Preparing for the First Day of School [With Checklist!]

Can you feel it?

Yes, I know we are in the throes of summer and a little blinded by the bright sunlight and warm temperatures (I swear the sun is frying my brain) but school is just around the corner.

If you're like me, then you have spent the summer carting your kids to day camps, working feverishly during the day and trying to squeeze every last minute of family time that I can get during the weekends. I always long for just a bit more time out in the sun, out on the water, or lazing around reading a book while the boys play [though truthfully this doesn't happen as much as I would like!].

But school will be upon us before we know it and because I work I find that starting my back to school preparations early makes all the difference in transitioning back to our daily school routine as smoothly as possible. I try to break up my shopping list into bite-sized pieces (or into stores) so I can get the biggest bang for my buck all in one shot! You'll find what works best for you, but heed my advice won't you? Download my checklist [find it at the end of this post] and start shopping now!

Oh, and a pro tip from someone who knows? REMEMBER WHERE YOU KEEP EVERYTHING YOU PURCHASE! Because I know how much it sucks to search for lined paper and pencil cases that you know you've purchased when you're also preparing for a big meeting the next morning [not that I have ANY experience in that...ahem].

ONE: Make a 'Back to School' supplies list

I cannot stress how important it is to make a list and check it twice (or three times even!). You can use my checklist at the end of this post, or one supplied by your school, but it will never hurt to invest in the standards:

  • 250 sheets lined paper (with holes)
  • one package blank, white paper
  • 2-3 three ring binders
  • 2-3 coloured duotangs
  • one package crayons
  • one package pencil crayons (pre-sharpened)
  • 10 pencils
  • pencil sharpener
  • 5 erasers
  • 2-3 pens (blue)
  • 1 pencil case
  • 1 ruler
  • 1 calculator
  • Water bottle 
  • Zip top bags (freezer sized)
  • Tissues
And if your child does not have a uniform to wear, this is the time to invest in clothing as well [don't go crazy - shop their own closet before buying anything new!] including at least:

  • 5-6 pairs of jeans
  • 8 short sleeved tops
  • 8 long sleeved tops
  • 5-6 pairs of shorts
  • 8 pairs new underwear
  • 8 pairs new socks
  • 2-3 hooded sweatshirts

TWO: Double up!

All those school supplies you were purchasing? I want you to buy double of everything. Yup, you read that right. One item for school, one item for home. Why? How many times did you have to sign your child's agenda with a stray pencil crayon or a sharpie? How often was your child on the hunt for paper or a sharpener or something that they needed in order to get their homework done that you just didn't have at home? Save yourself the hassle and while you're already out shopping for school supplies, purchase extra of every single one! [pro tip: buy an extra backpack as well! It will save you the hassle of trying to scrounge for another bag or MacGuyver a zipper that has suddenly broken out of the blue!]

THREE: Buy a sturdy, durable backpack

I'm not saying that you need to break the bank [seriously, I get all my backpacks at Walmart!], but I do think it's important to pay a little bit more to get a backpack that is going to last. As a former teacher, I can tell you first hand that backpacks get thrown, tossed, stomped and destroyed in the blink of an eye. Get one that has extra support around the straps and at the bottom. Extra bonus if it is reinforced on the bottom and has a special place for a water bottle! [and if I were you, I would buy an additional "cheap" backpack for home just in case your kid is like mine and manages to break their durable backpack mere months after school begins!]

FOUR: Don't forget printer ink

If your children are old enough to do projects at home, printer ink is a must. And I PROMISE that you will only run out of printer ink when you are trying to print out a project due the next morning while you're answering work emails and struggling to slap together lunches. Have extras sitting in your desk drawer for those moments that the ink runs out halfway through a printing project.

FIVE: Buy a lunch bag that fits food AND in their backpack

I have made this mistake and I want to save you from it! Many schools (and families) are adopting a litter-less lunch policy, which means you are going to have a whole lot of reusable containers in your home and stuffed into your child's lunch bag. There are tons of great products out on the market right now that help us busy parents with attaining a litter-less lunch BUT [this is a big BUT] you need to be sure that whatever you choose is big enough to fit all the food your child will need to eat during the day AND will not take all the space in their backpack. I made the mistake last year of purchasing a really popular litter-less lunch container that ended up being not nearly large enough for my kids food & barely allowed him to do up the zipper on his backpack. It was $80 (per kid!) that I could have saved myself and a whole lot of hassle that I just didn't need at the beginning of a school year!

SIX: Don't break the bank on shoes

This is straight-up based on my personal experience: don't spring for expensive shoes. Unless your child requires a very specific type of foot support, buy decent running shoes that are sturdy and fit their feet. Why? Well, especially if your children are like mine, running shoes get ruined. They could be high end Nike shoes or $20 Target shoes - they're going to be ruined. Your kids are running and jumping and scuffing and playing. They're bouncing and chasing and being straight up hooligans in those shoes all the live-long day! And, even more, their feet are growing. Both my boys were in new shoes by December last year simply because their feet had grown. By the end of the school year, my kindergarten boy's feet had grown 4 sizes!!!! 

And here's a tip from a mom of boys who lose things a lot: buy 2 extra pairs of running shoes to keep at home. Why? It's enviable that you are going to have shoes go missing...better to be prepared with too many extras than try to find a pair of shoes that may or may not fit your kid while rushing out the door to school!

SEVEN: Start your "Back to School" routine NOW!

Summer is all about ice cream at 8pm and lazy mornings where no one changes out of pjs until 11am (if at all!), but i'm going to [gently] encourage you to slowly start getting back into a school year routine. I know, I know, but it is the absolute best thing you can do for both your littles and yourself. Start getting up around school time. Start going to bed at your regular school year bedtime. Get them used to eating at "normal" intervals (especially if your kids are like mine and like to snack all day long!). It's going to a pain in your butt but it will make the transition back to school so much easier on all of you!! I promise!

EIGHT: Prepare for the emotional impact

Back to school is pretty overwhelming. There's so much to purchase and prepare for in advance - but it can also be emotionally overwhelming. Regardless of how long your kids have gone to school (or if they have never gone before), starting a new school year with a new teacher, new kids in their class, and new expectations is scary. Some kids thrive and some kids crumble (I have one of each so I've experienced both). Spend some time really diving into the beauty of a new school year with your kids. Talk to them about what they're afraid of and come up with a plan to deal with their nerves. Encourage them!

You've got this mama! School is an exciting and scary time for everyone in the family, but being prepared and organized will not only help YOU as your wade toward a new school year, but it will help your school-aged kids feel more confident and prepared as they walk through their new classroom doors!

And, hey, just to make it a bit easier for you, I've created a downloadable + printable checklist. Click on the picture below and it's yours!


  1. This is a great list! Thank you for sharing it!

  2. Such a great list you actually reminded me of a few things I was lacking on mine! lol

    1. Great (or not, depending how you look at Happy shopping!

  3. Ugh, I hate back to school shopping! Two kids in school this year means double the shopping. Headed out for clothes for the big girl tomorrow, thanks for the list!

    1. ME TOO! It's so costly. I always try to break it up to make it more easy to swallow!

  4. As a former teacher myself, I wish this was around when I was teaching. I don't necessarily like families to send supplies, however the rest of your items are great! Preparing your kids ahead of time and keeping supplies at home is so key to a successful school year and student! Thanks for this!

    1. Thanks so much Jody! What did you teach?


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