Back to school countdown: The tips and tricks to make sure YOUR kids are ready for classroom return

With just one week of the summer holidays left before children in England head back to school, parents are snowed under getting everything ready for their return. 

But as the ever-growing list of tasks increases, it is often difficult to remember it all – especially after so many months away from school due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And as if the the return to school wasn’t enough pressure, parents must now also consider how to prepare their children for the ‘new norm’ at school due to Covid-19.  

Fortunately, FEMAIL has spoken to experts from a range of fields and compiled a handy guide of tips and suggestions for the lead up to the big day to make it run smoothly. 

So if you’re trying to get your children back into their sleep routine or attempting to settle their anxieties about going back to school, read on to see what these experts have to say. 

FEMAIL has spoken to experts from a range of fields and compiled a handy guide of tips and suggestions for the lead up to the big day to make the it run smoothly. Stock image

FEMAIL has spoken to experts from a range of fields and compiled a handy guide of tips and suggestions for the lead up to the big day to make the it run smoothly. Stock image

ONE WEEK TO GO

Set your routine

Dr Harvey Karp, co-founder and CEO of Happiest Baby, suggests the week before little ones are due back to school parents should start getting them into their usual routine. 

He said: ‘Parents can be a little more lax about bedtime during the summer and also during lockdown where you could get up just before you needed to start the day. 

‘It is a good idea to get back into the routine of school before it actually starts.’

And luckily, sleep expert Dr Nerina Ramlakhan for Silentnight has several tips for helping children get back into their routine and improve their sleep, including snacking on tuna, putting the hoover on and doing star jumps.   

Sleep expert’s 7 tips for helping your little ones sleep 

Despite what parents may think, sleep expert for Silentnight Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, suggests bringing normality back into the night time routine does not need to be too daunting and regimented.  

To bring some entertainment to the often arduous task of getting children to bed, Dr Ramlakhan has suggested seven quirky but simple steps for easing children back into a routine.  

1. Snack on tuna

The body needs a balance of hormones serotonin and malatonin to get a good nights sleep.

Dr Ramlakhan recommends feeding children tuna – a rich source of serotonin. 

2. Put the hoover on

The whirr of the vacuum cleaner is often the best companion any parent of a newborn could ask for as they struggle to get their little ones to sleep.

As well as helping new babies, the sound can help school age children and even adults drift off into a slumber. 

3. Drink plenty of milk

Before sending the children to bed, Dr Ramlakhan suggests given them a milky drink to help them wind down and feel ready for bed. 

For those with fussier taste buds who do not like the taste of milk, she says a milky cup of cocoa will also do the trick – at least an hour before lights out.  

4. Do 20 star jumps 

Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing adrenaline in the body and thus enabling people to sink into a much deeper sleep. 

Dr Ramlakhan says: ‘But it doesn’t always have to be running or walking – and I’ve never met any child that doesn’t love a star jump.’ 

5. Rub lavender into pyjamas and bedding

In order to ensure little ones get the best night’s sleep possible, children’s’ bedrooms need to have a cool, clean atmosphere to be sleep-friendly. 

To maintain the perfect sleeping spot, Dr Ramlakhan recommends having freshly laundered bedding and pyjamas. 

In particular, she suggests rubbing some lavender into pyjamas and bed sheets to  sooth the body before dozing off. 

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Get their eyes tested

During lockdown, children have become even more reliant on screens, not only for entertainment but for online learning while they were homeschooled.

Eye health experts Feel Good Contacts suggest organising an eye appointment for children before they head back to the classroom. 

By making sure they can see properly, it makes their learning experience that little bit less stressful as they adjust to the changes of their classroom as a result of the pandemic. 

Their advice comes after it was revealed an estimated four million eye tests have been missed in the last four months of lockdown, meaning hundreds of children could have eye health issues that go undetected.  

Nimesh Shah, Feel Good Contacts’ marketing director, commented, ‘After online learning followed by a summer of even more time spent in front of the screen, delaying an eye health check-up could be dangerous. 

‘After all, it’s very difficult to know if your child has a problem with one eye when the vision is good in the other.

‘An estimated four million eye tests have been missed over the last four months of lockdown, with millions of children returning to school, any eye health issues that go undetected could be detrimental to their vision, concentration and performance.’

