Summer goes by so fast! It can be difficult to think about getting kids ready for school when you’re still enjoying long, sunny days of outdoor fun and relaxation. But a “getting ready” period is crucial to making the back-to-school experience as smooth and stress free as possible for your entire family.
United Way of Summit and Medina counties is your go-to for free and accessible educational resources all year. We are in, with and for our entire community, rooting for success that lasts and lifts us all to a higher standard. And that success starts before the first school bell rings.
Prepare your kid for a year of joyful discovery, meaningful growth and inspiring instruction with our tips for back-to-school prep. Our insight delves into:
- How to establish a new school routine for kids of all ages
- Where to find educational activities that set the stage for a return to structured learning
- Why it’s important to set expectations about school for younger children
- How to communicate with both your kid and their teacher for the best back-to-school experience
Importance of Preparing to Go Back to School
Why should parents help kids prepare for school before the academic year begins? Is buying the required school supplies and a few new outfits or uniforms enough to get tweens and teens ready to go back to school? Does getting kids ready for school have to mean cutting the summer vacation short? Let’s dive into some answers to these questions!
United Way’s Bold Goal 2 is all about youth success, which starts in school and continues through college, career choices and beyond. We know that successful, productive adults aren’t created in a vacuum — families, schools and businesses all must work together to create opportunities that allow kids to develop their talents, interests and skill sets.
When parents and caregivers engage in actively getting ready to return to school after a break, they’re setting kids up for success with the physical and emotional tools they need to realize their full potential. That engagement can be as simple as daily conversations about your kid’s school-related hopes and anxieties or as elaborate as a structured summer reading program.
But you don’t need to truncate the summer to prepare for school! Your family can continue to embrace the freedom of long days and warm nights with gradual adjustments that will make the first day of school a welcome transition to an exciting year. The main point is to address the upcoming change in a way that acknowledges possible negatives while emphasizing the positives of going back to school.
Ways to Get Ready For a New School Year
Finding the educational resources and activities that fit your family is key to helping kids prepare for school in a meaningful way. That’s where United Way Summit Medina shines. We’re committed to connecting people to programs and opportunities that can help make getting kids ready for school easier — and maybe even fun!
Here are six ways to embrace the transition from summer to school with less stress.
1. Establish a New Routine
Summer typically means freedom from strict bedtimes and early morning alarms. The academic year, on the other hand, requires a more rigid schedule. As the back to school date nears, it’s best to gradually ease into the new routine by going to bed a bit earlier each night and getting up a little earlier each morning. If you start a few weeks before the first day of school, the transition will be far easier for everyone in the household.
Consider establishing a bedtime routine of reading for an hour before lights out. Reading is the foundation of academic success, and daily engagement with books is a proven strategy for putting kids on the path toward graduation and other achievements. Pairing bedtime reading with progressively earlier sleep and wake times helps establish a consistent school routine for kids to get used to without any drama.
2. Engage in Educational Activities
Kids may see the process of getting ready to go back to school as the end of everything fun. Make the transition smoother by including summer activities that combine learning and socializing with outdoor adventures. Whether it’s hiking at a park, learning about bicycle maintenance, shooting hoops or creating unique artwork, there are lots of structured programs available that help prepare kids for school while engaging them physically and creatively.
Simply dial 211 on your phone to discover lots of free programs and educational activities for kids of all ages in Summit and Medina counties. From faith-based initiatives to girls-only experiential learning to educational resources for the LGBTQ+ community to academic tutoring and more, you’ll find an array of options that help avoid summer learning loss and prepare for school readiness.
3. Set Expectations for Smaller Children
You can start getting kids ready for school as early as infancy with United Way’s Imagination Library. Summit and Medina County residents can sign up to have their child receive a free book every month from birth to age 5 through this program. Books arrive addressed to your child, giving them a sense of excitement, anticipation and self-worth. You can then develop a routine of reading the books together every night before bed — which not only helps prepare them for school but also forges a deep bond of trust between you while encouraging a lifelong love for the written word. Best of all, there are no subscription or delivery fees for the program, just free books to share and keep. By the time your little one is ready for kindergarten, she’ll recognize story structure, basic grammar and the power of her own imagination. It’s easy to register online or call 211 for more options.
4. Reach Out to Teachers
Getting your kid familiar with a new teacher and learning space goes a long way toward getting them ready for school. This is especially true if they’re starting at a new school district or leveling up to middle or high school. Even if teachers aren’t available for an in-person meeting, send an email to introduce your kid and outline any special concerns, like a medical condition, learning difference or physical challenge. You and your child can draft the email and read the teacher’s response together. Afterward, be sure to speak positively about the teacher and all the exciting new discoveries they’ll have in store for your kid in the coming year.
If the school hosts an open house or new student orientation, make a point of attending together and exploring the school’s layout as much as possible. Your child will feel safer and more confident when they know where to find the restroom, the cafeteria and their own desk, locker or cubby.
5. Stock Up on School Supplies
Most schools send parents a list of supplies to prepare for school before the first day. But shopping for them can be particularly stressful when your home budget is already stretched to its limits. To help ensure all kids are ready to start the school year strong, United Way harnesses our network of local businesses and volunteers to collect and sort school supplies that have been donated by generous supporters. The Medina Stuff the Bus and Akron Stuff the Bus events help keep students stocked up on the basics, like pencils, notebooks, crayons, glue sticks, scissors and rulers — as well as tech supplies like calculators, earbuds and sanitizing wipes.
6. Ask Questions and Listen Attentively
Perhaps the most important aspect of getting ready to go back to school is the way you and your child talk about it. If you project enthusiasm and excitement about a new semester or school year, your kid will mirror those sentiments. But if you express anxiety or disdain for school, you’re setting yourself up for a difficult and stressful back-to-school transition.
Ask about your child’s expectations, concerns or worries — then really listen to what he has to say. Sometimes a simple acknowledgement that a new situation might start off weird but will get better can help dispel a child’s fear and lead him to an attitude of curiosity. Gentle reminders about seeing friends they’ve missed during the break or joining in on playground games can help kids envision school as attractive rather than punitive. The earlier in the summer these conversations begin, the easier time you’ll have getting your kids ready for school success.
Prepare For School With United Way
United Way is committed to improving communities — and helping parents get kids ready for school is a big part of that commitment. Check out all our educational resources designed to help kids of all ages succeed, from their first book through college, careers and beyond. Together, we can create a better future for all of us.