It is that time of year again when we are all trying to get our kids ready to go back to school. Summer takes a backseat as routines, academics and procedures start to become a priority. However, back-to-school season doesn’t mean it’s time to thrust academics at your child. Keep in mind there should be a balance of play and skills when prepping your kids to transition to a back-to-school routine. As a play and learning expert for SmarterKids, here are a few things I’ve learned to help prep your kids for going back to school. 

Here are 13 routines and easy activities to help your family get into the back-to-school groove.

1. Carve out quality and engaged time

It might seem obvious but it’s important to spend quality time with your kid. Get into the habit of talking about their day and listening to them. Ask them questions in a carefree manner—no need to make it an inquisition. If they develop the habit of talking about their day now, then they will continue to share during the school year. 

2. Spend time reading together

Read with your kid at bedtime and make this a routine. Not only will this make your child enjoy reading, but it’s also another great way to spend time with them. First, just read together and casually talk about the book. Then start pointing out words that rhyme, and have them give you words that rhyme. Ask them the beginning sounds of words. Then start asking them questions about the characters, setting, what happened in the beginning, middle, and ending, their favorite parts, etc. You can also have them tell you an alternate ending. 

Related: How to make morning routines easier

3. Improve your bedtime and technology routines

A good night's sleep is important for success during the school day. Have kids go to bed at a decent time that allows them to get the appropriate amount of sleep. Turn all technology off at least one hour before bed.  

Always keep in mind the age of your kids when you begin these routines. Each kid will be at a different stage and the expectations will be different.

If your kid is between the ages of four and five, then begin with “follow me.” This is when you perform the task and they copy you. Do this several times until they become comfortable and confident. Also, please remember at this age, all directions should be given in a one-step format. Break the task down for them by steps. Also focus on discriminating between left and right. This will increase the confidence and ability to complete what is expected. The bedtime routine will look different as well at this age—read to them, have them listen and then talk about what you read.

If your kid is six or seven, your activities can be more in-depth. Start with one-step directions and then begin to use multi-step directions. This will help them when they enter the classroom. Use positional words like under, on top of, next to, and have them practice placing items in certain positions. When they are this age, independence should be the goal as well. This is when you can begin to add writing and more academic expectations when completing routines and activities. At bedtime, your kid can begin to try to read with you. During the reading, stop and ask them to identify words that rhyme, begin with certain letters and answer questions about the story.

For kids eight and up, multi-step directions should be the focus, as well as independence. At this age, kids will be able to work more with math equivalency activities as well as reading independently and more academic-centered activities. At bedtime, have them read to you, as well as with you. 

4. Set the table together! 

This helps kids with following directions, identifying left and right, counting and sequencing. This also helps kids develop life lessons like independence, confidence and self-esteem. 

Related: How to ease back-to-school stress

5. Go grocery shopping

This helps kids of a variety of ages because it works on developing skills around taking turns, money, list making, counting, problem-solving, sounds and reading.

6. Visit the pet store 

Visiting a local pet store with your kid can be just as educational as taking them to the zoo! It’s a great opportunity to practice observation skills, talk about animal varieties, foods and care items, and the overall responsibilities of pet ownership.

7. Writing

Have your kid practice writing their name and words in shaving cream, with sticks in the dirt, in the pudding, salt, etc. Practice writing words with sidewalk chalk. Use a watering can as an eraser!

8. Numbers

Have your kid practice counting throughout the day using authentic experiences. Ask them to add things together. Compare groups of items using the words more than and or less than. This can be done inside or outside! 

Related: 19 books perfect for calming first day of school jitters

9. Play Simon Says 

It instills rule-following and works on winning and losing as well as motor skills. 

10. Show and Tell

Have the whole family participate in Show and Tell! This works on listening skills, taking turns, talking in complete sentences, asking questions, adjectives, and sequencing (talk about who went first, second, third, etc.)

11. Puzzles

Great for play, problem-solving, and working together. 

12. Play board games

Board games work on rule-following, taking turns, and being a good winner or loser.

13. Draw and color together

Take turns telling each other what to draw, add details, and have them describe your picture and their picture. This helps them practice their storytelling skills.  

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