Filling Your Bag with the Right Back-to-School Tools

Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

It’s that time of year when we move from the relaxation of the summer months back into the craze of the school calendar, anxiously starting to get ourselves prepared. As we search for different ways to get ourselves organized and ready, we find that each of us requires different tools in our bags to help us transition back to school, both students and parents. And while we all have some tried-and-true tactics, here are just a few others to help get you and your child ready for the big day.

Shop Ahead: Although it is another item on the to-do list, making sure that you are prepped with all the necessary school supplies helps. Shopping in small spurts, as well as having a detailed, organized list, limits the amount of time you have to keep your child in that overwhelming section of the store. Many schools now offer the opportunity to order directly from a company, taking all the guesswork and searching out of it. If this is an option, use it.

Get to Know the Routine: For many of our children, the anxiety that comes from having a new teacher and classroom can be overwhelming. Although most schools offer something like a “Meet the Teacher Day,” some children need a little more. If this is true for your child, set up a separate time one-on-one for your child to come in, see the classroom, and meet the teacher when there are not a lot of other people coming in and out. Even if the school building is familiar for your child, take the time to walk through the halls, revisiting where special rooms are, such as the cafeteria and gym. In addition, ask teachers for a general idea of what the school day/week will look like, while not demanding too much from them. If possible, within a week or two before starting school, try to set up some time with another student in the class. This will help give your child a familiar face, especially if they have not seen each other much over the summer. In addition, children tend to hold onto the most recent happenings in their lives, so this will help in communicating with them.

Meal Prep: This is more for parents, but meal planning helps take the craziness out of mornings and evenings. Pinterest has a ton of ideas on how to conquer this challenge, but here are a few quick ideas to stick in your back pocket.

  • Breakfast: The most important meal of the day is not the easiest to have prepped and ready to go with healthy options. Even if you are using frozen meals, such as waffles and pancakes or even breakfast sandwiches, try to always have a fruit side to accompany. This will give your child something fresh and healthy as well. As a society, we are on the go, and that is how companies market things to us…just remember those packaged breakfast bars or biscuits are not the best options every day. So, on the days when you have a little extra time, try to whip up a scrambled egg or two, add it to a bagel with some cheese, and you have a full meal.

  • Lunch: Make the chore of packing lunches easier by having all your ingredients ready to go. It helps to have a section in your pantry with appropriate snacks ready to grab for stashing in the lunch box. You can even pack ahead baggies of snacks that come in bulk, such as pretzels and chips, as well as refrigerated items like carrots and grapes. Plan out lunch ideas your children will like ahead of time, and when you have it all ready to go, your children can help.

  • Dinner: It seems for many of us that our evenings are filled with some type of activity every night, so the time from after school to bed goes by extremely fast. Having dinner meals planned out for the week helps. This way you make sure all your ingredients are bought and thawed. Using a crockpot can be a lifesaver. Many people find success in meal prepping by making meals over the weekend, as well as putting together freezer meals.

Homework: It seems as if many children are getting more and more homework these days. A key component to making this go smoothly is to have a designated place for your child to work with all the necessary materials. In addition, remember that your child has just been in school all day, so make sure there is some downtime, but don’t wait until later in the evening when exhaustion has set in. Also, make sure kids have full bellies so they can concentrate and focus.


  • For some children, their ability to focus is even less later in the day, so break the work up in chunks as best at you can with the time frame you have. Allow them to work for 15 minutes and then head outside for 5 to shoot baskets, play on the trampoline, or play catch.
  • For reading assignments, allow them find different places to read: outside, inside a blanket fort, or on a swing.
  • Have goals for accomplishing homework with ease, either for the day or the week, such as extra screen time, some one-on-one time with a parent, or having a friend over.

Control the Calendar: Remember that although there are so many practices and lessons scheduled, you are ultimately in charge of your family calendar. If life is becoming a little unraveled, take something off. One missed practice or lesson will do more good for the family and home environment than what is missed out.

Manage the Anxiety: For your younger students, making sure you answer any questions, guide them with ease, and send them off feeling secure helps manage anxiety. Some cute ideas include putting a picture of you or the family taped inside a folder, giving them a special bracelet to wear to think of you and remember you are with them, or even writing a note to stash away in their lunch. This lets them know you are thinking of them when they are away.

It may seem as if you’ve heard it a million times, but planning and balance really are key to working through the back-to-school transitions.