Countdown to School: A Timeline for Getting Ready for the Big Day

The first day of class is just around the corner, and your child's getting excited—and nervous. Our timeline will make sure she gets off to a great start.

1 Month Before

Visit the grounds. Ideally, you and your child had a chance to tour his future school last spring. Now is another good time to visit. "Being familiar with the school is the key to a successful first day," says Allana Elovson, Ph.D., author of The Kindergarten Survival Handbook. Walk around inside the building, if you're allowed. Peer at the classrooms, check out the bathrooms, and have him try out the playground. Also, make sure to show your child where you'll pick him up at the end of the day.

Have a little class. To help her son, Nathan, get used to the idea of school and homework, Julie Baron, of Arlington Heights, Illinois, held mock classes in the summer. "We'd take turns being the teacher and student," Baron says. At the end of each week, Nathan received a reward, such as getting to pick out a video at the library or going to the pool.

Buy-and try-a nap mat. Check to see whether your school has a scheduled rest period and how long it lasts, says Rafael Pelayo, M.D., head of pediatric services at Stanford University's Sleep Disorders Clinic. Settle your kid down at that hour each day at home so she gets used to the idea. Also find out what kinds of quiet activities teachers provide for kids who aren't sleepy, like looking at books or assembling puzzles, and do some of those too. (On the other hand, if your child takes a daily nap and her new school doesn't have naptime, get her used to doing without it.)

Take your child for a checkup. Be sure to book your appointment right away. "There's often a huge backup in late August and early September," warns Judy Walker, R.N., of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. If your child will be entering preschool or kindergarten, he must be up-to-date on his immunizations.

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