Back to school is around the corner (rather, the next page over on the calendar). In addition to shopping for school supplies and crossing off the rest of your family’s summer bucket list items, there are a few things you can do to smooth the back-to-school transition. 

In Boulder Valley School District, the first day of school is Aug. 16 for K-5 and 6th and 9th grades and Aug. 17 for 7th, 8th, and 10th-12th grades.

In St. Vrain Valley Schools is Aug. 16 for 1st through 5th grades; 6th grade and 9th grade and Aug. 17 for 7th, 8th, and 10th-12th grades. Aug. 18 is the first day of kindergarten. 

Ahead, are five tips for helping your kids prepare for the first day of school. 

Get into a routine
One way you can help your child’s transition back to school is by creating routines: before-school routines, after-school routines and bedtime routines, says Susan Bellas, MS, LPC, the regional director of Broomfield and East Boulder County for Mental Health Partners. 

Getting enough ZZZs is important for concentrating and learning. For younger children, 10 to 12 hours of sleep is optimal and for adolescents (ages 13 to 18), eight to 10 hours is recommended, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Ease the first-day jitters
“You can further support a good school year for your kids by listening to them, helping them identify their feelings and practicing using coping skills,” Bellas says. “It’s normal for students to be a little nervous about a new school year, so spend some time talking about what it will be like exploring all those feelings, and even visiting the school together.”  

If your kids are nervous about the first day of school, it can help to point out some positive aspects like seeing old friends and meeting new ones, according to the AAP.

Get a new pair of shoes
Summers are for barefoot feet and flip flops. But you don’t want to wait until the night before school to realize that your child has outgrown their shoes. 

When fitting new shoes for kids, bring in a pair of socks like the ones that will be worn to school; this will help fit the shoes properly with the socks that will be worn with them, says Jason Wetzel of Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. in Longmont.

Also, think about the type of closure you want for the shoe, he recommends. Options include lace-ups that will need to be tied, velcro closures and BOA laces, which are an adjustable lace system. 

Get your appointments in order
From physicals required to play sports to getting vaccinations up to date, there are lots of appointments to get lined up before the kids go back to school. While you’re in scheduling mode, it’s a good idea to get a dentist appointment on the books too before you’re juggling after-school activities and homework. 

Foothills Pediatric Dentistry has locations in Lafayette, Longmont and Thornton and specializes in kids dentistry, with features like televisions and music that help appointments fly by. 

Help your kid pack their backpack correctly
The wrong backpack can lead to achy shoulders, which is why it’s important to choose one that has features like wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back, according to the AAP. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back and keep in mind that the backpack should never weigh more than 10 percent of your child’s body weight, the AAP advises. Also, remind your kids that slinging a backpack over just one shoulder can cause strain muscles.

“Have some type of consistency in the morning for what they can expect for breakfast, and a certain spot where they can find all of their [school] materials,” Wilkin said. “I have two very different children, ages 12 and 9, but we have tried to iron out what they need as different students. One of my children needs 10 reminders to wake up, and the other one is up right away but then needs something to do until we leave for school.” 

Navigating health challenges at school
With many school activities returning to pre-pandemic levels, area schools will all have unique protocols and approaches to keep students in the classroom. 

Stephanie Faren is the Director of Health Services for Boulder Valley School District. She expressed that BVSD will continue to follow state guidelines, and they will work with local public health agencies around disease surveillance and family notifications. 

“As always, the most important things we can do [are] get vaccinated, stay home when feeling unwell, and get tested if exposed or symptomatic,” Faren said.  

She also recommended scheduling routine health checkups. 

“We know that many families have postponed routine health checkups and vaccinations during the pandemic … now is the best time to get caught up,” Faren said. “Students entering preschool need physicals before starting and students participating in athletics will need a physical clearing them to participate. Per Colorado law, students must have school-required vaccinations or a current exemption to attend school. Families should ensure their children are up-to-date on all state-required immunizations, make a plan to get the required immunizations, or have a current certificate of exemption.” 

Additionally, Wilkin expressed that families really do need to prioritize having their students in the classroom for as many school days as possible. 

“As parents are gearing up, try to get back into the mindset that school is where learning is happening,” Wilkin said. 

“If students are missing little things here and there, they add up … the best way to catch up is to be at school.” 

By Brittany Anas for Raised in the Rockies