Back-To-School Survival Guide 2016 / Seven Tips and Tricks From the Pros to Make Prepping for the new School Year a Breeze

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Pamela Hammonds
PUBLISHED
August 2016 in
DallasChild, FortWorthChild, NorthTexasChild
UPDATED
July 25, 2016
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After nearly three months of basically no bedtime, fun with Grandma and cousins, swimming, trips to the beach and sleeping in — bam! — August has arrived. And with it, mounting to-do lists for you that include school registrations, doctors’ checkups, shopping and more.
 
You already get lots of back-to-school information — reading lists, supply lists, names of kids in the class, perhaps — but no one gives Mom a list to prep for the weeks leading up to school and to make the transition easier for the kids (and you). So we gathered the best local resources and assembled tips to help you and your little start school stress-free.
 
Kids Need Zzzzz’s to Make A’s
 
It’s no secret that tired kids (and adults) don’t perform well. Brains need downtime in order to form new pathways. Sufficient sleep is vital for cognitive function, memory, mood and good health.
 
Last year the National Sleep Foundation released their recommendations for the ideal amount of sleep:

3–5 Years:  10–13 hours per night
6–13 Years: 9–11 hours each night 
 
The experts’ sound sleep advice? Create a cave-like atmosphere in the kids’ rooms. Make them cool, dark, quiet and void of distractions like electronics.
 
And if summertime sleep patterns have changed significantly, it can be a struggle to shift from late nights and lazy days to a more demanding earlier-to-bed, early-to-rise routine. So start now. Experts recommend moving the bedtime schedule up by 15–30 minutes every few nights.
 
If you think sleep might be an issue for your little one — whether you worry she’s not getting enough or sleeping too much — schedule an appointment with the pediatrician. The doctor might suggest diet changes, a better before-bed routine or a sleep study. After all, adults aren’t the only ones who suffer from disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
 
In-House Homework Help
 
While tutors once focused on helping children who were falling behind in a certain subject, they are now being hired to guide students through a challenging course or ensure that your son’s grades match or exceed his peers’.
 
Teachers might have recommendations, and school districts often provide lists of potential tutors online, but companies like Club Z, Varsity Tutors, Grade Potential, DallasHomeTutors.com, In-Home Tutors Dallas and Learn & Grow offer in-home tutoring services to students in grades K–12 (Varsity Tutors, Grade Potential and In-Home Tutors Dallas actually start with kids in pre-K) throughout Dallas and Collin counties, saving you time in the car and making your child feel more relaxed and comfortable. Expect to pay an hourly rate that can vary from $25–$68 for these tutors equipped to help kids with a myriad of subjects, including test prep.

Club Z, 888/434-2582 

Varsity Tutors, 214/206-7940

Grade Potential, 888/978-3364

DallasHomeTutors.com, 972/559-4484 

In-Home Tutors Dallas, 214/347-9400 

Learn & Grow, 972/672-5037 
 
Shop Smarter
 
Hit the malls and stores the weekend of August 5–7 to buy the kids’ backpacks, clothing, footwear and school supplies, and save the sales tax on items that are less than $100 each.
 
And even if shopping secondhand isn’t your thing, sell the kids’ gently used clothing to make extra spending money you can use elsewhere. Once Upon a Child has locations across the Dallas area and pays cash on the spot for lightly worn shoes and clothing. Small Pockets in Dallas accepts high-end items on consignment, but only pays you when your items sell. (While you’re there, you might score some deals on designer duds for the requisite first-day-of-school photo op.)

Once Upon a Child, multiple locations

Small Pockets, Dallas
 
Serve Healthier Snacks
 
A well-stocked fridge and pantry are key to curbing after-school hunger pangs without spoiling your little’s appetite, and preparing snacks for eating on the way to lacrosse practice or piano lessons prevents you from making an ill-advised fast-food pit stop. Local grocers stock freshly cut fruit and veggies, or pull up to Start, Snap Kitchen or Wholesome Grub to pick up health-friendly meals and snacks without getting out of your car.

