Summer's Ending! 14 Things to Do With Your Kids Before School Starts

As you count down the last days of summer (sniff!), here's what you can do to get the whole family ready for back to school

As the summer winds down, it's time to prep your kid for another school year. Do these things in the last weeks of summer -- before school starts -- to set your family up for a stress-free first day.

Start adjusting bedtime before school starts
With more hours of daylight, bedtimes slide. Wrestle them back into submission painlessly by starting now and moving lights-out 15 minutes earlier each night, until you're back on your school year schedule.

Set your morning routine
Mornings are always going to be hectic. But the crazy can be controlled if everyone knows the routine and kids are empowered to do their part. Come up with a morning list for each kid before school starts; then print it out, laminate it, and put it where they can see it. Lists are great at motivating kids, and they free you up too, since you won't need to tell anyone to pack their backpack or find their shoes.

Go see your new classroom or school
It's scary for kids to show up on the first day, unsure of what the new school year holds. You can ease a bit of that fear by doing a school dry run, seeing the classroom, touring the school if it's new, and maybe even meeting the teacher. Call ahead to find a good time.

Tackle the summer reading list
Oops -- did you forget about your kid's summer vacation reading? The dog days of summer, when many camps are over, and the heat makes an hour of air-conditioned reading sound appealing, are just the time for kids to plow through their list.

Make playdates with classmates
Nothing calms nerves like seeing a familiar face. Ask someone from child's class, especially a kid he doesn't know well, over for a get-to-know-you playdate. That way on the first day of school, you'll know he's among friends.

Add a new responsibility before school starts
A new year is a great excuse to matter-of-factly add a new job to your kid's repertoire (Did you know when you're in second grade, you pack your own snack?) After all, they'll be taking on more in school, why not at home?

Make school shopping special
Once school starts, it's hard to find large chunks of time to just hang out. So rather than jamming back-to-school shopping into your regular errands, why not take the day to make it a special one-on-one outing with each kid, complete with a nice lunch out where you talk about what the year ahead holds? It might even become a yearly tradition.

Make the check-up appointment with the doctor
This is an early summer to-do: if you didn't do your kid’s annual check-up around his birthday, summer's a good time to catch up. You'll especially want to make sure your kid's up-to-date on any vaccines that might be required by school before the year begins.

Fill out school forms
Don't leave them until the night before, when your time would be better spent savoring one last night of summer with your kids. Save yourself even more hassle by dropping paperwork off at school early so there's no waiting in line at the office on the first day of school.

Create a homework workspace
One key to homework success is creating a quiet, distraction-free spot for your kid. Look for a quiet spot (away from TV and annoying younger sibs), add good light and make sure your kid has a comfy seat.

Organize the closets
We’re not sure why spring cleaning gets all the hype. Fall -- when kids are getting a ton of back-to-school clothes -- seems like a much more logical time to prune the too-small stuff and neaten up. While you're at it, enable her getting herself dressed in the morning easier by making sure everything's within reach.

Make over school lunch
If you were cheese sandwich-ing it through the last few weeks of school, we feel you. But the new school year's a chance to pack a healthier, more inspired lunchbox. Research new ideas, and try them at home before you pack them so your kid doesn't come home with uneaten lunch. Also, talk to your kid about what he'd like to find in his lunchbox, and maybe even have him help pack it. Kids are more likely to eat what they feel like they've had a part in deciding.

Get a clock
If your child doesn't have a clock in his room, you're missing out on a powerful tool for helping her get stuff done. One with a timer can also be very effective in helping kids to stay on task in the morning or getting through 30 minutes of piano practice. Here's another nice perk: You can also let the clock be the bad guy -- it's not Mommy telling you it's bedtime, it's the clock!

Do something fun
Before summer slips away, take the time to do something special with the kids that really feels like summer. Whether it's blowing off work one day so you can all go for a family beach day or making s'mores, make sure to have a memory that you'll all be able to look back on once you're in the swing of the school year. 

Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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