Your Essential Back-to-School Guide and Checklist

Your Essential Back-to-School Guide and Checklist


I hope that school holidays have been good to you and that you've managed to get a rest in between the chaos of kids, Christmas, New Year and everything else that goes with the summer school holidays.

Whether you're champing at the bit to get the kids back to school or could do with not having to think about it, the reality is that there are a few things that you should be thinking about doing in order to make the transition back to school and those first few weeks as successful as possible.

I know how hard it can be to get your head around everything that needs to get done so I've created a comprehensive guide and checklist to help you get everything done!

Comprehensive back to school guide and checklist for primary aged children and kids

Two weeks before school goes back

1. Start to wind bedtime back towards normal

If your kids have been staying up more than an hour beyond their normal bedtime, it may take them more than a week to get back into a good sleep routine. Leave yourself plenty of time to make sure that the first day back doesn’t start with a battle about getting up.

2. Compile a list for each child of everything you need for back to school

Do a separate list for each child as they may have slightly different requirements. Include things like an itemised list of required stationery, school shoes, socks, lunch boxes, drink bottles, library bags, etc. Remember that extra-curricular activities go back at the same time as school.

3. Audit the house

Gather together everything that you already have from the list and check it off the list. This will save you from buying things that you already have but will also save you from a last-minute panic when you discover you don’t have things that you thought you did.

5. De-junk the bedrooms

Consider combining your audit with a de-junk. Christmas and the school holidays have probably seen a rise in the general junk around the house. As well as that, your kids will need fewer casual clothes once school goes back. Now could be a good time to throw out clothes that have become a bit worn out and you won’t be using again next year. Having a tidy room with space for everything will help kids to focus on their homework and also give them a nice space to relax in of an evening.

5. Shop for the remaining items on the list

Leaving it until the last week of the school holidays can mean that particular items, especially ones like school shoes, have sold out.

6. Think about last year

How did the last school year go for you? What were your biggest challenges or struggles? Are there things that you could do to reduce those? Can you enlist some help? Outsource certain jobs (think cleaning, using a babysitter for drop off or pick up some days).

One week before school goes back

1. Nail the bedtime routine

If you didn’t start earlier then now is definitely the time to get things back on track in terms of bed times with your kids.

2. Do a lunch plan

If your kids are old enough, get them to do it. Knowing in advance what you need to buy and pack in lunch boxes is so much less stressful than winging it.

Stuck for ideas? Head over to Famous for her popular lunchbox recipes, Kylie from Kidgredients transforms fruits and veggies into kid-friendly treats to be packed and enjoyed in little (and big) lunchboxes alike.

If you are after some inspiration without the prep Lunchbox Pals takes the stress of shopping for healthy snacks away by delivering them to your door every month.

3. Do a dinner plan and cook ahead

A 2 – 4 week rotation of meals is ideal. When I just couldn’t face dinner planning, I worked with Mary-Ann Apleche Mary-Anne is a holistic nutrition coach. I got help meal planning for my very fussy family. It’s been a game changer for us already.

Once you have planned lunches and dinners, consider what meals and snacks could be capable of being cooked ahead and frozen.

4. Create a weekly routine or rhythm

Make a Monday to Friday timetable for everyone. Put everyone’s weekly commitments on it including before and after school care days, out of school activities such as sports or music, days where additional items are required at school such as instruments for band or special sports equipment. With this as your framework, schedule time to do things like homework on a weekly basis.

My other suggestion in this category is a morning and/or evening run sheet. By posting a list of things that need to be done on a daily basis such as breakfast, teeth, pack bag, etc, you can set the expectation that there should be no chilling out until all of the things on the list are done.

5. Check the school calendar

Many schools now have online calendars. Check the school website to see if there are dates for things like swimming and athletics carnivals already available and update your personal diary.

The day before school goes back

1. Pack bags

Get your kids in the habit of packing their own bags. You can help them remember what is required with this fabulous "bag tag checklist" from Paperish Printables There are 13 different icons that you can cut out and use to create a customised list of what your child needs to have in their bag each day. Best of all, they don't even need to be able to read in order to follow the list!

2. Get uniforms ready including hats

Avoid the last minute scramble and make sure everything is ready and ironed. For some reason there is always a mad search for the hat on day 1 after the holidays in our house.

3. Prep lunches

Even if you don't make lunches until the morning, consider whether you can do parts the night before. Cutting carrot sticks and leaving them in a bowl of water overnight or chopping fruit and putting a small amount of lemon juice on to stop them going brown can be a real life-saver.

Another great idea is to add a little note in their lunch boxes. It reminds them that you are thinking of them and can give them a happy surprise when they open it up. For a great set of lunchbox printables go to Big School Kids at and get some great tips to support your children throughout the year while you are there.

4. Have a lovely family meal

A calm family meal at the table gives you the opportunity to discuss what kids are most looking forward to about going back to school and also give them a forum to air any worries or concerns that they might be feeling. It is also a good jumping off point for a nice early night.

5. Get a good night’s rest

It goes without saying really that a good night of sleep before school goes back will mean that everyone is brighter and happier the next day!

The first few weeks of school

Kids ready for heading back to school

1. Get straight into a routine

As soon as your kids start to get homework it is really important to get them into the routine that you hopefully discussed and set out back in the week before school started. If you have done this but found that your plan isn't working out for you then tweak the routine in accordance with the realities of your lives but don't abandon it or you will find it really hard to get things back under control.

2. Say "hi" to the teacher

Even if you don't usually do drop off or pick up as a parent, try to set aside one morning or afternoon where you can do a stop off before or after school to introduce yourself and indicate that you are open to hearing from them if they have any concerns or suggestions for you and your child throughout the year. This will really help to open lines of communication and give the teacher confidence to contact you early if any issues arise at school.

3. Get help if you need it

If you find that your child is not settling into school there can be a number of academic or social reasons that underlie what you are observing. If you can't work it out on your own, start first with the teacher who may have some insights and then go from there.

For kids who are struggling with the social side of school, an external therapist can sometimes be a good option. Consider having a chat with someone like Consider having a chat with someone like Jessie from Thrive: children, parents and families Jessie can provide strategies for both parents and kids to survive the often difficult journey through the school years.

Basic Checklist

If your school has not given you a list of items to get before going back to school, resist the urge to guess what your child may need. Wait until you get a list sent home. Regardless of whether there are specific items that the school requires you to have there are still some things that you will need to get hold of before the term starts.
  • School bag
  • Library bag
  • Uniform
  • Hat
  • School socks
  • School shoes
  • Sports shoes
  • Hair ties for longer hair
  • Sunscreen (for top ups at recess and lunch time)
  • Lunch box
  • Drink bottle
  • Lead pencils for homework
  • Rubbers
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Kids from year 3 and up are also likely to need
  • Pencil case
  • Ruler
  • Coloured pencils

If you would like all of this in a handy printable document just click here.

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