The week before
Warm up their minds
If your little ones have spent the summer in a happy state of relaxed play, now is the time to warm up their minds for a new school year! Engage them in creative activities like painting or sketching – or play memory games with cards or objects to get their brains ticking! Reluctant child? Disguise educational activities into your everyday tasks, such as measuring ingredients for cake baking or adding up the shopping bill during a trip to the supermarket.
Move bedtime back to term timings
“Children always come in looking very tired after the school holidays, which without doubt affects their academic abilities.” says Mrs Nasreen Anwar, Primary Class Teacher at Wesgreen International School, Sharjah. “I find that behaviour suffers during this time too, with children feeling tired and erratic - I’ve even seen children fall asleep during lessons.”
Avoid this situation by moving bedtime back to the usual term-time timings a week or so in advance so your children are well rested for the new term. If your kids aren’t keen on this idea, try moving the time back gradually over the space of the week. By the time school is back in full swing, they will be settled into the new routine and benefitting from the extra shut-eye.
Arrange play dates to reconnect kids with their classmates
Ease your kids back into school life by arranging play dates with classmates before the start of term. You may even be able to arrange this in their school playground to remind them of the sights, sounds, and surroundings of school life.
New school? Reach out to other mums so the children get to know each other in advance. Dubai Mum Emily Glynn says: “A few days before my daughter started her new school, I posted on a social networking site asking to meet up with other new mums from our school for a play date. A few of us got together and she made friends with some of her schoolmates before starting.”
Cook up a batch for freezable snacks and lunch items
Dreading the daily task of preparing, making, and packing snacks and lunches? Start making portions of food now in large batches, which can be stored in the deep freeze and pulled out each evening to defrost overnight.
Dubai Mum and blogger Louise Emma Clarke says: “I spend a day cooking every few months, making and freezing portions of pasta, vegetable rice, savoury scones, cheese rolls, individual mini quiches, and fruit muffins. I take the item out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the fridge overnight, before adding to his lunchbox the next morning. I know he’s eating homemade, healthy food, but there’s no rush in the morning to prepare it – and it’s cheaper to buy ingredients and cook in bulk too!”
The day before
Plan timings and route to school
Dubai is known for its heavy traffic at rush hour, so make sure you spend some time planning your route and working out timings for the morning.
Dubai Mum Georgina Cooper adds: “My kids were late on the first day back to school last year, as, construction work started in the area over the summer and the road layout completely changed. I tried to U-turn in the usual place, but it had disappeared, so I ended up driving miles in the wrong direction. I vowed to get in the car and do a practice run the day before school starts this year. I was so stressed and I could see the kids getting anxious, so it’s not a mistake I will be making again!”
Plan a healthy and filling breakfast to fuel them for the day
Nutritionist Shahena Ali (www.shahena.tv) exlains: “Without doubt, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and children need to eat something that kick-starts their system and boosts both their body and their brain to keep energy levels powered-up until lunch time.
She continues: “A great breakfast includes portions of protein as well as complex carbohydrates. In fact, the best brain foods known to improve memory include eggs (containing memory boosting choline in egg yolk) and whole grain cereal such as oatmeal porridge (to flood the body with B vitamins which are great for information recall). Serve your kids an omelette combined with tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and even salmon - or add fresh fruits to a bowl of porridge, such as chopped apples, kiwis, dates, or superfood berries.”
Pack the school bag
Teaching your child to prepare for the day ahead by packing their own school bag is an important skill.
Teacher Mrs Nasreen Anwar explains: “Rather than helping them to pack their bag, try to teach them to do the job on their own (checking the bag before they head off to school to prevent anything being forgotten). This teaches independence and responsibility, which I find helps children to stay focused on their learning. By thinking ahead about what they will be learning the next day – and whether they need certain books or their PE Kits – they are aware of what the day ahead holds and come into school focused on the classroom.”
Talk through the school day with your child and arrange meet-up point
Children are likely to feel anxious on the morning of a new school term, so spend time over breakfast discussing the day ahead. Dubai Mum Preeya Jacobs says: “I’ve make this chat a ritual at the start of each new term. I remind my son the name of his teacher, run through the names of his classmates, and talk through the structure of the school day to remind him about the register being taken, going to assembly, eating his lunch in the hall, and meeting me at the end of the school day. This last point is the most important, as I remind him where I will be standing at pick-up time.”
Dubai Mums share their back-to-school tips
Sarah-Louise Clemence, Mum to Jack (4), Cooper (2) and Riley (7 months).
“The biggest thing for us is getting back into a routine. We move back to set times for bath, bedtime, waking up, and breakfast. This means Jack is getting enough sleep in the lead-up to school, but also helps me to get organised with two younger siblings too.”
Julie Cook, Mum to Alex (6)
“I worry that the long summer holiday makes it hard for Alex to face going back to school – so last summer, we prepared by playing games where ‘school’ was involved. His favourite was making a school from Lego pieces and then using our imagination to create classroom scenes.”
Laura Selway, Mum to Indi (7), Brooke and Boedy (both 2)
“My daughter’s school mixes classes around each year, so we always arrange play dates close to the start of term so the children can get to know each other before they go in to the classroom. It’s good to help them feel confident socially as well as academically.”