8 Practical Tips for Preparing for Back to School

“What should I prepare for the first day of school?”

Let’s jump in and answer the most important question first: “What should I prepare for the first day of school?” These are the top tasks you need to focus on when getting your child ready for back to school:

  • Establish Routines
    • Set a bedtime routine
    • Lay out your kids’ clothes
    • Set a morning routine
    • Establish device-free time
  • Get Supplies
    • Shop for back-to-school supplies
    • Organize and label supplies
    • Pack backpack and supplies
  • Comfort & Nourish
    • Talk to your kids about school
    • Pack a comfort item
    • Plan a healthy breakfast
    • Pack nutritious snacks and lunch
  • Make the first day special!

Like most things, preparing for back to school is a lot smoother with a plan in place. In this article we’re sharing 8 practical tips to help you tackle everything on the list and start the year off smoothly.

Two images side by side. Left image shows a printed back-to-school checklist that has been laminated. Right image shows a whiteboard that says "back to school routine."
Keep your back-to-school plans on track with a self-laminated checklist or whiteboard and mark off your tasks with dry-erase markers as you go.

1) Get your back-to-school plan on paper

Getting ready for the new school year can be quite the task, so treat it like any other big project and plan ahead. This not only helps you figure out what needs to be done, but also when you should start tackling it.

Start planning as early as is convenient. Although you have the whole summer to get things done, you won’t want to find yourself rushing around at the last minute.

Stay organized and on track by laying out your plan where you can see it. Write your tasks out in your personal planner, the family whiteboard or even just print out a simple back-to-school checklist.

Expert Tip: Create a checklist you can use year after year by laminating your printed checklist. Use dry-erase markers or removable color-coding dots to track your progress.

2) Adjust to new routines to prepare for back to school

After a hopefully relaxing and enjoyable summer, help the kids transition back into the regular school day schedule a few weeks before the first day of school. You can start by mapping out their daily routines.

Plan out a morning routine by asking yourself what you want it to look like. What do you need to get done and how much time do you need to make it out the door without rushing?

Do the same for an afternoon and bedtime routine. And don’t forget to set aside some device-free time after school or before dinner, whatever works best for your schedule. This will help the kids focus on their homework.

Organize your routines in your planner or on the family whiteboard and start practicing them 1-2 weeks before school starts so the kids have time to adjust.

Two images side by side. Left image shows a backpack and school supplies with personalized Avery labels. Right image shows colorful DIY stickers on notebooks and a laptop.
Get the kids organized and excited for the new school year with personalized labels and fun DIY stickers for their school supplies.

3) Start shopping for school supplies early

Whether you love shopping for school supplies or think of it as a chore, start shopping as early as possible. Not only does it give you time to comparison-shop for the best deals, but it also helps you avoid the last-minute crush at stores.

While teachers have their own specific lists you might not receive until later in the summer, you can start with the essentials. If you see a sale on pens, pencils or binders, for example, go ahead and stock up.

For a better idea of what’s usually required, check out our list of supplies from a 1st-3rd grade teacher and our list from a 5th grade teacher. From there, you can start creating a list of basic supplies any student would need.

Don’t forget to also rely on past experience. What types of supplies did you need to buy in previous years? If anything, you can always find help from other parents, like these top 5 must-haves according to actual moms.

4) Do some fun stuff to prepare for back to school

As much as parents look forward to the new school year, kids don’t often feel the same. Take the time to talk with them to help ease their butterflies about starting school or a new grade.

Doing some fun activities or tasks while preparing for back to school is a perfect way to start a conversation about school. Here are some great ways to get the ball rolling:

  • Go on an “adventure” to visit the school and practice drop off/pickup, let them pick the music in the car or some other special treat
  • Help them pick out a school-appropriate comfort item they can take to school with them
  • Make DIY stickers & decals together for decorating school supplies
  • Let them pick out a special backpack or lunch box that will get them excited to show off to their friends
  • If your kid loves clothes, set up a back-to-school fashion show modeling their new or favorite looks
Prepare for back to school with personalized ID labels and more. Learn how to use free Avery tools to design your own labels and stickers.

