Tips for a Hassle-Free Back to School

As parents, we want the new school year to get off to a good start – for us and our children. There is so much to think about and get done as they prepare their children to go back to school.

Our Afterschool Coordinator, Charlene has put together five of the best tips for making your child’s back-to-school transition easier.

1. Re-establish mealtime and bedtime routines

It is important to start re-establishing your home mealtime and bedtime schedules at least a week before school starts so your child is better prepared for the new school routine. A good way to start is by explaining to your child how their bedtime routine, and getting a good night’s sleep helps them. For example, telling them that they will find it easier to get up in the morning and will have more energy for P.E. and playtime.

Often, a lot of issues in the mornings arise purely from children being tired, so don’t underestimate the positive impact that a good night’s sleep will have on children, and their parents.

2.  Ensure that everyone has a healthy breakfast

A good breakfast sets you up for the whole day, so it’s so important to ensure that your children eat a good breakfast before school. Breakfast refuels your child’s glucose levels and glucose is necessary for developing their brains and bodies. Eating breakfast can improve concentration, have a positive effect on a child’s behaviour as well as helping children to maintain a healthy weight.

By serving breakfast earlier for a couple of weeks, your child’s body will adjust to this new routine and they will naturally feel hungrier first thing in the morning. Make sure to allow extra time for breakfast on those first days so that children do not have to rush their food.

It also helps to involve them in choosing a nice, healthy breakfast that they will look forward to eating. You could even spend some quality time together before the return to school by baking some banana breakfast muffins or delicious oat flapjacks.

Park Academy’s Chef Rohan also has some great recipes for winter shakes which are quick and very tasty – perfect for a healthy breakfast on the go. (See more of his great ‘Back to School’ recipes below).

3.  Start planning your lunchboxes now

As with breakfast, it is important to ensure that your child eats a healthy lunch to maintain their energy levels throughout the day, especially during the busy first few weeks. To save time and money, its best to plan out your packed lunches in advance and keep this habit for throughout the school year. Planning in advance also allows you to ensure that your child’s lunches are healthy and varied.

When it comes to packed lunches, pick meals and snacks that are easy to prepare and that will transport well in a lunchbox. It can be helpful to use Tupperware containers to keep foods separate (as some children don’t like foods to get ‘messy!) and to include foods that are quick and easy to eat in the short break-time slots. Try to involve your child in the lunch preparation process and encourage your child to help pack their own lunch boxes. Lunches should contain a balance of the food groups, including fruit and vegetables, high fibre carbohydrates, lean protein, good fats, dairy foods and of course water.

Some of our Chef’s top recommendations for lunch box foods:

  • Cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices or sugar snap peas
  • Easy to eat fruit such as sliced grapes, blueberries, pineapple or orange segments
  • Hummus (as a dip for crackers, breadsticks, vegetable crudités or in a wrap)
  • Yogurt & fruit
  • A small block of cheddar cheese
  • A tub of cold pasta shells
  • Homemade flapjacks
  • Homemade oat muffins
  • Homemade fruit/veg smoothie
  • Couscous & raisins
  • Chopped boiled egg in mayonnaise*
  • Mini cheese sandwiches
  • Apple slices and peanut butter*

*Be sure to check the school’s egg & nut policy.

4. Preparation = Stress-free mornings

A calm morning will really help to settle a child’s nerves and get the day off to a positive start. Here are some ways in which parents can reduce unnecessary extra stress in the mornings:

  • Create a chart highlighting the week’s activities and put this on the fridge where everyone can see it (for example P.E. day, swimming day, music day or library day). Encourage children to check the chart the night before so that they can start taking some responsibility for their own schedule.
  • Prepare lunch boxes the night before and have a bottle of water packed in your child’s bag.
  • Lay out school uniforms the night before and make sure everything is clean and ironed.
  • Encourage a child to wash their own face and brush their own teeth in the morning.
  • Establish a ‘no TV’ rule for mornings. (Trust us, it prevents the arguments!)

5. Use simple strategies to support your child in their transition

Most children will get quite nervous and excited about starting school. This is a huge transition in their lives so they will need some time to adjust to their new environment. However, there are some valuable strategies that parents can use to reduce a child’s anxiety.

  • Talk to your child about starting school and assure them that their feelings are perfectly normal. Be as positive as you can in your description of school and try not to show your own personal concerns or worries.
  • Try to familiarise your child with their surroundings when they get to school, for example by showing them where the playground is, where to put their coat and where the toilets are etc.
  • Plan a little treat for your child on their first day to celebrate this milestone and create a positive association with their school.
  • Encourage children to talk about their day with you, including their time at Afterschool. Ask them lots of questions and encourage them to share with you what they liked or did not like about the day. Building this repertoire with your child early on will make them more likely to confide in you should they have an issue or a worry later on.
  • Most importantly don’t forget to keep clear lines of communication with both your child’s class teacher and with the Afterschool team if they are at crèche. The Park Academy Afterschool team are always happy to help if you need anything. It is our goal to ensure that both the child and their parents are comfortable throughout this new transition!

If you have any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to speak to myself or to any of the team.

Charlene Quinn-Byrne
Afterschool Coordinator, Park Academy

Here are some of our Chef’s best ‘Back to School’ recipes: