That wasn’t on the list! Things you probably don’t think about when children start school

Your child is starting school—is there anything you may not have thought of to prepare for the first day?

When approaching the first day of school, whether it be kindergarten or a new school year, we often prepare to get everything on the teacher’s classroom list and pick up everything we think our child will need. What else are we missing that may help ease the beginning of kindergarten or the first few days of school? As a parent, it is important to look at our child’s day and think about what we will need to know, or prepare for, that may not be on a preset list sent out by the school.

Necessary school items

Take the time to create your own list of necessary items your child may need for the start of school. Think a lot about what materials they needed last school year and use that information to plan for the upcoming year. Think about their favorite type of crayons, pencils and folders, following the school’s suggestions for materials as a guide. Obviously, different grade levels will need different items, so be aware of individual needs.

Often times we know another parent who has been there. If possible, ask a friend, neighbor or family member what their child needed in the grade you are planning for. They may be able to give you some idea of what to plan for, and this can be a way to keep from being surprised when your child comes home asking for something you were not expecting.

Getting your child to and from school

Think ahead of how your child will be getting to school and back home. If you’re driving them to school, know how drop-off and pick-up are expected to happen. Most schools have the traffic flow one way and have one area for drop-off and pick-up. Know where to enter, what lanes to use and where the children will be allowed to get in and out of the car. Also, alert anyone else of the process if they will be taking or picking up your child from school.

If your child will be riding the bus, know where their bus will pick them up and drop them off. Teach your child their bus number and where the busses will be parked at the end of the day when they prepare to leave school. Practice walking to and from the bus stop to make the process familiar before their first day of school. Also, contact the bus garage in your community to confirm pick-up and drop-off times. This also goes for drop-off and pick-up when you are driving children to and from school.

School lunch versus packed lunch

Though it may not be on the teacher’s class list, you may want to check into the school’s lunch menu, which is typically provided online or available directly from the school. Your child may want to purchase lunch at school or choose to carry it with them.

Be aware of the school’s lunch menu, as your child may or may not want to eat what is available on any given day. It can be much easier on parents if they don’t have to pack a lunch; however, don’t assume the school is providing food your child will eat. There will be days where you will want to pack a lunch for your child to be sure they are getting all the nutrition they need when you know they won’t want to eat what is being provided on the menu.

Talk with your children; share the lunch menu with them and let them know what you will provide in a packed lunch. Once they know what to expect then you can work together to decide what is the best option for them. For further reading on school lunches versus sack lunches, visit U.S. News’ “School Lunch or Brown Bag: Which is Right for Your Child?

Comfort items for the classroom

Remember items that may be necessary to keep your child comfortable in the classroom. When thinking of comfort items, make sure your child has tissue, a classroom snack and even small cups for water. Many teachers allow children to have a small snack at their desk to alleviate hunger throughout the day. Acceptable snacks usually include a small baggie of cereal, trail mix and granola bars. Always check with the teacher first to make sure there are no allergies and that snacks are permitted in the classroom.

Some children may also need a small comfort from home to keep with them. A good example would be a very small piece (square) of blanket the child can keep in their pocket and simply touch/rub when they feel the need. Or, consider a small fidget toy such as a stress ball or thinking putty. Fidget toys are meant to be held in one hand and manipulated by the fingers so the body, mind and eyes can focus on the environment. Fidget toys help children focus their need to be physical and allow them to think clearly and concentrate on what is being taught in the classroom.

Try to avoid fidget spinners, as they are not as highly recommended for calming and concentration. Fidget spinners work with hand-eye coordination and need both for the child to use them. In addition, fidget spinners can be hazardous, especially to younger children, as they have moving parts and small ball bearings, which can be removed and present a choking hazard.

Please do your own due diligence when choosing any kind of toy (fidget or otherwise), as there is always a chance of safety hazards. Check out the article, “Fidget spinners land on list of most dangerous toys for kids,” from the New York Post for more information on fidget spinners. As always, make sure the teacher is OK with fidget toys in their classroom.

It is important your child has what they need to be successful when they start that first day of school or when they enter a new grade level. Michigan State University Extension recommends the following resources on preparing for a new school year:

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Reports: “Preparing young children to success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.


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