5) Label supplies and pack backpacks ahead of time

When it comes to kids and their belongings, it’s never a bad idea to keep things organized. Start by labeling everything. This will make things easier for you, your kids and their teachers.

Labeling supplies can lessen the risk of them getting lost or taken by mistake, which saves you the time and money from having to replace them. Make sure you use the right school ID label for each item.

For example, no iron labels are perfect for clothes and other fabric, while adhesive labels like Avery 5160 are a versatile and cost effective option for smooth surface items like plastic pencil cases, notebooks, binders, etc.

Upgrade to more durable labels that are self-laminated or waterproof for things like water bottles, devices or anything that gets used frequently. They’re also great for flu season to wipe down occasionally.

Once everything is labeled, finish with packing up all the supplies in the backpack. Having everything good to go beforehand is just one less thing to worry about the night before.

6) Meal prep breakfast and packed lunches

Meal prepping not only saves you time and worry, especially in the morning when there’s so much to do, it also helps the family stay healthy and keep on budget. It’s a win-win.

Consider preparing the whole week’s meals over the weekend. Cook meals that are good for you and that keep well in the fridge. And don’t forget to label lunches for allergies and dietary restrictions if necessary.

Image shows two bins on a shelf with Avery printable tags. The tag on the left bin says "socks" and the tag on the right bin that says "undies".
Help your kids save time getting dressed in the morning with easy-to-reach bins that are clearly labeled using printable tags.

7) Organize your kids’ closets for back to school

Another good idea to help ease back into the school year is to organize your kids’ clothes. Start by going through what they have, then think about what they might need and go from there.

Purge any worn out, unused or outgrown clothes. If they’re still in good condition, set them aside as hand-me-downs and pack them away with any seasonal clothes the kids can wear later. Replace or stock up on any clothing they’re missing.

Next, store socks, undies and other accessories in convenient bins so little hands have easy access when getting dressed. Don’t forget to label your bins for quick and easy referencing.

Hang or place any new or favorite clothes at the front of the closet so they are easy to see and grab. Get more organization ideas for kids’ clothes and experiment to find the right ones for you.

8) Plan a fun family activity for the first day

After all the preparation and planning, you and the kids deserve some positive reinforcement. Go ahead and make plans to do something fun after the first day of school.

Treat the family to pizza night, movies and popcorn, a round of mini-golf or stay in for a night of board games or other fun family activities. Anything special that will help them associate school with a happy memory.

Get ready for back to school with our helpful tips

Avoid the hassle of last minute back-to-school worries and start getting ready as soon as you can. Planning ahead will give you plenty of time to mark everything off your back-to-school checklist.

Plus, all the time saved just means more opportunities for summertime activities. Enjoy all the fun in the sun while you can!

Want to share some of your back-to-school tips? Comment below or join our community on Facebook or Instagram to let us know.

Author: Rachel Gerharter

Rachel is a versatile writer with a passion for storytelling and the written word. With a background in both technical and creative writing, she has written articles and blogs on everything from car buying tips and makeup must-haves to celebrity panic disorders and personal organization. Throughout Rachel’s career in copywriting, marketing, and SEO, the main objective of her writing has always been to create content that will help the reader achieve whatever goal they need. No matter what the job entails, she’s always eager to share her knowledge and experience. When she’s not behind a computer, you can usually find Rachel spending time with her family. Whether it's reading to her precocious two-year-old daughter or catching up on the latest Star Trek episodes with her husband, she loves spending her free time with her loved ones. As a native of Southern California, don’t be surprised if you catch her at one of the many theme parks or museums in the area as well. She also likes expressing her creativity in other ways, like knitting, crafting, baking, and pretending she can paint.