Start, two Dallas locations 

Snap Kitchen, multiple locations

Wholesome Grub, Plano, 972/964-4782 
 
Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, grapes and bananas) and veggies (carrots with hummus or colorful peppers with low-fat ranch dressing) are naturally good choices, according to Laura Walker, clinical dietitian at Children’s Health, but she also suggests low-fat turkey or ham rolled around a cheese stick; protein-rich nut butters such as peanut or almond as a fruit dip; salsa with cucumbers, jicama or celery sticks; trail mix with dried unsweetened fruit; and kale chips.
 
Aim to keep snacks between 150–200 calories. “Any more than that and kids will be too full for dinner,” Walker advises. She also says water is best and to avoid juice or sports drinks with sweeteners and artificial colors. “You can add in cucumber slices with mint or lemon, lime or orange juice to mineral water for flavor. All of these are good choices to replenish lost electrolytes after sports or outdoor activities.”
 
After-School Vansportation
 
Sometimes it’s not possible to get your child to where she needs to be, and burdening another (equally busy) mom to shuttle your kiddo may not be an option.
 
Luckily, on-demand, kid-friendly services cart the kids to extracurricular activities throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. K.A.M. Kid’s Cab and Goin My Way drive kids as young as 3 and charge a flat daily rate that starts at $15 round trip and varies depending on the distance traveled.

K.A.M. Kid’s Cab, 214/295-2409 

Goin My Way, 972/644-5437
 
Both of these services require drivers to pass background checks and drug and alcohol testing. Drivers must also be trained in first aid and CPR, plus vans are equipped with a first aid kit and fire extinguisher — all safety must-haves to look for when vetting any car service for your kids. Also be sure to ask how you’ll be notified when your child arrives at his or her destination.
 
Parent Participation
 
Hats off to parents who volunteer their time to support their children’s schools — a move that’s been shown to positively impact teachers’ job satisfaction and student motivation. Whether your school encourages in-class participation, such as reading to kids (or listening to them read), or prefers parents keep to serving on the PTA, look for ways to get involved.
 
Some teachers opt to assign duties to parents on an as-needed basis; others want room parents to handle the delegation of tasks. If a demanding job (or littles at home) prohibits your in-class involvement, ask to perform activities off-campus such as cutting out items for bulletin boards. Or donate teacher wishlist supplies, like books and other learning tools.
 
Choose only the tasks or volunteer duties that you have the time for. It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver.
 
Off-Beat After-School Enrichment
 
There’s no shortage of after-school classes, activities and sports for kids to explore. Need proof? Check out our DFWEverything guide and turn to page 32 for more after-school activities in this issue.
 
This fall, why not look for something a bit more unexpected than the requisite soccer or dance classes?
 
Let kids spend the afternoon or weekend learning a second (or third) language such as French, Mandarin, Spanish, even Czech in a private or group setting. Prices vary, but lessons start at about $200 per semester or $25 per session.

Alliance Française de Dallas, Dallas, 214/234-0165

Mandarin School for Kids, Dallas, 469/327-6907

Spanish Schoolhouse, Multiple locations, 972/618-2500

Václav Havel Czech School of Dallas, Dallas, 214/881-6474
 
Coding seems to be the wave of the technological future. Sign tech-savvy littles up for an after-school coding club. Expect to pay about $5–$12 per student for each session if the UTD club or Brainopolis comes to your school campus. iCode tuition ranges from $169–$189 per month (8 classes plus two hours of lab time) plus a $150 registration fee.  

University of Texas Dallas, Richardson, 972/357-6893 

Brainopolis, Frisco or Plano, 469/371-6193

iCode, Frisco, 469/608-7023
 
Encourage kids to try something completely out of their comfort zone. The Lone Star Circus School teaches kidss 3 and older trapeze, hula hoops and more while building self-confidence, responsibility, poise, teamwork and self-discipline. Prices start at $20 per hour.

The Lone Star Circus School, Addison, 214/206-1449
 
Or enlist them to volunteer after school. Check Wee Volunteer and ask at your community’s library, senior center and activity center for afternoon volunteer opportunities for students. While Boy and Girl Scouts and Junior Achievement are national organizations with solid reputations, with a little investigating, you can find other outlets for growing kids’ characters, including your place of worship.

Wee Volunteer, Dallas-Fort Worth area 

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