7 Essential Tips to Help Plan for Back-To-School
Recipes, Checklists and More To Prep Ahead
The battle between kids and vegetables is as old as time. While there is always that one kid everyone knows who just can’t get enough of the good stuff, most kids tend to stick their nose up to healthy greens. The struggle is real for most Canadian parents when it comes to creating a fully balanced kids lunch or dinner, but these 6 tips can help you get even the pickiest eaters to enjoy some more vegetables at mealtime, whether they know it or not!
1. Ease into it
Going from at-home learning and summer fun into a back-to-school routine can be jarring for kids. Let children know that summer is coming to an end and that school will be restarting. Talk to them about routines and what is going to change—be it bedtimes, screen time, wake-up times, dressing for school, etc. You can start gradually implementing some of these changes, for example, moving bedtime closer to what it will be for the school year or setting a screen curfew (a “downtime,” after which point there are no screens). Consider posting a family calendar with the school start date marked down to help your family see how many days before school starts.
2. Create a Checklist (or two . . .)
1. The “Find out” list: In these changing times, there are always new procedures, protocols and rules to find out about and to convey to children.
What rules do schools/buses/daycares/extra-curricular activities have about masks, kids playing together, or food you can bring from home?
What else do you need to know about your kids’ new routine?
2. School supplies: What does each child need for school and for homework?
3. Clothing: Do children need new clothes/shoes/boots/raincoats/sports gear for fall?
Do they have enough masks for bus rides and school/daycare? Extra-curricular activities: What are the protocols? What supplies will the kids need?
4. Mealtime/lunches: Do you need new containers, lunch bags, knapsacks for kids to bring to school? What foods would you like to stock up on?
These are just some ideas of lists to make—everyone will have their own needs and ideas!
3. Get Inspired with Easy Lunch Ideas
Lunchtime ideas can quickly get stale when you’re not inspired with new ideas for the kids to try. A great way to keep things fresh is to have an ongoing list of new sandwich recipes or easy lunch meals that you can send along to school each day. Check out our Wonder® Wins-sandwich inspiration from Wonder® parents across Canada that we couldn’t help but share.
4. Take Stock and Stock Up!
Speaking of stocking up . . . to make meals easier this fall, stock up on the essentials for your pantry. It’s tried and true advice that can really make a difference! You can stock up gradually when items are on sale—peanut butter, jam, canned vegetables and fruit, oatmeal, tuna, pasta diced tomatoes, salsa, snack food for lunches, canned soups and stews and rice (which can be cooked in advance and frozen).
Check out more ideas for family meals under $20.
5. Your Friend the Freezer
It’s a great idea to freeze a few make-ahead meals in case you’re having a frazzled week and won’t have a spare minute to cook. Soups or vegetable/meat chilli freeze and reheat really well and save a lot of time on busy days. You can also try delicious Kid and Freezer-Friendly Enchiladas—they’re wholesome, cheesy, not spicy, and easy to make!
Breakfast Burritos are also freezer-friendly and perfect when you want something warm and good-to-go on busy mornings.
Keep fish sticks on hand in your freezer to instantly make Fish Sticks, Mayo, Mustard and Lettuce with Wonder® Non-GMO Project Verified 100% Whole Wheat toast.
This easy-to-make kid-friendly recipe takes less than 20 minutes, giving you more time to prep the kids’ lunches for the next day, play or help with homework (or put your feet up!) Pairing with frozen fries is a fun way to serve up a fun take on fish and chips for dinner.
Also good for the freezer: Wonder® white and 100% whole wheat breads, buns, English muffins and wraps are all freezable. It’s good to have backup bread on hand so you can make one less trip to the grocery store and spend time with the family instead.
6. Expect some bumps
While some children may be excited to jump into new routines, in-class learning and a full schedule of playdates and afterschool fun, others may not. The noise, expectations and frenzy could be overwhelming for some, and might even create stress, especially if they are spending less time with mom or dad. The key, of course, is staying connected and talking about the changes and how everyone feels. If you can spend quality time with kids, listen and validate their feelings, they are more likely to accept the new normal and go with the flow. For older kids, talk to them about the transitions you are all experiencing and let them take the lead on problem-solving if they are feeling stressed or come up against difficulties.
To keep the stress at a minimum during back-to-school week, leave earlier than usual in the morning, whether you are driving or dropping kids off at the bus stop. This will give you more flex time for chatting and easing any stress. If you can, you might even want to work a shorter day on the first day back, so that you can pick the children up earlier, and spend more time with them until they get used to the new routine.
7. Don’t forget the family fun
“Back-to-school” is not just for kids: It can mean the return of heavier workloads for mom or dad. But that shouldn’t mean we forget the fun of summer . . . and maybe some of the new and positive habits or traditions born of the lockdowns.
Here are some easy to keep routines even after going back to school
• Weekend movie nights
• Walks after dinner
• Trips to the park
• Family dance night
• Special meals together