101 Back-to-School Tips for Kids and Parents

As summer comes to an end and back-to-school season begins, it can be hard to get back into a regular schedule  both for kids and adults.

To help you out, we asked Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” and Christina Nichols, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, to share their thoughts on how parents can get a jump on the school year. In response, they gave us 101 tips that parents can use to ease their kids back into school, while also managing their own stress.

The trick here is to plan ahead. Read through this list and identify some strategies that you think could help you and your family stay organized and on top of things. Then, test these different approaches as a family so you can figure out which ones work for you, and which ones don’t.

Finally, make sure that you include your entire child care crew in your plans, too. No matter whether you have a babysitter, a nanny, a tutor, or all of the above, they’ll be able to help you keep your kiddo on track for the first day of school. Plus, they’ll be able to take some tasks off of your plate  which means that you can enter the school year with a little more of your sanity intact.

  1. Set your kids’ sleep schedules back to “School Time” two weeks before the first day.
  2. Get your kids involved in programs that they can do after school to keep them active.
  3. Visit cultural attractions like museums to shift their brains into “Scholar” mode.
  4. Hire an after-school sitter to help care for your kids while you’re at work.
  5. Encourage your kids to read at least one book before the school year begins.
  6. Reacquaint your kids with the calendar schedule they’ll use to manage their activities.
  7. Try apps like iHomework or MyHomeWork to help your kids organize assignments.
  8. Let kids choose a planner or scheduling tool that they’re excited to use.
  9. Set up weekly meetings to review your kids’ schedules for the week(s) ahead.
  10. Create a family calendar that tracks everyone’s activities and commitments.
  11. Refresh your rules about screen time for the school year. What’s allowed and when?
  12. Establish a set “Family Time,” whether it’s during dinner or before bed.
  13. Give kids a specific day to when they can choose all the activities you do together.
  14. Determine how long it takes them to do assignments to help with time management.
  15. Use an egg timer to get your kids used to focusing for specific periods of time.
  16. Teach your kids to prioritize their assignments by making to-do lists with deadlines.
  17. Give your kids a short break after each assignment they finish, such as a short walk.
  18. Set a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time.
  19. Discuss what your kids can expect on the first day so they feel more prepared.
  20. Visit the school with your kids so they can get familiar with their new environments.
  21. Arrange playdates with two or three of your kids’ friends to rebuild existing social ties.
  22. Ask teachers for class rosters so you can arrange playdates with new classmates too.
  23. Get the lists of school supplies, books and technology your kids will need.
  24. Inventory last year’s school supplies before going out to buy more.
  25. Include your kids in back-to-school shopping by letting them pick out their items.
  26. Make a plan for organizing those supplies  and keeping them that way.
  27. Create a dedicated space for your kids to store their school supplies and technology.
  28. Establish a specific space like the family office as the official “homework area.”
  29. Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from homework areas.
  30. Repurpose and relabel plastic tubs to organize all school supplies.
  31. Help your kids develop a filing system for organizing their documents for each class.
  32. Set  and enforce  regular weekday and weekend bedtimes.
  33. Set  and enforce  regular weekday and weekend wake-up calls.
  34. Keep track of existing extracurricular activities to prevent over-scheduling.
  35. Have your kids set realistic goals for the new year, such as reading 30 books.
  36. Help your kids prioritize their activities by tying them to their year’s goals.
  37. Create a list of fun after-school activities and games to keep your kids entertained.
  38. Touch base with teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids may be having. Here are 20 questions you can ask.
  39. Create an after-school schedule that allows time for snack, relaxation, play and study.
  40. Establish regular bedtime routines for elementary school kids and preschoolers.
  41. Carve out blocks of fun time for your kids, whether it’s through sports or playdates.
  42. Hire a tutor, babysitter or homework helper to help you navigate homework time.
  43. Model good behavior by doing your own work/projects while your kids do homework.
  44. Encourage your kids to lay out their school clothes the night before.
  45. Use this printable checklist to establish a regular morning routine.
  46. Have your kids pack their school bags before they go to sleep that night.
  47. Have your kids also pack their gym bags the night before and leave them by the door.
  48. If your kids bring their own lunch, pack their lunch boxes before going to bed.
  49. Establish rules for where they should put lunchboxes, etc. when they come home.
  50. Revamp your home organization setup to be more kid-friendly. For example, low hooks make it easy for younger children to hang up coats!
  51. Go through your kids’ schoolwork once a month to toss the things you don’t want.
  52. File or scan assignments that you want to keep.
  53. Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.
  54. Designate a plastic tub as a put-away bin for anything that’s out of its place.
  55. Set a time each week to sync up individual calendars with the family calendar.
  56. Inventory your kids’ wardrobes and toss/donate things they’ve outgrown.
  57. Create a list and budget for back-to-school shopping.
  58. Let your child choose their clothes, shoes and other items they’ll need.
  59. Go through their wardrobes every 2-3 months to get rid of things that no longer fit.
  60. Set up a laundry system that makes it easy to sort and wash everyone’s clothes.
  61. Make homework caddies that can be used to carry school supplies through the house.
  62. Buy bulk packaged snacks like bags of grapes that can be easily added to lunches.
  63. Discuss the different pros and cons of bringing versus buying school lunches.
  64. Get copies of school menus in advance to discuss lunch choices.
  65. Get your kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch menus.
  66. Buy reusable sports bottles to increase their water consumption during the day.
  67. Keep a small emergency allowance in your kids’ bags, just in case.
  68. Organize lunch ingredients in one part of the fridge so you can make fast lunches.
  69. Purchase lunch boxes or reusable bags to help save the environment.
  70. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches on Sunday, wrap in tinfoil, and freeze. Unthaw them the night before.
  71. Use sticky notes to flag important items in kids’ that they should pay attention to.
  72. Plan supervised study dates when kids work together on projects or homework.
  73. Have a backup transportation mode planned in case your kids miss the bus.
  74. Set your clocks forward 10 minutes. This makes it easier to be on time.
  75. Schedule blocks of time to check in with each child to see how things are going.
  76. Hire a housekeeper to help with cleaning and know things off your to-do lists.
  77. Schedule at least one 30-minute block in your calendar each day for “you time.”
  78. Create a rewards system for when they meet goals like helping around the house.
  79. Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Avoid the rush.
  80. Use positive phrasing, such as “You can go outside after your homework is done,” rather than “You’re not going outside until this is finished.”
  81. Make sure your kids (and you!) have an effective wake-up alarm that works for them.
  82. Set an alarm or notification 30 minutes before bedtime.
  83. Remove things like mobile devices from kids’ bedrooms to focus them on sleeping.
  84. Use night lights, white sound machines and fans for kids who can’t get to sleep.
  85. Keep a single, easy-access file for vaccination records and other important papers.
  86. Set up the breakfast table before you go to bed.
  87. Map out a bathroom schedule to avoid family fights for bathroom time.
  88. Replace old backpacks with ones that are sturdy, ergonomic and kid-friendly.
  89. Keep a running list of supplies, clothing and food that need to be bought each week.
  90. Use a see-and-store toy rack to make it easier for kids to stay organized.
  91. Set up a hanging organizer with five boxes for clothes for each day of the week.
  92. Dedicate a rack in the garage, basement or entry way for sports equipment.
  93. Create a regular pet care schedule that outlines who does what and when.
  94. Schedule study blocks on the weekends before big tests, mid-terms and finals.
  95. Use under-the-bed storage for off-season clothes and toys that aren’t regularly used.
  96. Give everyone a shower caddy to keep bathroom supplies organized.
  97. Have a playdate caddy ready to go, with an extra set of clothes, games and toys.
  98. Figure out different ways you can be involved in the classroom this school year.
  99. Talk openly with your kids about their feelings about returning to school. Make sure to hit on these 5 Back-to-School Worries.
  100. Do something fun to diffuse this stressful time of year for all of you.
  101. Take a breath!

