August is here, and soon (if not already), children will begin to head back to school.  Whether it is preschool a couple of mornings a week, a traditional grade-school program, college or even homeschooling, establishing a routine can make the next day run so much smoother.  The key to the entire process, though, is to start NOW, not the night before.

1.  If your child has been staying up later in the summer, chances are he or she is also sleeping in.  To adjust Little Timmy’s bedtime schedule, do it gradually over a couple of weeks.  Put him to bed 10 – 15 minutes earlier one night and for the following 3 -4 nights, then adjust another 10 – 15 minutes every several nights until the desired bedtime is reached.  A gradual change is much easier on our bodies than an immediate one (think jet lag!).

2.  One of our biggest adjustments is our morning routine when school begins.  The summer has been filled with leisurely breakfasts, cuddles under the covers and hours in our pajamas before getting dressed for the day – a stark contrast to the rest of the year!  To prepare for the get-up-and-go routine of school, I plan early morning activities for my kids that involved getting up and getting ready.  We plan early morning bike rides, watering the plants, taking a walk, or doing our grocery shopping first thing.  My kids are dressed and ready, and we’re doing something we enjoy to get our day started (okay, not the grocery shopping, but they tolerate it well!).

3.  If your child is attending a school that holds a “Meet the Teacher” night, then go MEET THE TEACHER!  This is the evening where it finally sinks in for my almost 9 year old.  He gets to see his room, his desk his teacher, and his friends, and we get to casually visit where he will spend the next 9 months during the days.  In our district, we also drop off our school supplies on Meet the Teacher night so that our son doesn’t have to haul all that stuff to school on the first day.

4.  For kids that are just getting into a formal education routine, following directions can sometimes be daunting, especially in a group setting.  Check with your local library for story times where you can go with him or her and learn how to be a listener in a positive, casual atmosphere.  Also check into local museums for programs for children; our local children’s museum has a storytime each day that lasts about 15 minutes, which is the perfect length for small children.  Parks and Recreation departments also offer similar programs.

5.  Begin those healthy habits before school starts.  Work with your child on hand-washing, not just after going to the bathroom and before eating, but at other times, too.  When children are in a group setting, germs are plentiful; teach your child to wash his or her hands frequently to limit the spreading of germs.  Also, evaluate your breakfast menu.  If you tend to be the “pop tart mom” or the “sugar cereal queen”, consider healthier choices for breakfast, such as yogurt, hard-boiled or scrambled eggs, fruit and whole-grain breads.  These choices are great for improving attention spans and limiting that “sugar rush”.

6.  Don’t wait for the homework to head home before working on school work.  Establish a reading time now for your kids, and limit the amount of time the television is on in the house.  Children of any age enjoy being read to, and what a great bonding time for you and your child.

Here’s to a great start to school this year, no matter where or when!