Make the transition from summer into a new school year easier with these simple tips and tricks from teachers.

group of kids with school bags
Zoe Adlersberg
| Credit: Zoe Adlersberg

A simple way to refocus on academics after the ultimate summer slide? Start early and go easy. "You can still enjoy sunshine, pools, and barbecues, but do some low-key learning each day, like reading a book as a family or scribbling math problems on the sidewalk," says Elise St. Germain, a fourth-grade teacher in Manahawkin, New Jersey. Try these activities as your summer winds down.

Make Mornings Meaningful

For a smoother transition into the school year, begin your kid's day with an engaging activity such as a walk with your dog or a FaceTime call with a friend. "There's power in accountability like seeing someone—other than Mom and Dad—or doing something where you have to be 'on,' " says Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors.

Let Them Play

"Putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle or playing Minecraft or Tetris can prepare your kid for school," says Deanna Hurn, founder of Miracle Math Coaching Center, in Fairfield, California. While your kid plays, narrate the game: "Look how much of the puzzle you finished—you are so patient." Or "It takes a lot of flexibility to play Tetris so well." School will look different this year and possibly overwhelm some kids, but your child will cope better if you've already worked on being patient, flexible, and adaptable at home, explains Hurn.

Cook and Bake Together

It's like a math and science lesson in disguise, says Nancy Valdes, a teacher at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in Florida. Help your kid measure ingredients and explain how they contribute to the final result. ("The baking soda makes the muffins rise in the pan.") Bonus: Stock them in the freezer for lunch boxes and snacks.

Talk It Out

Put a mix of topics and prompts in a jar (such as "The Best Type of Sandwich" or "If I became president, the first thing I'd do is ... ") and have your child pick one out to discuss for two minutes. "This actually is a long time to talk, so the exercise builds confidence, vocabulary, and problem-solving skills," says Karen Gross, an educator and elementary-school author-in-residence in Bennington, Vermont.

Practice Acts of Kindness

Buy groceries for an older neighbor. Weed Grandma's lawn for her. Walk a new parent's dog. Giving and doing things for others on a regular basis builds responsibility, says Gross.

Pick Supplies Together

Let your child decide which color or pattern of notebooks and folders to get. "This may be all you need to spark her enthusiasm around returning to school," says Melissa Laurenson, a second-grade teacher at California Connections Academy.

End Every Day With a Dance Party

Take a few minutes to celebrate the past 24 hours by putting on a fun, upbeat song—then continue this once the school year starts. "It's all about motivating your kids with little things they can look forward to," says Laurenson.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's August 2020 issue as "How Teachers Get Kids Excited for Learning." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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