15 Back-to-School Tips, Tricks, and Hacks Every Parent Should Know

published Aug 15, 2023
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Two young children exit a doorway at the same time, holding backpacks and lunch bags and wearing a school uniform. Image depicts a morning and the school day ahead.
Credit: Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

It’s officially back-to-school season (how’d that happen?), and whether you’re mourning summer or can’t wait to send your kids back to the classroom, the end of the season means lots of preparation for a busy fall ahead. Maybe your child is just starting Kindergarten or you’re a seasoned middle school parent looking for some tips to get ahead before the new year begins.

Whichever boat you’re in, you’re in luck — in addition to the lunch packing tips and backpack cleaning tricks we’ve already shared, here are 15 more hacks, tricks, and gadgets to help you and your kids start the school year off on the right foot. 

1. Set up a container for every day of the week.  

Having a container or compartment for each weekday for outfits is one way to help kids get ready in a snap. Here’s another example where a mom used open storage containers to organize her three kids’ clothes. This mom included photos of her daughter’s hairstyles for every day of the week, which is next level. Or just let kids pick their outfits themselves.

2. Alexa (and Siri) are your friends.

If you use Alexa, Siri, or Google Home, tell them to make specific reminders for events or recurring tasks so you have less to think about. For example, if soccer practice is every Tuesday, ask Alexa to “remind you to put the soccer bag by the front door at 7:15 a.m. every Tuesday.” 

3. Opt for laundry-proof labels.

Rather than using a permanent marker, opt for a customizable, laundry-proof, dishwasher-proof labels like these from NameBubbles, a favorite of Cubby’s Executive Editor, Cambria Bold. They won’t fade and are easy to read. Put them on clothes, lunch boxes, backpacks, jackets, water bottles, and more.

4. Hack your clock to help kids stay on track.

With a couple of dry erase markers, a clock can turn into a schedule in just a few minutes. Color each section for the designated time zones for their activities (breakfast, hair-brushing, getting dressed, tooth-brushing, etc.), and make a color-coded guide. You can do the same for after-school activities, too.

5. Measure your kids’ feet before heading to the shoe store.

If you dread back-to-school shoe shopping with young kids, trace their feet, measure the length of their shoes, or bring a well-fitting shoe of theirs with you to the store so you don’t have to bring the whole brood. Of course, this doesn’t always guarantee that the shoe will fit, but returns might be easier than the hassle of having kids try on shoes in-store.

6. Make copies of important documents before filling out names.

More than one kid at the same school? Fill out the forms before putting any names on them, make a copy, and add each kid’s name to separate documents to save time filling out the same information. 

7. Put stickers inside shoes so kids know right from left.

Avoid the out-the-door rush with shoes on the wrong feet by simply cutting a sticker in half and placing them inside young kids’ shoes. They’ll make a shape with their stickers without even needing to know how to read.

8. Practice lunchtime before they go.

Got a slow eater or a lunchtime newbie on your hands? Practice timed lunch and snack breaks so you can help them get into the groove, and switch up your lunch-packing plan if you notice they’re not able to eat as much as you’re planning on packing, while making sure they can open everything on their own.

9. Use a tracker to make sure your kids (and their belongings) are safe.

This is a great travel hack for parents, but it can be used when kids are at school, too. Put an Apple AirTag or other location-tracking device in their jacket, lunch box, or backpack and never worry about where on campus they left it, or on their person directly to be extra safe. There are also these smart wristbands you can attach to your AirTag.

10. Batch prep breakfasts and lunches. 

Eat breakfast on the go in the car with bagged, sliced muffins or ask kids to grab their own lunch supplies after spending a few minutes on the weekend getting each lunch and breakfast together.

11. Use transfer paper to write freely in books.

If you have older kids who borrow textbooks, or you know your children are likely to draw and write in library books, transfer paper is a great solution that’s totally removable — and prevents them from getting fined. You can also use it to put your kids’ names in or on the book itself.

12. Create an activity option sheet for after-school.

Keep kids busy in separate activities after they get home with a chart where they can choose their own projects or games, and know where to get everything. No fighting over toys, and no energy spent keeping “bored” kids occupied. 

13. Create morning routine bins for easier mornings.

If your kids are old enough to get themselves ready for school in the morning — or you want to get them to that point — a shower caddy is a great place to start. Load it up with a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, and whatever else they may need to get ready on their own, and put it under the sink or on the counter. 

14. Designate specific areas for each kid’s school gear.

The after-school rush can mean backpacks and sneakers are all over the place — unless you create a designated area where kids know to put their stuff when they get home. Add a hook to a wall with a basket (or placemat) below and direct kids to place backpacks, jackets, lunch boxes, and shoes there to limit the inevitable evening chaos. Customize the space like this mom did for an extra-cute entryway display.

15. Corral extra school supplies in a designated place.

When you go back-to-school shopping, grab a few extra and keep the overflow of supplies in one bin or storage space so that when your kids need a pencil or a binder throughout the school year, you’ll know exactly where to look.