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Back-to-school season’s just around the corner. Whether you’re preparing your children for their very first day of school or it’s just another year, avoid the mad dash the night before and use our checklist to save money and get organized.

Back-to-school preparation

Each September when a new school year rolls around, parents find themselves faced with hectic new schedules to coordinate — and in many cases, new hoops to jump through. Getting a plan together and sticking to it is your best bet for navigating this busy, busy season.

At the same time, you may wonder if your child’s truly ready for school. To prepare your little ones, read with them often to fuel their desire to learn new things. Teach them songs, nursery rhymes and expose them to the arts. And allow interaction with other kids to let them socialize before entering the classroom.

Stay on track with these tips so you’re ready when the big day rolls around:

  • Keep a record of dates. Get a copy of the school calendar and take note of important details, including the exact date and time when school begins. You don’t want to be rushing around the morning of.
  • Buy supplies early. Before you race to the store, find out what school supplies are required so you know which items to prioritize. Know the dress code or uniform policy and buy backpacks and lunch boxes in advance.
  • Get a checkup. Make an appointment with your children’s pediatrician and make sure they’re up to date on required vaccinations. It’s a good idea to have their vision checked as well to head off any problems seeing the whiteboard!
  • Preach safety first. Make sure your children know their names and how to spell them, plus your home address and telephone number. It may be a good idea to keep this info on a notecard tucked in their backpack just in case.
  • Put the kibosh on bullying. Teach your child to have compassion for others, and assure them they can come to you if they’re being bullied. If necessary, report any issues that arise to teachers and school authorities.
  • Learn the bus schedule. Go over the school bus drop-off points and schedule with your children, and encourage them to wait at the bus stop with a friend after school. Most importantly, warn your children never to accept rides from strangers.
  • Keep an open dialogue. Take time to talk to your children about their day. Just being there to lend an ear can help ease your little one’s transition.

With a little planning, going back to class will be a breeze. Keep calm — you’ve got this!

One month before

And the countdown begins! Make sure you check off these major tasks at least a month before the big day:

  • Double-check your children’s registration — especially if they’re attending a new school.
  • Secure medical forms and schedule an appointment with your physician to make sure your children are up to date on required immunizations.
  • Get a copy of your children’s school calendar to mark off important dates (like the first day!)
  • Ensure any summer assignments are completed.
  • Sort out school supply lists and find out the dress code so you can get crackin’ on that back-to-school shopping list.

Three weeks before

Now’s the time to shop for clothes, backpacks, water bottles and more. Keep an eye on back-to-school deals online. Having purchases delivered to your doorstep saves you from fighting crowds and waiting in lines.

  • Get your children involved with back-to-school shopping so they can have a say in item variety and color.
  • Invite classmates over for a playdate to give your children a chance to reconnect.
  • Tone those mental muscles with games, brainteasers and word scrambles to get your children in schoolwork mode.
  • Arrange your children’s transportation. If they take the bus, be sure they know where and when to wait before and after school.

And don’t forget to spend time together as a family before everyone gets too busy! A late-summer day trip or even a simple fun outing can lift everyone’s spirits before it’s time to buckle down.

Two weeks before

School days are in sight — scope out your child’s school so you can get a game-plan.

  • Get your children’s rooms and desks organized.
  • Start implementing an earlier bedtime and set routine so your children are ready to rise and shine.
  • Visit the school and locate the front office, bathrooms, classrooms, gym, playground and cafeteria. Knowing what to expect in advance can ease those first-day jitters.

One week before

Once you’re down to the wire, focus on the day-to-day details:

  • Plan outfits for the first week and have backpacks packed and ready to go.
  • Prep lunch ideas and make a grocery list.
  • Check your children’s supplies and make sure you bought everything they’ll need.

Back-to-school shopping list and guide

While your own list may vary, here are some must-haves sure to come in handy:

  • Backpacks — personalized or with name tags
  • Lunch boxes and water bottles, also personalized
  • Notebooks, folders and binders
  • Staplers
  • Gym attire and accessories including hair ties, socks and shoes
  • Crayons, colored pencils, washable markers and highlighters
  • Index cards and sticky notes
  • Pencil cases
  • Pens, pencils, erasers and rulers
  • Umbrellas and lightweight waterproof jackets
  • USB flash drives
  • Tablets, e-readers, netbooks or computers
  • Packaged healthy snacks

Five days before

  • Bring your children to get a fresh haircut for the big day.
  • Write down your children’s schedules — including any extra-curricular activities — in a planner and go over them.

Two days before

Hit the grocery store to buy ingredients for sandwiches and healthy snacks for the first week of school. Let your tots tag along and pick out a favorite snack or two.

The day — or night — before

  • Pack backpacks.
  • Iron clothes and uniforms.
  • Prepare your children’s snacks and lunches.
  • Set alarm clocks so everyone wakes up on time!

First day of school

The day has finally arrived. Send your little ones to school with sweet parting words and try not to shed a tear — summer vacation will be here again before you know it!

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