The back-to-school kit-list will look a little different this year: Whether your children are returning to school full-time or preparing for hybrid learning, there are some new essentials on the back-to-school kit-list. These range from the basic items that have become everyone’s new hygiene staples — face masks and sanitizer — to the more costly equipment now essential for effective remote learning.
Balance health considerations with fun: Masks, hand sanitizer and easy-to-clean lunch boxes are necessary, but they don’t need to be boring. You can choose themed masks and mask accessories from the likes of Disney, Star Wars or Marvel when you order online. Extenders that allow mask adjustment can add comfort, and decorative lanyards or cords will help make sure they don’t get lost. One teacher recommends buying 10-15 masks per child to save parents from daily mask washing, as well as making sure children always carry a couple of spares on any given day in case they get dirty. Sanitizer is best bought in bulk, and portioned into small, reusable containers.
Ideally, every child should have their own computer or tablet. Whether distance learning or at school, having individual devices is especially important these days. Not only does it reduce sharing (better for hygiene purposes), it allows children to remain fully engaged in a learning process more focused on online interaction than ever before.
Making screen time easier on kids is also vital. A pair of blue light glasses can help protect children’s eyes against strain and vision fatigue after long hours of screen time. Headphones — whether wireless, earbuds or noise-cancelling — will help maintain the whole family’s focus and sanity during days filled with Zoom lessons and calls. And make sure you have good internet connectivity, with at least one backup option on tap in case of emergencies.
Setting up dedicated workspaces helps children differentiate between schooltime and hometime: This could mean investing in a proper standalone desk that your children will be able to use for years to come or buying a folding lap-desk that they can set up anywhere in the house. What matters most is that they are comfortable, that they have a quiet space to focus, and that they have somewhere to store their papers, pens and school supplies.
Worried about organization? A dry erase calendar could be your new best friend. Schedules and to-do lists are very useful for at-home learners, many teachers and parents agree. But particularly in houses with multiple children, things can quickly get confusing. An easy-wipe calendar the whole family can share will help to keep everyone on track.
Bear in mind, your lists will likely be longer — and costs higher. A US survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers estimated that back-to-school shoppers are now spending an average of USD 1.05k per household on supplies this year, up some USD 100 from last year. This is partly because more items are needed than in previous years, and partly because parents are often willing to spend more to make the back-to-school process fun and ease their children’s anxiety.
Along with the new kit, a back-to-school behavior list is key for parents and children alike: Do regularly check whether your child has symptoms like a fever or cough, says one US superintendent. If you suspect they are sick, don’t give them fever-reducing medication and send them off to school. Keep them home. Practice using new items like masks and hand sanitizer with your children so they know how to use them safely. Have a routine in place to keep both children and the house clean at the end of a school day, making sure kids returning from school wash their hands as soon as they get home. And try to be flexible and patient with both your children and yourselves as we move into this school year, which is unlike any we’ve experienced before.