Turn the page on a great new school year and chapter in your child’s learning story

While many schools in the U.S. start right after Labor Day, others go back in August. Either way, the countdown is starting. It comes with suspense, anticipation, and maybe a touch of anxiety for both kids and parents. A little thought and planning, along with genuine enthusiasm, can help make it sensational.

An article posted to Education World titled “Nearly Half of U.S. Parents Dread Back to School” says that a survey conducted by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) four years ago, confirmed that “parents also admit to experiencing anxiety related to starting a new school year.” The findings suggest that “stressors vary from the day-to-day logistics of school to spending money to in-school socialization.” Over 25% “admit it’s tough transitioning the family from summer back into the school year routine,” and nearly 25% “are concerned about the social aspects of school like bullying and trying to fit in.

Last month Liz Alton, writing for care.com, pulled together “101 Back-to-School Tips for Kids and Parents,” that include excellent suggests for making a calmer, happier, more organized school year for both kids and parents. The tips come from Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, and Christina Nichols, Ph.D., and they include suggestions that touch on parents’ most significant worries.

They are all terrific ideas, but several that stand out include setting kids’ schedules back to “School Time” two weeks before the first day, visiting cultural attractions like museums to help move back into what they call ‘Scholar’ mode, encouraging kids to read at least one book before the school year begins, letting kids “choose a planner or scheduling tool that they’re excited to use,” establishing a designated “‘Family Time,’ whether it’s during dinner or before bed,” arranging “playdates with two or three of your kids’ friends to rebuild existing social ties,” and creating “an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.”

Another tip they offer is to use positive framing such as “’You can go outside after your homework is done,’” rather than saying, “’You’re not going outside until this is finished.’” That can be applied to so many situations, and adopting the habit of saying (and hearing!) what’s possible vs. what is impossible can make a small but crucial difference.

The Education World article similarly discusses small timeframes that when added up, can also produce big results. It suggests that parents “Teach within the time you have,” which will let kids “learn before the school day even starts.” They reference ideas from Family Time Machine, which focuses on families turning “moments of togetherness” into learning opportunities and offer activities for (among others) “bath time, bed time, dinner time, drive time, outdoor time, and wake up time.” One easy activity is Wake Up, Word Up!, which involves picking a letter of the day, noting objects throughout the day that start with that letter, and recapping the “findings” at day’s end.

The Education World article also urges parents to “Encourage your children to teach you and give them a sense of accomplishment.” This tip supports significant research showing that explaining a concept or lesson to someone else is one of the best ways to lock in one’s own understanding of the material.

Playing games together as a family is a time-tested way to create laughs and make memories, but it’s also a wonderful way to learn and practice important skills and to let kids “be the teacher.” The Counting Money, Spelling Words, Telling Time, and Making Fractions, Learning Sets are good examples. Each set comes with 4 double-sided Lotto game boards, 2 sets of game cards, 28 double-sided quiz cards, bold, bright, press-out game pieces, and a 48-page learning pad. Use the sets, which offer an amazing number of options, at home, while traveling, or in the classroom.

Other game options include these fun card games: Memory Match Farm Card Game, Slapjack Farm Card Game, Farm Animal Rummy Card Game, and Dino Dig Card Game.These colorful games build so many skills at once. They help kids recognize matches and improve their concentration and visual memory—important for reading, writing, and lots of everyday activities. Multiplayer games also help build soft skills including cooperation, collaboration, communication, teamwork, and empathy. Tuck a card pack in purse or tote bag for take-anywhere gameplay.

Be your kids’ coach and cheerleader by showing a little rah-rah razzle-dazzle plus giving them a bit of practice to get them fired up and confident about the possibilities of a brand-new year.