Back to school season is already upon us. Whether your children are starting school at the end of August or the beginning of September, the back to school flurry of activity can already have you in a tizzy – so how can you make the new transition easier? Here are some easy life hacks you can apply to your daily routine leading up to the first day of school and beyond to help ensure that you are prepared.

1. Attack the Lists. Whenever you get school supply lists, permission slips and other school forms, make sure that you tackle them ASAP. In regards to school supplies, certain items will sell-out fast, and waiting too long may only make finding certain things more difficult. Most schools release school supply lists around the same time, so try to make supply shopping a priority.

2. Pre-prep First Day (and First Week) Supplies.   From making sure that your child’s knapsack contains all of their classroom materials, setting out their first day’s outfit to prepping a week’s worth of breakfasts, there are plenty of things that you can do to make sure that the first week goes smoothly. The morning routine is the first thing that families often need to readjust to when school rolls back around after a long summer. As a parent, you likely have to get yourself ready first before the children, however, streamlining your morning routine, will at least let you rest easy knowing that the first, and often hardest part of the day is already taken care of.

3. Plan Ahead. Once you get your child’s new school schedule and the school calendar, try and post it somewhere noticeable and add it to the calendar on your phone or laptop as well. Set up reminders and alarms if there are events in the future that you need to be made aware of such as deadlines for permission slips, class trips, or if your child has a special activity, half-day or holiday in which you need to keep in mind.

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4. Make it a Habit. Planning ahead, staying organized and streamlining your routine can help you make the rest of the school year seamless. Many parents need some extra time getting started, but it can also be difficult to keep up with things as the year progresses. Therefore, make sure that you keep lists, begin morning prep after dinner or dessert for the next day, read notices and sign permission slips as soon as you see them, etc. Making habits of getting organized will make your life much easier, and it can even make breaking them more difficult!

5.    Set Rules/Procedures for the Year.  Set up a bedtime schedule, whether it be taking baths before bedtime, doing homework, setting up time for reading and enforcing a time that everyone should be in bed.  These rules however will take time to adjust as kids are so used to the summer time break.  We recommend implementing them a week or a few days before school starts so that the first day is not a shock for everyone.

People of all ages are affected by mobile or screen devices, even children. As a parent, you may feel tempted to let your child play with your phone or tablet as long as they stay quiet and keep out of trouble, but like most things it is important that you remember to do so in moderation.

Using mobile devices is not tremendously harmful; certain apps can have a huge educational impact on children boosting their skills in areas they may not otherwise be interested in.  The problem is the amount of screen time your kids are being exposed to on a regular basis.  They younger they are as their brains are developing the more adverse the effects may be.

According to Psych Central more than 1.8 billion people own smartphones and according to recent studies, people check their screens more than 150 times a day on average. These statistics have affected children, too, and data from Britain shows almost 70% of 11 to 12-year-olds use a mobile phone and that this usage grows close to 90 percent by the age of 14. Parents of infants and children under the age of 2 should avoid exposing them to smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions and anything else that serves to entertain people through a screen according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

With this in mind, you may begin to wonder how this affects children, especially since they are still growing and developing.

It may inhibit their social skills development
The American Psychological Association has not confirmed (due to inconsistent studies) whether screen time negatively affects children’s social skills but it can play a role.  Time spent on a mobile device means less ti
me interacting face to face with others. There are pros and cons to every situation but the goal is to moderate screen time for children.

It may contribute to shortened attention spans
The percent of children that are thought to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has increased to 11% from 5% before 1990 according to the CDC in a New York Times article. It’s said that this increase is likely to do with sociological changes, including how kids use the Internet and mobile devices.

It can cause aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, hands, back and other parts
The fact is that using smartphones forces people to tilt their heads down while moving wrists and fingers in unnatural ways.  Doing this for long periods of time can cause pain and prolonged joint damage especially in the neck and spine.

Contributes to inactivity and obesity
Lets face it kids these days rather be on their smartphones or tablets than going outside and playing. This requires long periods of time sitting down and kids have the natural urge to jump, hop, skip, climb and be active. This physical activity helps develop a strong and healthy heart, bones, lungs and muscles.  Our suggestion is to enroll them in sports or make sure that they do some form of physical activity every day for at least an hour. You can join them too to make it fun!

