Ready for the school year

We've compiled a guide to help you with morning strategies, homework, lunchboxes and more
By Child Magazine

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Getting from A to B
Parents might be quite glad to see the little ones going back to school, but getting them there and back can be a mad dash, so be prepared. Getting your child ready and at school on time can be a chore, for both of you, but by creating a plan, and sticking to it, you can reduce the morning madness.
  • Will you be walking, driving, or making use of a school bus, lift service or car pool?
  • When starting at a new school, practise your route to school beforehand to eliminate any anxiety.
  • Establish a safe pick-up and drop-off spot.
  • Make sure you use the right car seat for your child. This will depend on your child’s height and weight and the type of vehicle.
  • If you are going to be making use of a lift service, introduce your child to the driver of the lift service so that they feel more at ease once school starts. Check that your car seat fits properly in the lift car and that the driver knows how to correctly install it. If they supply a car seat, check that it is appropriate for your child.
  • Will the lift service be able to take your child to and from extramurals or do you need to make other arrangements?
Gearing up
The correct school accessories are essential for children who are going to be starting classes.
  • Before “going to town” and purchasing hair accessories, clothing and shoes, check your school’s code of conduct for their requirements.
  • Uniforms can be purchased in bigger sizes so that they last longer.
  • As children’s feet are continually growing, you should buy the school shoes as close to the start of school as possible.
  • Will your child need a haircut or a few hair accessories to keep their hair tied back? Hair styles and accessories may need to adhere to school regulations.
  • Get a sturdy bag that won’t put strain on your child’s back when they have to lug all those books and stationery to and around school. An orthopedically designed school bag that has extra padding will distribute the weight evenly on your child’s back.
  • Junior is kitted out and ready to go, but you don’t want them coming back from school with half their stuff missing. Be sure to label everything using markers, or iron-on, sew-on or stick-on labels.
Pen and paper
Without the correct school supplies and gear, children can have a hard time keeping up with their lessons and keeping pace with the rest of the school.
  • Armed with the school’s stationery and textbook list, you can do all your shopping from the comfort of your home. There are several suppliers with online stores that offer delivery to the school or your home.
  • Check with your school for their suggested supplier. The stationery and textbook list may be preloaded on their website for your convenience.
  • You can also check the school’s shop for any second-hand textbooks.
  • Don’t forget to get all the necessary materials to wrap the books – pre-cut book covers (check if you need school specific covers), plastic covers, craft paper, plastic rolls and labels.
  • If your school makes use of tablets, check if you need to supply a tablet and at what specs. Also ask if you need to download any software or e-books. There are several CAPS-approved textbooks that are available as e-books.
Gadgets galore
Probably the biggest change in education over the last few decades has been the introduction of new technology. Parents should keep up with the ever-changing digital world.
  • Some schools require children to use tablets or laptops, while others may allow children to use these during class time, homework time or for specific subjects. This may depend on the grade your child is in. Check with your school as to their policy on tablets and laptops.
  • If tablets or laptops are allowed, you can use them to download reference books, such as a dictionary. You may also be able to find digital textbooks.
  • Some children may be allowed to take cellphones to school. Most schools will allow this, especially for older children, but with limits as to when phones can be used.
  • Depending on where your child is in his school career, you may consider getting him a portable hard drive or USB drive, a portable charger or headphones.
  • The software and apps that you place on your child’s tablet or laptop will probably depend on his age and on what is recommended by the school. But you can include items like Google Docs and office software (which will depend on the make of your laptop or tablet).
Lunch time
Make lunch planning and packing easy with these ideas. The emphasis should be on nutritional meals and functional lunchboxes.
  • Get children a small cooler to take to school for lunches and snacks. This way, they won’t spill anything in their school bags, or forget about half-eaten sandwiches until the end of term. You can go for a cooler bag or box, but if children have a locker or designated bag area, ensure that the cooler box will fit.
  • You’ll also need plenty of lunch boxes and plastic containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  • Get a few juice bottles, as on days with lots of sport, your child may want to take two bottles to school.
  • Pack enough healthy foods to get your child through the day, avoiding any junk food, sugary food and fizzy drinks. Some schools do allow treats on certain days – find out which and save treats for these days.
  • Find out if any children in the class have any food allergies, especially if you’re supplying birthday treats or baker day items.
  • If there is a tuck shop at school, limit tuck shop lunches to once or twice a week and encourage your child to choose healthier options.
Health first
Whether your child is entering school for the first time or is about to graduate, back-to-school time is a good opportunity for parents to check up on their children’s health.
  • Teeth Visit the dentist when your child is four or five years old, and schedule regular check-ups every six months after that.
  • Eyes Children’s eyes should be checked when they are between three and five years old, and again when they start school. If children do have vision problems, their eyes should be checked every year or as prescribed. If your child hasn’t had any problems with his vision, get a check-up every two years.
  • Worms Deworm children every six months, starting just before they go back to school. This means that they’ll be dewormed every January and every July.
  • Vaccines Your child’s immunisations should be up to date. Check your Road to Health card to see which vaccinations are needed – most are required before children are 18 months old, with boosters needed at six and 12 years old. If any are required, or have been missed, visit a family clinic as soon as possible.
  • Medication If your child needs to take any medication to school, you will need to check what the school’s policy is on dispensing medicine.
Timing is everything
After weeks of school holidays and playing, it can be challenging for children to go back to school. Parents could try these tips to get a routine going.
  • Get back into a normal routine a week before school begins. Gradually make bedtimes earlier and rise earlier. Practise being ready (washed, dressed, having breakfast) by a certain time. Also eat meals at similar times daily to provide consistency in their transition from home to school. For preschoolers and toddlers, get the crèche or daycare schedule and try to imitate this.
  • “Re-introduce” your older child to school by looking at the coming term’s calendar together, counting down the days and chatting about the year ahead in a positive way. Young children often live in the moment, so to reconnect with the school can go a long way toward reducing any anxiety about going back.
  • Don’t neglect the afternoon schedule. Your goal in creating a good back-to-school routine is to get in the habit of doing certain things at specific times, for example scale down on television time during term when this is the period your child will be doing homework.
  • Stay school ready during the holidays. Stock up on interesting and educational reading materials and games. Keep your child’s mind active with daily chores such as writing up the grocery list or tallying up the restaurant tab. And keep them active. Go for family bike rides or walks and have family swim galas.
  • Practise certain milestones. Should your child be able to tie his own shoelaces, do a tie knot or pack their own lunch? Then overcome this challenge when everyone is more relaxed.
Skill up
Child development is not just about academic ability. There are a number of ways to help your child prepare for other aspects of school life.
  • Ask about the potty-training policy at your toddler’s preschool. Many preschools do assist with potty training, but if your child is ready during the holidays, get this “complex” issue over and done with.
  • Social skills that are necessary for preschool include sharing, taking turns, playing with peers, and participating in pretend play. Playdates are the best environment to learn these skills.
  • Prior to preschool, teach your child his full name, his parents’ names, and street name and number. Some preschoolers may even remember a phone number.
  • Track everyone’s activities on a prominent and accessible calendar, encouraging your child to write her own entries and reference the calendar when making plans.
  • Buy your older child a planner or a white board. Your child can make to-do lists, map out assignments or write down things she wants to remember.
  • If your child is allowed a cellphone in school for emergencies, make sure they know who to call, and how to access important numbers.

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