It’s that time of year again. Gone are the Pinterest links for summer salads and sangria or beach-bag must-haves and back are the round-ups of litterless lunch ideas and the “it” backpacks of the season.

But while back-to-school gear is important, a new school year is also about getting back to routine and setting your kids up for their best year yet. Not sure where to begin?

>>Also read: The Ultimate Back-To-School Checklist for Parents

Here are the top 10 things you should be doing now to prepare your kids for the school year ahead.

1. Set the stage.

Remember all those promises you made to yourself about de-cluttering and organizing over the summer? Yeah, we do too. Even if your Tupperware drawer and front hall closet are still a disaster, cleaning up school-related surfaces are a must-do for back to school success.

Start by going through the pile of projects, reports, and miscellaneous notebooks from the previous year that are still lurking around waiting to be archived (or tossed!) and extend that clean-up into a proper homework zone for the kids. Throw out broken pencils, dried-up pens, crumpled papers and worksheets and create a fresh (fun!) dedicated homework space for your kids so they can dive right back into homework when the time comes.

2. Ease back in.

Trying to put your kids to bed at 8 pm after two months of playing outside until 9:30 every night just isn’t going to fly. Now is the time to slowly ease back into normal bedtime hours. Encourage reading in bed for a literacy skill recharge and subtly let them know there are going to be some changes to the routine once school starts again.

3. Reconnect.

If your kids have been in an overnight camp bubble all summer or just doing their own thing, now’s the time to reacquaint them with their school pals. Setting up some play dates with one or two friends will make the first day back a little less anxious and will help remind your kids how fun it is to head back to school.

4. Plan your route.

If you’re planning on letting your big kids walk to school alone for the first time this year, there’s no time like the present to try it out. Spend the week before school watching them walk the route and ensuring they’re obeying all of the pedestrian traffic rules. Make sure to stay a good ‘cool mom’ distance behind them (bonus – they won’t be able to see your tears this way!). If you’re just starting out with Kindergarten, practice the walk to school and show your little one as much of the school as you’re allowed – even if it’s just the outdoor pen where you’ll be doing pick-up and drop-off every day.

5. Lunch and learn.

It’s not like you’ve had a break from making lunches all summer, but there’s something about school lunches that just…well…sucks.

Don’t wait for the first day to realize you have no idea what to make for the kids. Start brainstorming ideas with them now and make a list of what they’d like to eat (and actually will eat) and prepare as much in advance as possible, ensuring your pantry is stocked with everything you need to make healthy lunches and snacks.

You can get your kids involved in making their own lunches too!

6. Finalize your fall schedule.

Yes, it’s overwhelming enough just starting off the school year, but let’s not forget about hockey, dance, karate, and piano, right?

Make sure all of your registrations for extracurriculars are updated and place all of your activities in a shared family calendar where your kids can see what they’ve got coming up for the week and you don’t lose your mind trying to remember it all.

7. Clean out the closets.

Did somebody have a growth spurt this summer? Chances are, the kids are in need of some new clothes to get them through the fall.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some tunes and have the kids put on a fashion show for you to see what fits and what you need to replenish or donate. Make sure they have indoor and outdoor shoes—and while you’re at it, take them for a haircut to start the year off looking their best!

8. Bring reading back.

It’s likely that reading and writing have taken a back seat this summer to swimming and baseball—and that’s okay. But now’s the time to get those little brains (and fingers) working again.

Put your kids in charge of making summer scrapbooks, which will encourage the use of skills like cutting, writing, and cognitive thinking, while capturing their memories of the season. (See some kid-tested scrapbooks from Valerie at Inner Child Fun.)

You can also bring reading back in fun ways like with bike ride trips to the library and even setting up a picnic blanket outside for them to read on while still enjoying the last drops of sunshine. Of course, once it’s bedtime, encourage them to read before they go to sleep too.

9. Cook and freeze.

This comes in handy year-round, but as you get closer to the craziness of balancing homework and extracurriculars and fitting in some bonding time and downtime, preparing quick and easy meals becomes even more important.

Cook and freeze family favourites for easy defrosting, take a visit to your local Supperworks or plan some easy weeknight meals to get dinner on the table in no time flat!

10. Stock up on supplies.

Trust us. You do not want to be crashing through the aisles at Staples like it’s the running of the bulls because you waited until the second day of school to get that protractor or lunchbox.

Do yourself a favour and get their school supplies, backpacks, and lunch boxes at least a few weeks before school starts. Lists for each school and grade can usually be found on school websites, so get shopping!

Back-to-school is a special time of year for your growing family. Amidst all the chaos and prep, take a moment to give your kids that extra squeeze of encouragement and of course have the camera ready for those first day of school photos you’ll love to have!

READ MORE LIKE THIS:

Take a look at our back-to-school checklist so you don’t miss any of those must-do tasks leading up to the new school year!

Are your kids less than excited about what’s coming in September? Read about how to beat the back-to-school blues.

Back-to-school also means it’s time to book after-school programs. Here are 6 things to consider when choosing an after-school program for your child.

Keep informed with our Toronto & GTA directory: browse after-school programs in Toronto and find tutoring, private-schools info, and educational resources in our Toronto Education directory.

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