The Back-to-School Checklist Every Mom Needs


The air is getting cooler (if you’re up North, that is), it’s actually starting to get dark around the kids’ bedtime, and some places have even gone real forward-thinking and busted out Halloween decorations (looking at you, Michaels). With back-to-school quickly approaching, it seems like everyone is gearing up for the big day. Office supplies are on sale, Pinterest is flooded with first-day-of-school gifts for teachers, your kid has grown yet another 2 inches seemingly overnight, and you feel the invisible pressure to prepare. Sure, we know the basics: Buy school supplies, and… and… um, wait. We forgot. Maybe get haircuts for everybody? Oh, crap. We’ve forgotten everything haven’t we?

If you’re finding it a little tricky to switch your brain out of vacation mode, don’t panic. We’ve put together the one back-to-school checklist every parent needs to tick off before the school bus arrives. From adding school events to the calendar and stocking up on after-school snacks to finding a tutor (yes, before school starts), this list features everything you’ve forgotten and more. Because you know you forgot something.

Make a list of parent contacts

It’s always good to make a list of parent contacts for some of your child’s classmates. You never know when you’ll need to make an emergency call to, say, print out a research paper only to find out at 10 p.m. your printer is out of ink, but your daughter’s classmate Chelsea lives just down the street and her printer works fine. For example.

Go back-to-school supply shopping

Let the kids pick out their own supplies, be it covered in Paw Patrol or Run-D.M.C. It might drive you crazy, and you might prefer the neutral folder set so as not to distract from all the learning that will be going on, but guess what? They’re not your school supplies. If your kid picks out their own supplies, they are more likely to use them and not forget it in their locker. Shopping can be stressful, but if you can’t find the "three-pack of name-brand highlighters" on your school’s list? Don’t sweat it. A highlighter is a highlighter.

Add school events to the calendar

Sure, you won’t be able to add every single thing for the whole year, but you can definitely put school breaks, state testing, etc., in your calendar so you’re not that one parent who drives their kid to school at 7 a.m. on a Monday only to find out it’s staff-development day and there is no school.

Scout out new babysitters for emergency after-school coverage

Because you will. There will be a day when your car breaks down or your spouse forgot it was their turn to pick up the kids or your littlest fell off the monkey bars at recess and you won’t make it home in time to meet the bus. Find backup.

Stock up on after-school snacks

Try to balance your kids’ favorite snacks with some healthy options, and let them choose one of each when they get home from school. Because really, don’t we all need a little treat when we get home?

Get required immunizations & secure medical forms 

Lots of parents forget to get their kids’ forms from the pediatrician to the school prior to the first day, and depending on your school’s rules, your child won’t be allowed to attend school until those forms are in. So maybe let’s highlight this one on the list.

Get the homework area ready, organized & stocked

No one can get any work done if their workspace is a mess, so start the year off right with a clean and uncluttered desk. Dump out the dust and hole-puncher circles from the drawers, sharpen the pencils and find a place to keep a water bottle handy so they stay hydrated and focused.

Start to ease your children into their school schedule

No one is saying it’s going to be easy to get kids to wake up at the crack of dawn or go to bed earlier so they can, but hey, it’s going to be a lot easier if you do it little by little instead of waiting until their alarm goes off on the first day.

Visit the school with your children if necessary

If school is something that causes your kid anxiety, help quell that fear with a tour of their school and classroom when the building is devoid of throngs of students. Show them where their class is; walk them through their schedule; check out the bathrooms, their locker and the nurse’s office.

Sort through fall clothing & donate what doesn’t fit

For some reason, it’s always after you’ve bought a complete fall wardrobe that they decide to grow 2 inches in one month, totally foiling your plans of going six months without clothes shopping again. Before school starts, make sure everything still fits and clear out some space in their closet if it doesn’t.

Follow your school’s social media accounts, email & text alerts

Chances are, your school has a few social media accounts, which will keep you up to date on the goings-on that take place and also serve as an alert if there are early dismissals, cancellations or an emergency at the school. If they have a text or email alert system, sign up for that as well so you stay in the loop if there are lockdown drills or other emergencies. 

Find a tutor for the subjects your child has trouble in 

If you wait until they are struggling, they have to play catch-up. If you find a tutor from the get go, they can assist your child with their homework and help them study so they never have to feel the frustration of not understanding something and don’t fall behind.

Label all the things

This is pretty straightforward, but there are still some parents who think they don’t need to label because their child is the only Emily in their class or they think they’ll recognize their child’s belongings. Well, sometimes, you won’t. Or it will be the exact same coat, but you won’t notice it’s two sizes too big until you get home. Or you’ll unpack their lunch box only to find remnants of a lunch that wasn’t the lunch you packed that morning. Label. All. The. Things.  

Feeling the need to be more involved?

Join the PTA, chair a committee, or be a room parent. It’s a lot of work, but you get to be more present and feel like you’re helping (plus no one questions if they find you pressed up against the classroom door trying to sneak a peek at your kid. “Oh, I’m the room parent… just… checking on the room…”)


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