Tips to help your little ones who are headed back to school.
Prior to the pandemic, I volunteered weekly in Levon’s TK class. (In California, children with late birthdays – September through December – are offered a year of Transitional Kindergarten called TK or Pre-K.) My time in the classroom provided me an education in how to help both teachers and students succeed in school. Between Covid protocols, carpools, and sports schedules, it’s easy for parents to forget the more obvious things we can do to make the school day run smoothly. Here are eight great reminders of things you can do for your little ones who are headed back to school this fall.
Pick The Right Shoes
If your child can’t tie their shoes, don’t buy them shoes with laces. Teachers and volunteers spend half the day either tying sneakers or untying your double knots. For those of you who haven’t spent time with a group of 5-year-olds lately, they have an odd habit of removing their shoes multiple times a day. No one knows why.
And The Right Pants
Again, if they can’t successfully zip or button their own shorts, dress them in ones with an elastic waistband or drawstring. At my son’s school, female teachers are discouraged from entering the boys’ restroom (and vice versa), which means students have to walk out into the hallway with their pants unzipped to ask for help. Not to mention that during Covid, teachers are being asked to keep a safe distance from students whenever possible.
Dress Them Appropriately
I’m not talking about dress code. I’m talking about people who drop off their children in adorable clothing and whisper to the parent volunteer, “Can you make sure she doesn’t get paint on her dress?”
No. No I cannot. DO NOT SEND YOUR CHILD TO SCHOOL IN CLOTHES THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO THROW AWAY AT THE END OF THE DAY. Period. Even if it’s Picture Day.
And always make sure they have a hoodie in their bag. Schools are doing their best to improve ventilation and air exchange inside classrooms, which can result in chilly drafts.
And Pack Them An Extra Set Of Clothing
While we’re on the topic, pack an extra outfit that stays in their backpack. Kids have bathroom accidents. They spill juice down the front of their shirts. They get their socks wet. Have you ever dealt with a meltdown over a wet sock?
Leave The Toys And Costumes At Home
If you think you can send your child with a toy to play with before school and trust them to put it away when school starts, you are mistaken. Do you know how many Hot Wheels I have removed from inside pockets and underwear?
That’s right, underwear.
And that snap watch – it’s going to be a problem. Generally speaking, if they’re playing with it on the way to school, they’re going to play with it at school. And while I love that you visited Disneyland yesterday, your daughter’s light up Minnie Ears are going to cause a stir. Leave them in the car.
Do Not Use Glass Containers For School Lunches
You should be more concerned about your child (or their friend) slicing their fingers open when your kid drops their lunch and shatters your chic glass container. Not only do they drop their lunches daily, but kids walk through the hallways swinging their lunch boxes into walls and each other. Shatter-proof containers only, please.
And Make Sure They Can Open The Containers You Pack Them
If you can’t get the lid off, your five-year-old can’t either. I’ve seen kids too shy to ask for help simply not eat because they can’t get the lid off of their lunch. I understand we’re going for leak proof, but make sure it’s not so tight that it’s difficult to remove. Pro tip: buy a lunch box you can toss into the washer. I wash Levon’s barbeque sauce-covered lunch box at least twice a week.
Pack Them Food They Like
I cannot overstate the importance of kids eating well during the day. They can’t learn if they are hungry. Please don’t try to impress the lunch room supervisor with your dehydrated seaweed snacks and red pepper slices. Send them what they will eat. Pancakes for lunch? Fine. Four hotdogs with Kraft singles and a pudding cup? High five, Mama. A good lunch is one that your child will eat, not one that looks like a Pinterest photo.
Extra points for writing a message on the napkin.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.