4 Expert-Approved Ways to Start the School Year Strong

Make the back-to-school transition easier than ever with these tips.

Jun 24, 2022




Jun 24, 2022

One week, your kids are spending all day at the pool (and running through the house dripping wet). The next, they’re sitting politely in class soaking up knowledge about dinosaurs, volcanoes, and the solar system. 

As the freewheeling fun of summer vacation gives way to the rigor and structure (and excitement!) of back-to-school season, there are ways you can ease your kids’ transition back to the classroom so they’re ready for a successful year. 

Here are four strategies for helping your kids get back into the swing of learning. 

1. Incorporate Learning Into Everyday Activities (and Keep It Fun!) 

One of the most important things you can do leading up to school is to look for ways to integrate learning into everyday activities.

“Even when you're doing activities that are fun, you can throw in things that will engage kids in some amount of learning,” says Novea McIntosh, an assistant professor of teacher education at the University of Dayton, Ohio. “Make it informal and fun, and unbeknownst to them, they'll actually be learning.”

Take for instance, Klutz games. They may appear to be all fun, but they’re actually mini-lessons in chemistry, engineering, and reading. As children piece together wires, LEDs, and buzzers, they tap critical thinking and STEAM skills to build electrifying games.

Any activity that is playful but requires new skills will help ease your child back into the learning that’ll be expected of them in school. 

2. Teach Them How to Play a Brand-New Game! 

Introducing children to new board games before school starts is another effective way to prime them for absorbing new knowledge.

“In order to build kids' confidence, especially younger children, we want them to feel like they're understanding things and that they’re part of something bigger,” says McIntosh.  

When introducing a new game to your children, don’t just read the instructions out loud. Instead, model how the game should be played, how to develop a strategy for winning, and how to learn from mistakes — then let them take the lead.

“This will help them with problem solving and critical thinking skills in a collaborative way, which is a good representation of classroom teaching strategies,” says McIntosh. 

Scholastic Race Across the USA is a great pick for children in upper elementary grades as it teaches geography and social studies in a fun and engaging way. For younger kids, Earth Science Bingo helps your child develop valuable listening skills while exploring properties of the planet.

3. Talk About All Types of Diversity 

In the lead-up to school, McIntosh also suggests parents engage their children in books and materials that focus on diversity and inclusion. Make sure your child’s home library is stocked with a diverse range of characters, settings, and topics that reflect the experiences of their peers.

“Remind them that students come to their classrooms with differences,” says McIntosh. “And I'm not only talking racial differences — think about autism, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.”

Talking about diversity with your kids before school starts is a great way to help them understand one another’s differences and why it’s important to celebrate those differences, and to ensure they return to the classroom ready to learn with acceptance and respect. 

4. Encourage Social-Emotional Learning

Before the school year kicks off, help your child develop resilience by encouraging their own "productive struggles" — those that build problem-solving skills — and to develop their confidence and persistence in the face of challenges. 

“If their feelings are hurt, help them think through what's going on and how they can feel better,” McIntosh says.

Reading can be an incredibly valuable tool for social-emotional learning, because it gives children emotional practice dealing with situations they may not have encountered yet in real life.

Popular series like Nat Enough and books like Wonder for upper elementary readers model effective ways for kids to learn about themselves, their feelings, and the importance of empathy.

Get ready for your child to go back to school with our guide — it's full of recommended books, teacher tips, homework help, and more resources for a successful school year. Plus, look ahead with these parent-teacher conference tips for parents

Shop books, kits, and games to start your child’s year off strong below! You can shop all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

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