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Nine steps to a smart start

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By GreatSchools Staff

Shopping: take advantage of sales

School clothes

It's always a great idea to buy what you know you'll need early, if you can. Go through your children's wardrobes and weed out everything they've outgrown. By reducing the clutter, you will be able to get them dressed quickly and easily.

Keep in mind school dress codes while shopping. Some schools prohibit short skirts and tank tops for girls and "sagging" (baggy trousers that hang low) for boys. Schools may also have rules regarding printed words or phrases on clothes.

School supplies

Although it's difficult to predict what different teachers will require, you can get ahead of the game by buying certain staples. Here's a general list of items that elementary school students usually need:

  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • No. 2 pencils
  • Eraser
  • Colored pencils
  • Box of crayons
  • Kleenex
  • Water-based markers
  • Ballpoint pens
  • Notebooks
  • Binder
  • Loose-leaf notebook paper
  • Pocket folders
  • Printer paper
  • Drawing paper
  • Construction paper
  • A plastic ruler with English and metric measurements
  • Pencil sharpener
  • School box (for storing items)
  • Scotch tape
  • Stapler
  • Backpack

Here are some additional items middle and high school students usually need:

  • Two combination locks (one for the hall locker and one for the gym locker)
  • Binder dividers
  • Calculator

Nutrition: plan healthy meals

Get creative with easy, healthy ideas for school-day meals. If you plan and gather what you need on the weekends, you'll make life a lot less stressful and meals more nutritious during the week.


Remember the most important meal of the day. Fruit smoothies make a quick and healthy addition to the usual fare.


If you will be packing a lunch from home, be sure to have a sturdy lunch box or a supply of paper bags on hand. Here are some quick and creative ideas for making school lunches healthy and fun:

  • For the younger child, use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into interesting shapes.
  • Sneak vegetables like lettuce, cucumber or zucchini slices into sandwiches.
  • Buy baked chips and low-fat crackers or pretzels. Avoid items with trans fats in them such as packaged cookies, snack cakes and regular chips.
  • Choose 1% or fat-free milk or 100% fruit juices.
  • Make fruit fun to eat by cutting it into slices and putting it on a skewer or include small containers of applesauce or pineapple packed in its own juice.
  • For the younger child, write a surprise message or draw a funny picture and put it in her lunch.
  • Get older children to help pack their lunches. You may need to arrange the morning routine (or evening routine if you do this the night before) so that you don't do this chore by yourself.


Plan dinners for the week ahead and shop on the weekends to avoid last minute trips to the grocery store.

Comments from readers

"great tips to make life a little easier with a first time to school child!"
"I LOVE the books they suggested! I have started the going to bed early. "
"This article was very helpful in giving out pointers for parents with younger kids about to return to school. I agree with just about everything it says, however, we need and article to address the parents of kids returning to Middle School and High School. They need our help, too!!!"
"Great ideas for making life easier during the school year!"
"very helpful, thanks"
"thank you for the wonderful tips "
"important things to do"
"good tips! thank you."
"This are great tips..!"
"Love the Get Organized."
"Great Article! "
"Thanks again great stuff"
"Good article for younger students."
"Great tips!"
"I liked the thoughts in this article!"
"Reading all your articles gets me excited about school! Thanks!"
"Thanks. Great article."
"As a teacher and a parent, the above suggestions are right on!"
"breakfast is a major one"
"we love our family calendar do not know what i would without it."
"very helpful, thanks"
"It is always important to stay on top of things."
"Thank you so much!"
"We do start getting ready for the new routine weeks ahead of time."
"We start all this about 2weeks before school starts so we're extra ready! We NEVER miss breakfast, and water is very important in the lunch/snack bags!!"
"Another great informative article. Thank you so much. I love this site. It is full of great tips to aid in our children's academic success."
"IGreat article. We follow many of theses suggestions at our house and it helps so much."
"thank you!"