Plymouth Creek Elementary Teacher And Wayzata District Nurse Offer Tips For The Transition Back to School

Tips to help kids transition from summer to school mode.
Kristen Gendreau with sons Matthew, 12, and Thomas, 9.

August always zooms by. With the start of the school year looming just around the corner, we’ve consulted with a local teacher and a nurse for tips and information that will help ease the transition in getting kids ready for going back to school.

Getting Ready for School: Reading and Sleep Schedules

During the summer, Kristen Gendreau, a Plymouth Creek Elementary second grade teacher, keeps her two boys’ sleep schedule as close as possible to their school year routine. Jobs such as household chores, instrument practice, reading time or other academic work need to be finished before her kids do anything else. This structure is especially important with the academic work and reading.

“Sometimes it’s hard to transition back into that academic mode once they have been out and playing,” Gendreau says. She likes to have her boys read 30–45 minutes daily. They read in the morning as opposed to at night when they are less willing or alert.

As a teacher, Gendreau is acutely aware of the potential summer setback in students: If they fail to read over the summer, they may fall significantly behind from where they left off in the spring. To fight this, kids should ideally be reading all summer long and not only in the last few nights before school starts. When parents ask about a quick summer fix for improving reading skills, Gendreau says that time spent reading is the largest predictor of improvement. She tells parents that spending time daily listening to your child read and reading to your child promotes reading growth.

Gendreau has a few reading tricks that help foster positive reading habits:

- Keep books in the car. It’s another opportunity to practice reading.
- Give kids their own library card and take them on weekly library dates.
- Engage your child in a series or with a collection by a favorite author.
- Talk about books with your child.
- The Importance of Sleep

When thinking about ways to prepare for school, it’s sleep that is imperative to a child’s health and wellness. When picking a bedtime, take into consideration the amount of sleep appropriate for the child’s age. Preschoolers and kindergarteners need 11–12 hours, school-aged children need at least 10 hours a day and adolescents need 9–10 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Parents would be advised to gradually resume the school schedule before the start of the year,” says Irene Merz, LSN, CNP and a Wayzata Public Schools nurse.

The amount of sleep is important, but it’s also the quality of sleep that counts. Merz offers the following tips to promote good, restful sleep:

- Allow down time before bed.
- Discontinue all screen time at least one hour prior to bedtime.
- Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeinated foods close to sleeping time.
- Keep the bedroom area dark and cool.
- Expose kids to morning light whenever possible.
- Food Allergies and Medications

If your child has a food allergy or a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes or seizures, remember to submit the school’s health and emergency form prior to starting school to ensure the necessary medicine will be in stock. Similarly, if your child takes regular medication, submit the medication authorization form before the school year. Both forms, which require a doctor’s signature, can be found on the school’s website.

If parents have any questions or concerns, contact the health care professional or district nurse assigned to your child’s school.