Organizing Back-to-School with a Master Checklist for Moms

Love it or hate it, one thing is for sure.  Back-to-school is a crazy busy time for moms.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about this time of year, especially as a kid when I was the one going back to school.  On the one hand, I always had some anxiety about jumping into new situations … new classes, new teachers, new schedules.  I really wanted that last day of summer vacation to last as long as possible.  On the other hand, I loooved the brand new school supplies, new clothes, and new challenges. A little geeky?  Yep, that’s me.  And I still get that tinge of excitement today.

To help ease your job of getting ready for the new school year, I’ve created this master checklist that covers the big picture of important things you need to take care of.  As you check these items off, you’ll be getting your family off to a great start.

  • Get familiar with the school’s online tools for parents.
    Whether these are on the website or a separate parent portal, you’ll want to know what’s available.
  • Review what paperwork your school requires. 
    Know what needs to be submitted and when.
  • Create a family calendar.
    Include information from the school calendar, and put it in a place where everyone will see it.  Mark days off, field trips, sporting events, performances, etc.
  • Plan to volunteer.
    Find out what opportunities there will be for you to volunteer this year and plan ahead. Even if you only have time to do one thing all year, decide what that is early on so you can sign up while its still available.
  • Keep a copy of your child’s schedule.
    Include subjects, times and teachers.
  • Create a system to handle the forms that need your attention.
    There will be plenty throughout the school year, whether they come home with your child or through the mail.
  • Decide up front how you’ll sort and store your child’s work.
    Homework, tests, artwork, projects, awards, and more will become overwhelming in no time if you don’t have a plan.
  • Make sure emergency contact information is current.
    Keep everyone who should have this in the loop.

Clothing & Essentials

  • Make a master wardrobe list and shop from that.
    Decide the number and types of outfits your child will need, and make a master list that includes all the pieces … bottoms, tops, underwear, socks, shoes, accessories, etc. Start with items they already have that will work and shop for the rest. 
  • Take your child for a haircut.
    This will refresh their look and make getting ready in the morning easier.
  • Get the everyday essentials.
    Does your child need a book bag, backpack, gym bag, etc.?

School Supplies

  • Check your school’s official supply list for your child’s grade.
    This is the easiest way to be sure you’ll have exactly what you need, no guessing.
  • Have fun with some extra supplies.
    That notebook, those stickers, these pens! Who doesn’t love a few fun items to express their personality?

Medical Concerns

  • Review your school’s medication policy.
    What types of medication can be taken during the school day, who is qualified to dispense it, what type of authorization is needed, etc.
  • Talk with your doctor about a medication plan.
    Any medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription, that you need the school to have on hand for your child will likely require a physician’s note and specific instructions.
  • Complete any physical exams required by the school.
    These will probably vary from year to year.
  • Complete any medical paperwork required by the school.
    This could include items such as proof of physical exams, a medication plan, immunization records, or other medical information.
  • Be sure your child has an up-to-date eye exam.
    Vision problems can cause learning problems, so this is important even if your child has not needed glasses before.
  • Pay attention to the expiration dates on medication.
    If a medication reaches its expiration date, the school may not be able to administer it.
  • Be sure food allergies are known and will be accommodated.
    Are all the necessary people aware of your child’s allergies and their severity? How will they be accommodated during lunch, snack, and class parties?


  • Take a look at the school menu.
    This will help you to plan ahead for days to carry or buy.
  • Fund the school lunch account.
    If your child will be buying lunch, be sure there is a balance in their account.
  • Plan packed lunches.
    If they’ll be bringing food from home, come up with a list of about 10 lunch menus that are tasty, healthy, easy and affordable. The more you can plan ahead the better.
  • Select lunch carriers, containers, and accessories.
    Depending on what your child eats and the available facilities, these could include: lunch box, lunch bag, water bottle, Bento box, leak-proof containers, cold packs, utensils, insulated food jar, etc.


  • Know your child’s bus number, route, and driver.
    It’s also a good idea to introduce yourself to the bus driver if you can.
  • Make carpool plans.
    If you’ll be sharing driving duties as a group, be sure all of the following details are decided and agreed on: drivers, schedule, locations and times. Also, share contact information.
  • Review school drop-off and pick-up rules.
    Some schools have strict policies in order to keep these busy times of the day running smoothly and safely.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Complete paperwork and pay any fees.
    Waivers, permission forms, etc.
  • Purchase or rent uniforms.
  • Purchase or rent equipment, instrument, etc.
  • Get an updated schedule for each activity.
    This includes both practices and events such as performances or games.  It’s a good idea to keep this information with or on the family calendar.

At Home

  • Set a regular bedtime and wake up time.
    Begin getting your kids on this schedule before school starts.
  • Create routines.
    Kids thrive on consistency, and simple morning, after-school, and bedtime routines give them that.  Higher priority tasks are generally done first, such as finishing homework before watching television.  Don’t think of this as a rigid set of rules, but a simple list of activities to do at the same time each day.
  • Have a selection of go-to healthy snacks available, especially for after-school.
  • Select and organize a week’s worth of school outfits.
    What a breeze when your kids don’t have to choose and put together their clothes every morning.

Conversations to Have with Your Child

  • What to do if they miss their bus or carpool.
    Hopefully this would never happen, but its a good idea to discuss it so your child is not unprepared in case it does.
  • Address any fears or nervousness they have about going to school. This is so common. The end of summer vacation, with a new school year looming, can cause a lot of anxiety.
  • Cell phone/internet expectations and rules.
    Be very specific with your child about how you expect their phone to be used, and not used, during the school day.
  • Talk through or role play difficult situations that may come up with peers.
    Every child will face new and sometimes confusing or upsetting interactions with others. The more you prepare them beforehand, the easier it will be for them to navigate the situations successfully.
  • Lunchtime food choices and spending. “How many ice creams did you buy at lunch this week?!” This is a great opportunity for a lesson in money management and self-control.
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