Summer’s been a blast, but it’s time to wash the sand out of the beach bags and get ready for a new school year. Whether you are excited for school to resume or wish summer would never end, the transition will be smoother with a little planning and a positive attitude.
Here are some ways to get ready and motivated for a great year.

Getting Geared Up

For many families, buying new stuff is a fun way to get into the back-to-school groove. But if you’re not careful, shopping can be a budget buster. Choose new items wisely, don’t overbuy, and check your state’s website for sales tax holidays.
School clothes: Work with your kids to decide what types of clothes they want and need. Look at circulars and magazines to see what styles appeal to them. When you see basics such as socks and jeans on sale, stock up. Get your fashion-conscious children excited for the new school year with a new outfit purchased early in the back-to-school season.
School supplies: Start looking early on for items you know your kids will need. Designate a box for supplies so you can stay organized as items accumulate. Let your kids select their own backpacks and other items. Give older kids a budget and let them shop for their supplies.
Technology: Tech tools can be expensive. Figure out what your kids will need and prioritize. Some tools—like graphing calculators—are mandatory. Others are optional. Check with the teacher to find out what types of assignments your child will be doing and what kind of computer programs and gadgets make sense.

Getting Kids’ Minds Ready

Kids learn during the summer, even if they don’t know it. If they’re on the swim team, they learned about decimals by tracking their times. If they visited an amusement park, they probably read a map to figure out how to squeeze in the most roller coasters. As you gear up to go back to school, you might want to encourage more direct learning.
Academics: Teachers have different opinions on whether kids should review academics before starting a new school year. Some say enriching activities such as zoo and museum visits are more important than workbooks and rote review. But most agree that if your child has been struggling in school, it’s useful to take time to review last year’s curriculum. You want to keep those hard-won skills from eroding. Some kids, especially young ones, enjoy math and reading worksheets. Indulge them!
Books: The most important thing your child can do over the summer to keep her mind sharp is read. As you get ready for a new school year, make sure she has completed any required reading. If she’s having trouble with motivation, try playing an audio book or reading the book aloud together. If your child’s school does not require students to read specific books over the summer, look for enjoyable books that tie into the social studies curriculum for the next year. Parents are often reluctant to encourage breezy reading, but many librarians say children who love to read series books and other lighter fare grow into voracious readers as adults.
Study skills: If your child struggles to meet your expectations on report cards, he might not know how to study. Each year, the schoolwork gets harder and your child will be expected to do more independent learning. Spending some time on study skills before a new school year could be a wise investment. Your child’s former or future teacher can offer suggestions based on your child’s learning style.

Getting Kids’ Bodies Ready

For most kids, their daily lives are much less structured during the summer. The shift back to the school year can be hard. Take into account your kids’ personalities and habits to determine how soon you need to start easing back into the school routine.
Bedtimes: Sleeping late is a sublime summer pleasure. But it can wreak havoc on kids’ bodies if they have to suddenly start waking up early. Consider a step-down approach, gradually getting your kids to go to bed and wake up earlier.
Eating routine: During the summer, many kids get into the habit of grazing, snacking all day long and eating meals at irregular times. Just like you gradually adjust bedtimes, you might want to gradually get back into structured eating habits. For example, consider closing the kitchen during off hours, such as after breakfast and before the mid-morning snack, between snack and lunchtime, between lunchtime and 3 p.m., and then before dinner. Use a cord to block off entries and hang a sign that says “Kitchen Is Closed.”
Immunizations: Ouch! No one likes shots, but you need to make sure your kids’ vaccinations are up to date. Schedule appointments early. If you have done your research and want to decline certain vaccines, check the policies at your child’s school and see which forms you need to sign to get an exemption.

Getting the Family Ready

Family command center: Wall calendars can get crowded if you try to fit all your scheduling information on them. Instead, consider a command center that includes a wall calendar as well as separate charts for responsibilities and behavior. Include a shopping list that everyone can contribute to and pockets or folders to hold school papers and birthday party invitations.
Family meeting: Gather the brood together for a fun, motivating planning session. Talk about school lunch. Will your kids bring their lunch or buy it at school? If they want to bring lunch every day, are they willing to take responsibility for packing it? Talk about homework routines, wake-up times, breakfast, and all the other little details that make for smooth mornings and relaxing evenings.
Schedule activities: Decide which activities each child will participate in. Start filling out forms and writing checks. Work out transportation, especially if your kids have overlapping commitments.
School information: If any of your kids will be starting new schools, schedule a tour and a meeting with the principal. Find out if there is an orientation session as well as the usual curriculum night and other back-to-school activities. Find out when your kids will learn their classroom assignment. Don’t forget to touch base with the parent organization to make sure you don’t miss the first meeting.
Kid responsibilities: If your kids have enjoyed a summer free of obligations, you might want to assign some chores, just to get them back in the habit of being responsible. Look for age-appropriate chores and activities your kids might even embrace. For unpleasant tasks like scrubbing the tub, consider a rotation.
Getting ready for back-to-school doesn’t have to be a drag. Emphasize the new school year as a fresh start and a chance to get off on the right foot and avoid bad habits like procrastination. Keep an upbeat attitude, and your kids will feel positive and energetic, too.
Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.