With all this preparation, your kids will be in great shape. If you’re relaxed and calm, they’ll head off to school feeling excited and ready to get to work.

 

Liz Alton is a freelance writer specializing in digital marketing, business and technology. To learn more about her work, check out her website.

Central Pa. school district pushes back start of school because of mold

Kids in the Fairfield Area School District just got a little reprieve from the back-to-school blues.

The Adams County district on Friday announced that the start of classes was being moved up three weeks as a result of a mold concern in all buildings.

The first day of school, which had previously been set for Aug. 21, will now be Sept. 4.

“I  apologize for the short notice, but we have recently confirmed the need to delay the start of the school year in order to allow the district to bring professionals to clean all buildings and ventilation systems prior to accepting staff and students,” said district Superintendent Karen Kugler.

In a press release, Kugler explained that according to the environmental health contractors, mold is common in homes and commercial buildings, especially big buildings like schools.

Record amounts of rainfall this summer, may have contributed to the situation, she noted.

“It’s really difficult to keep an exact balance with the HVAC system so you don’t get conditions where you get condensation and other conditions conducive to mold growth,” Kugler stated.

She added that she has no doubt that the district will be able to stay on schedule and open in the first week of September.

“They are sure they can get it fixed so we can get kids in here where they belong,” Kugler said.

Last year, the East Pennsboro Area School District dealt with the issue of elevated mold spore counts in three of its schools.

Allergies are the most common health problems connected with mold.

Symptoms of mold allergies include runny nose, post-nasal drip, coughing and wheezing. In some cases, mold can cause more serious problems, such as strong allergic reactions in the lungs or sinuses and hypersensitivity pneumonitis — an inflammation of the lungs.

Other health problems associated with mold include toxic mold syndrome and sick building syndrome.

With smoke from wildfires, valley air quality looks unpredictable for near future

With wildfires burning throughout the state, in addition to recent local grass fires, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District continues to warn the public about poor air quality, including incidents of severely bad air that may occur sporadically in the coming days.

For a few hours late Saturday, the amount of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air spiked in Bakersfield and all eight counties across the San Joaquin Valley air district, to a Level 5, the highest level, where all people are advised to remain indoors.

