the Help of Your Child

Children love being given independence and more responsibilities, so take advantage of that.

Yes. You read that right.

I know there seems to be a narrative that all children hate doing anything that’s not “fun,” but when you approach it the right way, giving your child tasks is a great lesson in personal responsibility.

There are many tasks to delegate to your child, and it completely depends on their personality and maturity, but here are a few ideas:

  • Have your child help you make lunch the night before, so that in the morning, they can grab it and go. And if you have a picky eater, this tip works wonders, as they’re the ones packing their lunch each night.

  • Teach your child where to put their dirty clothes at the end of each day, so that when it’s time to wash laundry, it’s all in one place.

  • Create a “closing” routine at the end of each day. Before your child starts their bedtime routine, they should help pick up the living room, clean up their own room, or help clear the dining room table.

Not only does getting your child involved help alleviate your workload, but it teaches your child how to take pride in their work and contribute to a community. So delegate away!

Tip #3: Prepare the Night Before

There’s nothing quite like the anxiety and stress of running around in the morning trying to get your child ready for school and out the door on time.

Instead of rushing around in the morning, determine now that your mornings will be easy-going. How is that possible, you ask?

Prepare the night before.

Make sure the backpacks are packed and sitting on the couch or by the front door.

Take time to decide what you’ll serve for breakfast.

You can also let your child pick out their clothes for the next day and lay them out before heading off to bed.

Not only will this make the morning less chaotic, but giving your child choice can be a powerful tool.

Tip #4: Introduce a Routine Chart

When children are given clear expectations and strong routines, they thrive. If your bedtime or morning routine got a little lax during the summer months, now is a great time to begin setting up those routines again.

Each night, having the same routine helps your child know what to expect, and it can help them feel more secure and confident in themselves and their environment. If your child struggles with completing a routine, a routine chart is an amazing tool to help illustrate next steps.

After deciding your child’s routine, you can print out pictures or type out cards with each task.

Here are a few ideas of what you might include in your child’s routine, but feel free to edit your routine to work for your family:

  • Pick up toys

  • Take a bath

  • Put on pajamas

  • Brush teeth

  • Story time

  • Time for bed

Each night, as your child goes through each step of their routine, they will have a visual chart that guides them through.

Tip #5: Introduce a Reward Chart

You can also introduce a reward chart to your child to help positively reinforce their actions and behaviors. Not only does a reward chart motivate children to complete hard tasks (or tasks they don’t want to do), but it makes them feel great when they complete an activity and receive a reward.

Building your child’s self esteem and helping them complete their tasks? Win-win.

To implement a reward chart, you first want to consider what activities you want your child to exhibit. For example, if they’re struggling to complete their bedtime routine each night, you may decide you want your child to get into bed by a certain time.

Or maybe the mornings are a big struggle in your house, and you’d give anything for your child to wake up, get ready for school, and get in the car without protest.

Once you identify what behavior you want your child to work on, you next choose the reward.

Every child is different, so you want to ensure the rewards are something that your child actually wants to work for.

Don’t be afraid to get your child involved in the decision-making process and choose what rewards are available. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stickers

  • Extra screen time

  • A longer bath

  • A special toy

  • Extra time outside to play

  • Their favorite meal

The rewards don’t have to be expensive or elaborate – simple rewards are still very effective.

Then, explain to your child that when they accomplish that goal activity for a set amount of days, they will receive their reward.

For example, if your child completes their bedtime routine every night for 5 days, they will get extra screen time on the weekend.

Creating a visual chart to keep track of your child’s reward progress can be motivating and a great reminder of the expectations you’ve given.

Reward charts are one of those tools that work for any situation, year round. I (Katelyn) used reward charts with my son Jackson to get him to stop sucking his thumb and while we were working on nighttime potty training.

The possibilities are endless!

In fact, we have an entire training on how to use reward charts in The Sleep Consultant Academy! If you’d like a deeper understanding of the benefits and uses of reward charts so that you can help other families navigate bedtime and beyond, join us inside for all of the details.

Heading back to school can be full of mixed emotions, but taking steps to ensure your little one (and you!) are ready will make the whole experience a little more enjoyable.


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