FIVE DAYS TO GO 

Dedicated ‘family time’

While it is easy to get bogged down in checking whether children have enough shirts for their first few days back or the correct stationary, former primary school teacher Catherine Lynch suggests parents should also use the week before to promote mental health practices.

The senior manager of PlanBee, education resources and lesson-planning experts, says by focusing on their mental wellbeing, children will feel calmer and better prepared for a new school environment involving social distancing and ‘bubbles’.

One method she suggests is making sure there is dedicated ‘family time’.

Catherine says: ‘This might be building a den, cooking, painting, crafting, going on a walk.

‘It doesn’t matter what the activity is; the important thing is to spend some quality stress-free time connected, doing something together. ‘

Practice asking questions

After months away from the classroom, children may have fallen out of the habit of asking questions. 

Dr Harvey Karp suggests parents should encourage their children to ask questions before acting, as they would in school.  

He said: ‘It’s a good idea to start practising with your child some common questions with them, such as; ‘can I go to the bathroom?’ or ‘can I have a turn’. 

‘This way, they’ll be more prepared when it comes time to speak up.’

THE WEEKEND BEFORE

Wash your children’s masks  

Antony Arulanandam, microbiologist and founder of Masksrus.uk, a face mask supplier, advises parents to wash their children’s protective masks the weekend before they start school. 

He said masks should be washed in a bowl of boiling water at around 197F, as normal washing machine temperatures will not sufficiently kill off the virus.   

He said: ‘Cleaning a mask in a washing machine has the potential to infect the rest of the wash. 

‘A reusable cloth face mask should be washed after every day of use, as soon as you get home. 

‘Leaving face masks lying around at home unwashed risks contaminating other surfaces. 

What to include in your children’s lunchboxes 

For a good nutritionally-balanced lunchbox, nutrition expert Roz Kadir,  encourages parents to include something from each group below:

Carbohydrate: Wholemeal bread, wraps, crackers, rice, whole wheat pasta, cous cous, noodles or potatoes are great for slow release energy.

Protein: Lean beef, turkey, ham, an egg, flakes of tuna/salmon, beans or lentils, peanut butter or hummus.

Omega- 3: If you’re not managing 140g of oily fish every week, add Equazen liquid or chews to make sure they’re getting their Omega-3.

Dairy: Cheddar or Red Leicester, cottage cheese, fromage frais and natural yoghurt.

Vegetables: Baby sweetcorn, cucumbers and tomatoes, mini peppers and shredded carrots can all add to the mix.

Fruit: Easy peel oranges, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, small apples, kiwi fruit are all winners.

Drinks: Water, skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, sugar-free or no-added sugar drinks.

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Decide on lunches

Figuring out what your child wants for lunch can really throw a wrench in your morning schedule so Dr Karp suggests planning what they’re going to have the weekend before. 

He said preparing their lunches ahead of time can make the first few morning back run a little smoother. 

Instead of cobbling together a lunchbox with whatever is left in the fridge, you will have set a plan of what to make them and when – which will also make food shopping easier too. 

Dr Karp said: ‘Think about giving your child a few options for lunches. Let them choose their favourite snacks and use those for the month.’ 

THE MORNING OF

Wake up on time 

Make sure to set your alarm for a reasonable time to make sure you are able to get all your tasks for the morning complete with time to spare. 

Former primary school teacher Catherine Lynch says by reducing how much you are rushing around, you will be able to get everything done without getting stressed. 

‘Talk about the friends they will see again and focus on how much fun the first day back will be,’ she said.

‘Talk about what you will do after school so they have something to look forward to.’

Similarly, Dr Kathy Weston, a parental engagement expert, advises parents use the extra time in the morning to make a healthy breakfast for their children. 

‘This is proven to be something that can really make a difference to your child’s performance at school,’ she added.  

Be calm and supportive

After several months away from school, some children are naturally going to feel nervous about their first day back.  

Dr Karp said if parents spot their children feeling a little overwhelmed they should try using ‘magic breathing techniques‘ – a method created by his company which involves taking a few slow breathers to bring a sense of peace.  

‘Calm breathing helps children learn how to keep panic under control,’ Dr Karp added. 

‘If your child is upset, after they have calmed down a little, introduce the breathing. This will help them to realise it is now time to not be worried and complete their calming.’ 

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