Back to school looks different for everyone this year. Some students will be solely eLearning, others participating in a hybrid model, and some in school full time. More now than ever parents and guardians need survival tips, extra support, and resources that work with all different situations. These are some back to school survival tips that help make a few common issues easier on the parents/guardians.
Issue #1- Back to Routines
My children detest brushing their teeth, and it has probably been the #1 routine that I let slide during the quarantine. Since we have been mainly staying home, teeth brushing doesn’t happen until around 10 am. If you are as tired as fighting with your kids about oral health as I am, make it more enjoyable since they have to brush twice a day! (And maybe you think it is silly to think about getting your kids to brush their teeth, but the majority of parents I talk to say this is a major point of contention for them in the morning. I will do almost anything to decrease the drama).
Brite Brush is an interactive, smart toothbrush for kids that uses songs, games, and live coaching to encourage proper brushing techniques. It is loaded with engaging games, smart sensors, and a parent check light which lets you know if your kid actually brushed (or if they just wet the bristles as I used to), ready to go right out of the box. My kids previously downloaded the Disney Magic Timer, which turned out to be a disaster because they kept wanting to bring my phone into the bathroom. Ew. No devices or apps required for BriteBrush- it is self-contained. This is one back to school survival product that has earned a permanent place in my home.
Issue #2- Multiple Masks
My kids each have one mask they like, and they get pretty grungy by the end of the day, causing me to do endless loads of laundry and always be on the hunt for the masks in our house. Many masks don’t fit, are too restricting, fall down, or are poorly made.
Crayola has created Reusable Cloth Face Mask Sets, which include a color-coded mask for each day of the school week to avoid cross-contamination. It also comes with a mesh laundry bag for washing, and one size fits kids age 3-11. These reduce environmental waste caused by disposable single-use masks and feature adjustable ear straps and a nose clip for a secure fit.
I did a little digging into the masks, and Crayola partnered with SchoolMaskPack, a non-medical mask retailer under Supara Group, which is a leading tech apparel company. Thank you, Crayola, for truly putting thought into designing a product that protects our most precious possessions. I have seen a LOT of companies whipping up masks, and while I believe any mask is better than no mask, a proper-fitting, washable, dual-layer mask is superior in my opinion.
Issue #3- Recess Withdrawal
When I was in school, recess was my favorite subject. It was a time to get the wiggles and stress out, run, jump, and scream to my heart’s content. Well, recess is probably going to look different no matter what situation you are in. According to heart.org, “Studies also have shown that the free-play that comes with recess is crucial to a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.” Time to stock up on some recess resources at home, and make movement and creativity a back to school survival focus.
Since many families in Chicago are living in close quarters, a scooter comes in handy and is easy to store. It also helps kids stay distant from each other while playing. I make zero claims about the COVID-19 safety of being on wheels vs. being on foot, but I know from personal experience that when my kids ride bikes or scooters with other kids they keep a farther distance. Scooters rule in my family because if a child doesn’t want to ride anymore, they are light enough that I can carry them. Plus, scooters don’t need any maintenance (hello tire pressure on bikes, I’m looking at you) and you don’t need to buy a new one when your kid has a growth spurt.
I recently bought my daughter the A Kick Scooter from Razor because it is affordable, lightweight, folds up, and is incredibly sturdy. Retailing on Amazon and Target for around $30, this price tag meets many families’ budgets.
I was cruising the Razor website and also found a few fun scooter games:
Capture the Flag
Red Light Green Light
Many after school clubs and classes are postponed or cancelled as well. My son has been interested in karate, but turns out that isn’t going to happen this year. I found Break the Board, a game that allows kids to practice their karate moves. The perfect way to get them off screens and a way to get the energy out durning a rainy day!
Issue #4- Lack of Non-Core Classes
Art is also an important part of children’s development that might not happen in school. Our school’s official message was that they are “focusing on core academics with the opportunity for specials instruction.” I totally get it, and I would much rather supplement art and recess at home rather than try to teachw new math. *crying just thinking about it*
In my opinion, the reason many families forego art projects at home is two reasons- they don’t know what to make and/or they are afraid of the mess. Pinterest can only get you so far in terms of an art project, and if you don’t have all of the specialty tools you are out of luck.
We do a TON of art projects around my home, but I have nowhere to put them. I usually display them for a few weeks or let them sit on a shelf, then slowly sneak them into the circular file. I love art that is both creative and useful- something they can wear is a winner because they rarely complain about putting it on.
Tie dye is a favorite, but traditionally I end up with dye ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. I found the Swirl & Style Tie Dye Studio, tested it out, and did not get a drop of dye anywhere but the project I was creating. The kit retails for $19.99 at Target, comes with an orb which encases your item to be dyed as well as dye bottles, rubber bands, instructions, dye, and gloves. You insert the dye bottles into small ports on the orb, spin the item inside around, and even rinse it in the orb for minimal mess. SOLD.
Issue #5- Personal Property
“That’s my pencil!” “No, it’s mine!” Every teacher has heard this argument multiple times. Before, it wasn’t a major issue, but now it is a serious case of germ transfer. Labeling your student’s items is more important than ever no matter where they are headed- school, the soccer field, the playground, or a family member’s home. This is a major back to school survival MUST. Mabel’s Labels offer school label packs, clothing stamps, and “washaway” lunchbox notes. I have used Mabel’s Labels for years on everything- water bottles, clothing, books, backpacks, the list goes on. They are customizable, waterproof, and durable.
For teachers, they came out with cute “Stand Here” floor decals to designate 6 feet distance, and writeable “disinfected” stickers that work with a dry erase marker to indicate when an item was disinfected last. I plan on asking my kids’ teachers if they would like me to purchase these for their class.
Issue #6 School Lunch and Snacks
Are you tired of feeding your child 3 meals + snacks every day? I know I am! Have them participate in this tiring chore by getting THEM in the kitchen instead of having you wait on them all day.
Kids don’t know how to cook or prepare food? They can easily learn! I signed my children up for virtual cooking classes through Kids Table in Wicker Park. They have interactive Zoom lessons with an instructor. Simply sign up, gather the ingredients, and sign on. My kids asked LOTS of questions, smelled new spices, learned to chop, saute, peel and grate among many other skills. Classes are available for ages 2 (!) up to 14. Supervision is definitely necessary for the younger set, but it gave us something to do together. We made Black Bean Tacos, Black Forest Sundaes and Deep Dish Pizza “Cupcakes” during our three classes.
Each class is $15, or you can sign up for a series of 5 for $65. Check out their schedule and dishes here!
Issue #7 Preschool Entertainment and Education
Ok, you can set your 2nd grader up with an art project, and your high schooler just wants to do their own thing. But what about preschoolers? Mellodees, a preschool property, was recently developed to provide both music and education to this challenging age group. With music produced by DJ Marshmello, you can hear remixed versions of “Wheels on the Bus” and not be totally annoyed. The songs are catchy, and there are downloads available to print out that helps keep it hands-on.
I hope you are able to be (relatively) at peace with whatever decision your family makes this coming school year. I will continue to share any back to school survival tips and products that come my way. The most incredible thing to me is that we are all fighting a common enemy. Sharing little ways with each other that we find to make this situation more tolerable and even enjoyable is my idea of progress.
Cheers to kicking ass in 2020 and doing the best with the knowledge and resources you have!
Disclosure- This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase through a link on my site, I make a (teeny tiny) commission. Your purchase price isn’t affected. I received samples for review purposes, all opinions are honest and my own as always.