Successfully navigating elementary, middle and high school can require families to develop different habits along the way. Nevertheless, here are some tips that every family can follow, regardless of a child's age, to get ready for back to school:
Get to sleep: Now is the time to start getting your kids into sleep shape for school. Studies have shown that children who get eight to 11 hours of sleep are more likely to earn higher grades. The best method is to do it gradually, especially if you've been on an up-all-night, loll around all day pattern this summer. You can start now by gradually moving bedtimes and wakeup times earlier (about 15 minutes every other day) until you are to the point where kids will be able to wake up in time once school starts.
. Get outside more: One of the very best tricks to getting kids to sleep well at night is wear them out during the day. It's also good for the brain. As biologist John Medina notes in the bestseller Brain Rules, exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, and an increase in oxygen is always accompanied by an uptick in mental sharpness, Medina notes. So consider it homework.
. Designate a 'launch pad': Pick a chair or a place by the door for where backpacks, lunchboxes and sports gear will go. This isn't a bad habit for summer camps, either, so consider it practice.
. Plan your routine now: I call it doing my homework while the kids do theirs. This is when I go through backpacks and sign what needs signing, send in money for field trips or note meetings in my calendar. It's also a good time to log onto the school's website and see if there are any announcements and to check grades. Resolve not to put permission stuff and other slips of paper into a "to do" pile that invariably doesn't get done. Do it right then and get it out of the way before you forget.
. Get a notebook for yourself: Start off the school year with a binder of your own in the house for all the school papers, fliers, website passwords and carpool information in one neat notebook. You could have one massive one or create a notebook for each child.
. Pledge to do less: Yes, you read that right. Do less. Teach the kids how to make their own lunch, sell their own fundraisers, check their own computer portal to make sure the teacher recorded their grade correctly. The outfit you have to wear is wrinkled? Learn to iron or hoard bottles of Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray, kiddo.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne writes for our Whoa Momma parenting blog. To debate parenting issues, visit tampabay.com/blogs/moms.