Can lead to eye discomfort and unhealthy sleep habits
Staring at a screen for a long period of time can cause digital eyestrain, which can come in the forms of blurred vision, fatigue, headaches and dry eyes. Reduce the amount of screen time and help them properly position their devices to at least arms length.  Trying to reduce the amount of screen time especially before bedtime can help, especially if they are experiencing irregular sleep patterns.  Cut off their time at least an hour to two before bedtime, instead, read a book to them or have them read a book to you.

As important as it is to remember to instill healthy habits in children, it is also vital to remember that children learn a lot by example.

Many parents would like to think that their child is smart or will grow up to be smart and successful in some capacity. While a person’s IQ largely depends on genetics and nutrition, there are some things that you can do in order to help raise a smart child. Exposing your child to new things, expanding their minds and their areas of interest, allowing them to have new and exciting experiences, and a wealth of other things, if encouraged early on in life, can help you raise a child with a love for learning.

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Make reading and music a part of their lives. Reading is an essential skill, and learning to read can allow kids to learn a plethora of other things. Reading comprehension skills are great for understanding abstract concepts that can help push the limits of your child’s mind as well as their imagination. Learning to read and play music also has similar capabilities, and studies have shown that children who play instruments generally perform better academically as well.

Make math part of the conversation. Math can be a difficult topic to weave into everyday life, but it can be easier than you think. If your child is familiar with basic math concepts like addition and subtraction, especially in everyday, applicable formats, it will be much easier for them to pick up on the subject when it is taught to them formally in school. Even saying things as simple as “we’ll eat breakfast in five minutes” or pointing out and asking kids to count the things that they see daily can help condition their mind to notice patterns and compute information that is conducive to understanding math and similar concepts.

Bring out the blocks, puzzles and board games. These sorts of toys are great, both for parents as well as for kids. For parents, blocks and other puzzle-like games can help keep kids quiet and occupied, but these sorts of activities are great for teaching kids how to use their minds and develop strong problem-solving skills. These games also teach kids a lot about spacial reasoning and cognitive skills.

Limit the rules. As a parent, you will certainly need to set some guidelines for behavior, but it is important that you do not stifle your child as a person, either. Enforcing too many rules can be more stressful than you think, even if you think you are helping your child. Make sure that they are safe, but allowing children to have experiences, to make mistakes and to think independently will do more for their overall personal development than giving them a strict, regimented lifestyle would.

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Let them be bored.You may feel like you’re doing something wrong if your child complains of boredom, but a parent’s job is not one of an entertainer. Allowing kids to be bored forces them to use their minds, it allows for them to be creative and self-sufficient, even if it only happens after a considerable amount of complaining.

Stay crafty.Speaking of boredom, keeping a variety of different things around the house for them to play with, experiment with and explore can help boost their creative abilities, as well as their motor skills. With craft supplies in abundance, kids can bring things to life with their imagination and ingenuity. Even if your child is not inherently artistic, crafts can help develop fine motor skills and allows for kids to be creative regardless of skill.

Ask them questions. Parents may be more used to answering questions than asking them, but asking your children a variety of different things can help encourage them to solve problems on their own. When a ball gets stuck or your child cannot reach something that they want, ask them if they can come up with ways to retrieve the item themselves. Even if you end up fulfilling their request, asking your kids questions like these can help bolster their problem solving skills and their ability to think outside the box. You can also ask questions when they learn new things or read a new book, which can help boost their memory and help them retain new information as well.

Encourage them to take risks… and fail. This can be difficult for parents to do in practice, but it is important that children learn lessons like these. Kids should be confident enough to follow their dreams, but it is also important for them to learn from their mistakes as well. Not only will this help children grow emotionally in a significant and personal way, but it will also help drive them even more when they get back up and follow their dreams again. Parents who coddle or hover over their children, protecting them from even the most minor hurts and inconveniences are not actually helping their child, even if they feel they are. Doing so will not prepare children to be the independent individuals that they need to be as functioning adults. Hence, they will not be able to deal with failure, whether big or small, or taking these fallbacks too personally and not believing that they are fallible at all.

Stay positive. Aside from big dreams and potential mistakes, staying positive through it all can help your child get through it. Encourage them to go after new things, let them pursue new interests and ask questions without fear of reproach. Being open and honest with your kids can help create a positive atmosphere that allows them to be themselves, to explore, and to trust in you when they need you.

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