Back-to-school isn’t just for those kids who are actually going back to an educational institution. For parents of babies and toddlers, the back-to-school season also involves preparing to get your little ones back into a routine, too. That means making plans for daycare, or long days at home without older siblings there to entertain them.
So, whether you’re getting ready to cart your older kids off to the next grade level, or you are gearing up for the cooler months with an only child, there are a number of things you can do to get yourself organized.
Get into a back-to-school routine
Before Labour Day hits and the rush begins, take some time to get your baby back into a regular routine that doesn’t include playtime with siblings. You may have become lax with some things during the summer: later lunches due to road trips and days out at the park, or missed naps because of busy summer activities. Now is the time to get that structure back into place. Keep baby on a schedule for meals, playtime, naps, bath, and sleep. While it’s tempting to let him stay up an extra hour to enjoy some time with his siblings, or mom and dad, you’ll thank yourself later for imposing that strict bedtime schedule once again.
That goes for preschoolers, too. When my son started preschool at 4, we commenced a routine in mid-August that involved him completing one assignment from his workbook after coming home from camp each day, just to get him prepared for heading to kindergarten.
Encourage both solo and group play
Place the focus back on solo activities, so baby gets used to playing on his own. Encourage things like fun arts and crafts projects and set up activity centre and pretend play sets, which will be especially useful to help prepare a child who will soon be heading to daycare where they’ll be doing creative activities.
For the child who’s going to daycare, particularly for the first time, you may conversely also want to encourage group play with other kids that aren’t sis and bro to get them used to playing outside of the family boundaries, and with kids their own age. Consider daily visits to the park, library, or signing up for local group activities.
Get them back-to-school gear, too!
For babies and especially toddlers who are heading to daycare, it’s not a bad idea to get them their own “back-to-school” gear, too, like a lunchbox, small backpack, and new outfits suitable for the upcoming seasonal changes. This is particularly so if they have older siblings: while the older ones pick out a new lunchpack and backpack, your little one can grab a new sippy cup and snack container for daycare, or days out. Even if your baby is staying home with you or another caregiver, a mini backpack can always come in handy for daily outings, sleepovers, and other events.
A new selection of toys and books instead of the typical pens, pencils, and notebooks, will be useful for a little one as well, to help keep him busy now that the distractions are no longer there. Seek out educational toys, in particular. Just because your little one isn’t in school doesn’t meant it isn’t time to get down to the business of learning!
As for clothing, chances are your little one is quickly growing out of his existing wardrobe anyway, so the back-to-school season is as good a time as any for a refresh. Look for fall-friendly additions, like a light jacket, hat, socks (their little feet grow so fast!), and zip-up sweaters for layering.
Keep babies entertained while you work-from-home
Daycare is not always easy to find, and if you haven’t secured a spot for your little one yet, or you’re waiting until a later start day, find great ways to keep them entertained while you work work-from-home. While you can use many of the items noted here, like pretend play and activity centres and learning toys, you might also want to consider a kid-friendly tablet. It’s important to limit screen time, of course, but there are tablets designed for preschool children that they can use for limited periods of time to play educational games and learn everything from ABCs to 123s, colour and pattern recognition, and more.
Consider investing in a baby bouncer or swing as well as a safe place to keep a baby or toddler nearby if they aren’t ready for a nap just yet and you need a few minutes hands-free to make a quick business call. You can still keep an eye on them without worry that they’ll crawl away or put something in their mouth.
Happy back-to-school baby shopping! Check out a selection of baby gear at Best Buy Online.