How to Easily Simplify the Transition from Summer to School

One of the highlights of summer with school-aged children is a break from the normal routine.

Instead of the daily struggle to get to school on time, the morning slows down and we gradually ease into our day.

There’s no pressure to get dressed, pack lunches, or hurry the tiny humans out the door.

In our house, we even let them watch a little TV in the morning, something that never happens on school days!

It’s a treat to slow down, but if you’re not careful, returning to the school year routine can be a rude awakening for everyone.

Even for moms who stay home or work at home.

Over the past few years that my kiddos, now 7 and 10, have been in school, we’ve developed some strategies to simplify the transition from summer to school.

1. Gradually Return to Normal Bedtime and Wake Time

During the summer, we’re more relaxed about bedtimes and wake times. With more frequent social occasions and more freedom in our days, it’s less important to stick to the usual schedule.

With the return to school, it’s important for kids to get plenty of sleep. To ease back to the school night sleep schedule, start to move up bedtimes about a week before school starts.

It’s a lot easier to make the shift in 15 minute increments than to jump right to the normal routine in one night.

While it’s tempting to let little ones sleep in, it makes it harder when they suddenly shift from lazy summer mornings to a set wake time.

2. Mimic the School Meal Schedule at Home

When kids are at home, the times they eat are flexible. We stick to a general time frame, but it’s not rigid. However, at school they have set times for snack and lunch.

Prior to school starting, get the kids back in the habit of eating at regular times. It won’t feel like such a big change if they’ve been eating their snack and lunch at the same time while at home.

This is particularly helpful for younger children or kids who snack a lot. By getting them familiar with the school schedule, they’ll have an easier time transitioning to set meal times.

Don’t be surprised if kids seem extra hungry after school during the first week back. Stock up on healthy snacks and they’ll get back to normal over time.

3. Establish a “Night-Before” Routine

One of the most important elements of a chaos-free morning is the prep that happens the night before. Just a couple of simple actions help us to avoid the circus that can ensue when trying to get the kids to school on time.

Before bed, the kids load their backpacks with everything they need the next day aside from food items. Notebooks, assignments, library books, and permission slips all go into the backpacks, which live on hooks in the closet by the door.

Next, they lay out clothes for the following day. I double check that the outfits they’ve chosen are appropriate and include all the key items.

I have an alarm on my phone that reminds me to enforce this habit because even the best intentions can go flying out of my tired mom brain at bedtime.

You can put the process of laying out clothes in place before school starts to get everyone (yourself included) into the habit.

Once the kids are back in school, add the backpack-loading to the process and it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning.

4. Get the Kids Involved in Back to School Purchases

The end of summer is a great time to weed out any clothes or shoes that no longer fit.

I’ve noticed that my kids tend to be extra hard on their clothes during the summer months so I also purge items that aren’t in good condition.

I check backpacks and lunch boxes to make sure they’re in decent shape as well. Most can run through the delicate cycle in the washing machine and hang dry if they need a little TLC.

Keep a running list of items that need to be replaced. A lot of stores have sales and back to school promotions towards the end of the summer.

Getting the kids involved is a good way to build excitement for the school year. Even if they just choose a new lunch box or backpack, it creates anticipation.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can get a group of friends together for a clothing swap. Everyone brings clothes or shoes in good condition that their kids no longer need. Get some good stuff for free while chatting with your friends!

5. Make the First Day of School Feel Like a Celebration

A lot of kids are excited for the first day of school. Seeing a new classroom, meeting their new teacher, and reconnecting with friends outweighs the inevitable complaints about schoolwork.

You can enhance this anticipation with your own “first day of school” traditions.

Every year we take pictures next to the sign in front of our elementary school. At the end of the first day, our kids love to see the picture side by side with last year’s picture. It’s fun to see how much they’ve grown.

A special breakfast or after-school treat is another option to celebrate the start of a new school year.

6. Plan Extra Time for Kids to Relax and Play Once School Starts

The first week or two of school is typically focused on review and establishing classroom routines. While it may not require a lot of academic work, it can be physically exhausting.

Make sure that you have plenty of free time built into your afternoon routine so that kids have the ability to unwind.

Getting used to structured days can be challenging for many kids so it’s important that they have time for free play at home.

If possible, plan a quiet night at home for Friday night that first week. Order pizza, watch a movie together, and resist the urge to invite friends over. It’s a big week and everyone is tired, even if they don’t look like it.

The transition from summer to school can be positive and exciting when you’re not stressed out and exhausted. These tips will help you kick off the school year on a high note!

Over to you – what are you doing to get ready for back to school?

Samantha is a freelance writer and digital content creator, learning how to navigate life as a working mom. She lives north of San Diego with her husband, two kids, and their crazy rescue dog. You'll find her drinking lots of coffee, reading a good book (or two), and spending time with her family. Learn more about her passion for helping mompreneurs build their businesses at

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