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Back-to-School Prep: Our A-to-Z Guide

Supply lists! Sneaker shopping! Last-minute doctor appointments! No wonder many parents feel like pulling out their hair this time of year.

We can help. Here’s our A-to-Z guide filled with tips and ideas that will make things run a little smoother.

A is for Alarm clock. Even kindergartners can use an alarm clock with some practice. Imagine the fun they will have picking one out, maybe a clock in their favorite color or featuring a favorite character. Besides, the earlier they learn it is their responsibility to get themselves out of bed in the morning, the better. High schoolers, are you listening?

B is for Bus schedule. Make note of bus numbers and approximate pick-up/drop-off times. Review bus rules and instructions with your child.

C is for Calendar. Look beyond the first week of school and mark down upcoming school holidays, early-dismissal dates, parent-teacher conferences, etc. They come up fast, and you may need to plan ahead for child care or days off from work. It also helps to have a family calendar in a central location where everyone can keep track of appointments, team practices, etc.

D is for Drop zone. Prevent chaos by setting up a place where everything goes. Backpacks, jackets, sneakers and anything else that comes and goes through the door with your child. The drop zone might be in a mud room, on a clothes tree or along a row of hooks. Where it shouldn’t be? In the middle of the front hall or on the kitchen counter.

E is for Empty the backpack from last June. Amazing how fast the summer went, isn’t it?

F is for Find a parent. Someone you can call or text at 6 a.m. with an urgent question. Is today Wear Purple Day? Are the kids supposed to pack a lunch for the field trip? Those types of things.

G is for Gym clothes. Gather things now, not later. There’s enough to do the last few days before school starts than to be running around shopping for a drawstring gym bag or new pair of sneakers. Be sure to review any dress requirements for physical education class.

H is for Haircut. It’s a back-to-school tradition for many. Make an appointment as soon as possible, or stop by a no-appointment-necessary salon.

I is for Ice packs for lunch bags. Add them to your grocery or back-to-school shopping lists so you won’t forget them. Make sure you have other supplies such as reusable containers and water bottles that fit into the lunch bag.

J is Join. Consider joining the PTA or PTSA. Also, talk to your kids about school clubs they may want to join so they don’t miss a fun opportunity.

K is for Key. If your child carries a key, or will start to do so this year, make sure it works properly and is in a secure, convenient spot in her backpack. If your child punches in a garage code to enter the house, you may want him to carry a key in case the power is out or the keypad doesn’t work. Or leave an extra key with a trusty neighbor. A key might be part of a bigger family emergency plan in place in the event of storms, school closings, etc.

L is for Locker supplies. Some kids go all out decorating their lockers; others don’t. Either way, shop as soon as possible for best selection.

M is for Medical forms. And any medication that needs to be kept at school. Check the school’s website or handbook for details on policies, or contact the school.

N is for Notes. Any parent who has scrambled to locate a decent piece of paper for writing a note to the attendance office or school nurse knows the frustration of not being able to find one. Why not keep a stack of notes – or preprinted fill-in-the-blank school forms – right where you can find them?

O is for Outfit. What will your child wear the first day of school? This often is a very big deal to kids not in uniforms. But the next question is: What will she wear the second and third days? A little planning – and insisting that all school clothes be picked out the night before – really helps. Remember, too, that September can be quite hot and also rainy.

P is for Practice the lock combination. This is particularly true for first-time middle schoolers who have never used one before.

Q is for Quality time. You may feel as if you’re racing around these days, but plan some special time with the kids. Read some books together. Watch a favorite movie. Walk to the park. Then, as the school year shifts into gear, plan more of it. Maybe it’s having breakfast together on school mornings or taking family walks after dinner.

R is for Recycle school supplies from last year. Before taking off to the store with that school supply list in hand, check your inventory at home. It’s very likely you’ll find unused packs of index cards and pristine Pink Pearl erasers.

S is for Sharpie pens. Yes, school supplies for adults! These come in so handy for labeling school supplies with your child’s name. A black ultra-fine or extra-fine point will work on small supplies; you might prefer a fine point for other items. Sharpies of many types – and in different colors – are widely available. Buy some.

T is for Try on clothes. Another tradition for many! Even though it may be too warm to wear fall clothes for several weeks, it always helps to get a handle on what fits and what doesn’t from the last school year. Pass down or donate things your child has outgrown; launder and make any necessary repairs to the things that still fit. Make a shopping list and watch for sales.

U is for Update phone numbers. Do it in your cellphone, personal phone directory or wherever you can find them quickly. Include numbers for the school’s main office, nurse, guidance counselor, pediatrician’s office, carpooling parents and other essential contacts.

V is for Vitamins. If you give your kids vitamins but have gotten out of the habit over the summer, now is a good time to start up again.

W is for Website. Another habit to get into: checking your school’s website for announcements, updates, email information, grades, homework assignments and so on.

X is for “X” off days until the first day of school. Young kids in particular will enjoy the countdown.

Y is for Yikes! Your child still hasn’t finished his summer journal or reading list? Better to realize that today than a week from now.

Z is for Zzzzzzs. The days of sleeping in are drawing to a close. Get kids on a school-year sleep schedule by gradually changing bed and wake-up times starting this weekend.

And practicing with that alarm clock.