By the next day, Bakersfield had clearer skies and air quality was back down to a moderate range. District officials said winds temporarily pushed smoke into the valley during that several hour period.

“All that pollution literally just inundated the entire San Joaquin Valley,” said Cassandra Melching, outreach and communication representative for the air district.

Because the air can be safe at one point in the day and dangerous at another, depending upon wind flows, Melching said an air quality alert is standing for all areas.

On Saturday, regions farther north in close proximity to the fire were substantially affected, Melching said, with Oakhurst in Madera County reaching a PM 2.5 concentration of 246 micrograms per cubic meter. It takes only 75 micrograms to reach level five risk. Bakersfield hit 87 micrograms that same day.

“We can’t quite say who is going to be impacted the most and when…It doesn’t mean that every single day our air quality is bad,” Melching said.

Glen Stephens, air pollution control officer of the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District, said the district has not released any alerts, but is tracking the smoke levels. He said there is less of a concern in eastern Kern County and mountain areas compared to valley locations like Bakersfield, but that there is still poor air quality.

“It’s generally bad. Right now it’s bad because of ozone, not because of the fire,” Stephens said.

The best way to know whether it is safe to be outdoors is by tracking your location on the Valley Air app or online at valley air.org. It is especially important for sensitive groups such as the elderly and those with asthma to remain cautious and updated.

Melching said to also be aware of the potential for ash in the air, which is most likely when temperatures cool down and is not monitored in the air quality levels.

“If you smell smoke, or if you see ash falling, you are being impacted,” Melching said.

Ways to reduce your risk of being affected by the smoke are to limit outdoor exercise, stay hydrated, change your air air filters and keep windows shut.

Article source: www.bakersfield.com/news/with-smoke-from-wildfires-valley-air-quality-looks-unpredictable-for/article_ad179f8e-99d4-11e8-88fb-ff92b41270ae.html

Asbestos found in some crayons, consumer group finds

Parents buying school supplies for grammar schoolers would be wise to avoid Playskool crayons. The brand, sold at Dollar Tree, was found to have trace elements of asbestos.

“The good news is that when we were testing three years ago, all sorts of brands came back with asbestos,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, toxics director at U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which conducts annual tests of toys and school supplies. “Now it’s just this one.”

Indeed, in tests run in 2015, many major brands, including Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons and Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crayons, contained trace amounts of asbestos fibers — a substance that can cause breathing difficulties and cancer if inhaled. Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledged that it was unclear whether the asbestos trapped in crayon wax posed a danger, it noted that kids sometimes eat crayons and recommended that parents avoid asbestos-containing brands as a precaution. Since then, most brands have revamped their crayon manufacturing process to eliminate even trace elements of asbestos fibers.

However, in tests run this year on green Playskool crayons, U.S. PIRG found tremolite fibers — a type of asbestos. A handful of other products that U.S. PIRG tested also contained dangerous chemicals, according to the organization’s just released back-to-school report.

  • Blue three-ring binders made by Jot and sold at Dollar Tree tested positive for phthalates, a substance linked with asthma, obesity and lower-IQ scores, for instance.
  • Dry erase markers made by Expo and The Board Dudes tested positive for carcinogenic BTEX chemicals, such as benzene, xylene, and toluene.
  • Additionally, two types of children’s water bottles were previously recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission for containing lead — Reduce Hydro Pro Furry Friends water bottle, sold at Costco and Amazon, and GSI Outdoors Children’s Water Bottles, sold at L.L. Bean. Despite the recall, a CBS New reporter was able to order the Hydro Pro Furry Friends product from Costco online. A Costco spokesman failed to return a reporter’s phone calls.

Retailers and manufacturers of these products said they were scrambling Monday to evaluate the PIRG data, which some said conflicted with their own laboratory tests.

A spokesman for Dollar Tree said all of its children’s products are independently tested and meet all legal and safety standards.

Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro, which owns the Playskool brand, said the company would investigate the US PIRG claims thoroughly, “including working with Leap Year, the licensee of the product.”

“We are aware of a report of trace amounts of asbestos being detected in a small amount of product testing conducted by a private group and are reviewing our own certified lab testing, which to our knowledge, passes all regulatory requirements and had no detectable asbestos,” added a spokesman for LeapYear.  “We will issue a formal statement upon the completion of our review.  Consumer safety is most important to Leap Year and we take these matters very seriously.”

The bright side: The vast majority of products tested by U. S. PIRG this year were found to be devoid of toxic chemicals. U.S. PIRG also tested glue, lunch boxes, spiral notebooks and rulers, as well as multiple other types of crayons and pens. Indeed, Cook-Schultz said the Art and Creative Materials Institute has also begun testing and labeling products and all of the ACMI-labeled items proved safe.

“I think there’s good news here for parents,” said Cook-Schultz. “You can look for these labels and buy safe products.”

— This story has been corrected to exclude Crayola and Rose Art crayons from those found to have trace amounts of asbestos in 2015. Both brands tested negative for asbestos that year.