How to Prepare Kids for What School May Look Like in the Fall

In these uncertain times, parents know one thing for sure: Kids returning to school this fall will not be heading back to business as usual. School life may feature some awesome updates (outdoor classrooms and later start times!) as well as more challenging new rules (so much hand-washing). Even our youngest students will need to quickly adapt to their new normal. So how can we help?

For one thing, loading up our post-lockdown learners with fresh school supplies will only ease their adjustment. And that’s more than just an excuse to shop: Mental health experts recommend “transitional objects” to help kids (and even adults) manage separation anxiety. Luckily, stocking up for school has never been easier—or safer—thanks to Walmart. You can find your local teacher’s supply list on here. Plug in your school’s zip code school name and voila—your student’s supply list will appear. Opt for curbside pickup* or home delivery. And use their mobile app to shop from anywhere—including the pillow fort or bathroom you’ve been hiding in (we get it). Here, four tips and 20 items to help your kiddos feel confident and cool.

*$35 Minimum. Restrictions apply.

mom and daughter reading
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Gear Up For The New State Of Play

School playgrounds and gyms may be off limits. Climbing equipment, contact sports—and even tag—verboten. Students will need new ways to connect and let loose. Here’s where kid-safe tech comes in. As some quarantined families have already found, digital libraries, Zoom dance classes, and YouTube art tutorials with a social component have become a lifeline. An excess of downtime may extend to school as well: Staggered schedules and standing around in socially-distanced lines waiting for temperature checks or hand-washing stations may mean kids are stuck playing the waiting game. Socially conscious coloring books, technicolor crayons, reading tablets and smart watches can help to keep those little hands busy. So whether analog or cutting edge, kids’ entertainment options—and our old rules about screen time—have evolved to meet the moment.

mom and daughter sitting at desk
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Organize Your Distance Learning Station

Many U.S school districts are planning for hybrid scenarios this fall. To keep class sizes small and safe, this means students will come to school only part of the time. The rest of their learning will be done online. Most districts will also offer the option to do distance learning exclusively if families have health concerns. A USA TODAY/Ipsos poll found that 6 in 10 K-12 parents are likely to pursue at-home learning options rather than in-person school.

So what does this mean for you—AKA your kids’ new teacher/coach/therapist/sibling smackdown mediator? First, the good news: Kids don’t require tons of bells and whistles when it comes to their tech. Access to their online classrooms, printers for worksheets and internet (with parental controls firmly in place) should suffice. But we do have to get on board with their digital citizenship. As the past few months have shown us, access to a computer for school “is no longer a ‘nice to have,’” as Penny Schwinn, Tennessee’s education commissioner, told the New York Times. “For many, it is a necessity for a free and appropriate public education.” Experts add that a quiet, distraction-free home study space is key to student success. Simple steps, like designating a different color folder and notebook for each study subject, can work wonders to help kids stay organized.

mom handing daughter lunchbox
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Gather Deskside Dining Essentials

According to guidance from the CDC, small groups of kids (or “pods”) will spend the entire day together with one teacher. They’ll likely eat all snacks and meals at their desk. (Pro-tip? Throw hand sanitizer and wipes into a pencil pouch and teach kids how to disinfect their desks before eating.) That means no more long cafeteria lines on pizza day, no water fountains and absolutely NO trading treats. To that end, all lunch bags, food and drink containers should be clearly labeled with kids’ names. (For what it’s worth, we gave up on sew- or iron-on labels years ago and just take a Sharpie to everything.) And because parental sanity is a precious, finite resource, all items must be machine washable.

walmart boys backpacks

Find Chill Looks For Open-air Classrooms

Experts agree that there’s no better classroom than the great outdoors. Just ask pre-pandemic proponents of forest schools and doctors who prescribe forest bathing for kids with mental health challenges. “We do know the virus is less transmittable outside,” writes New Rochelle, New York pediatrician Dr. Sara Kopple. “We can even create a more robust nature curriculum using outdoor classrooms in park spaces. I think we can save the virtual learning for winter when, theoretically, infection rates may rise. But I would love to see us taking advantage of this time before it slips away.” If schools remain open in winter, presuming there are no outbreaks in your area, they will be encouraged to open classroom windows and doors to promote ventilation. The one thing we know for sure? Whether kids are learning in-person or via Zoom, they’re going to want to be dressed for the part. For open-air classrooms, rely on comfy layers like trendy shackets and neon Birkenstock-inspired sandals. For remote learning, go for cozier options like relaxed joggers and must-have hoodies. No matter what, your kids are about to put the “cool” in school.

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