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Back-to-school checklist: Essential steps for a successful start

Teacher high-fiving a student entering a classroom

School is right around the corner and so is the task of making sure your kids are prepared. On top of regular supply list, we’ve created a list of commonly overlooked tasks to help ensure your kids are ready. Another quick tip: before you go to the store for some of the common items on your list, make sure you don’t have them lying around somewhere already! You never know, some of these supplies could be hiding from last year in your home. Along with a list of tasks to tackle, we’ve also included a list of places around Kansas City that are accepting back-to-school donations, in case helping other kids prepare is on your family’s back-to-school list. 

Commonly overlooked tasks 

Start with appointments - these are commonly overlooked in the chaos of getting ready for school but should be on your radar so you can make sure your kid is their best self before the school year starts.  

  • A dentist appointment. Your days are about to get a whole lot busier, fit some time in before those schedules fill up! 
  • A doctor’s appointment. A checkup before school is a must. Make sure your kids are ready to start the new school year healthy and up to date on their vaccinations. Plus you can get any documentation you may need from the doctor while there.  
  • A haircut. We all love letting our hair grow out over the summer, but starting a year off with a fresh haircut will give your kids an extra boost of motivation.  
  • An eye exam. Getting your kids eyesight double checked before school starts can save everyone a headache if something changed over the summer.  
  • A sports physical. For those kids that are playing sports, make sure they’re in tip-top shape before the season starts with a sports physical. 

On top of appointments, there are a few other miscellaneous tasks that are often overlooked until the last second. Here are a few things to do before the first week of school so you can save yourself from last second scrambling!  

  • Before and after school care. If your kiddo is going to need one or both, get a head start on figuring it out. 
  • Print out the lunch menu. Once you have that first lunch menu, print it out and put it somewhere you, and your kids, can see. This will make the routine of either packing a lunch every morning or getting hot lunch that much easier!  
  • Put money in your kid’s lunch accounts. If your kids will be buying lunch from school, make sure they have money on their lunch card so you don’t get the dreaded call in the middle of the day that first week. 
  • Figure out carpools. You may already know if you’ll be carpooling to and from school or after-school activities, but this is a great time to confirm plans and make sure your kiddos know them, too. 
  • Make sure your kids have important phone numbers memorized. Yes, there are cell phones, and it is possible for someone to look these up, but in case of an emergency make sure your kids have the numbers of their trusted adults memorized. Practice once a day for the week leading up to school! 
  • Remind them of their trusted adults. If you won’t be picking your kids up from school every day, go over who trusted adults are that can pick them up, as well as a code word that only someone you gave permission to pick them up could tell them. If your kids’ names are on their backpacks or anything else that could be used to identify them, an adult just knowing their name isn’t enough to be able to tell that they are trusted. Play it safe and come up with a code word or phrase.  
  • Add important dates to your calendar. Slot in things like events, half days, etc. You don’t want to be the reason your kids miss out on something! Make sure any partners or co-parents also have these dates and have them in their calendars as well. 
  • Consider filling out a release of information. If there is any pertinent information to your child’s care while they are at school, consider being proactive and filling a release of information out and providing it to your school nurse of child’s medical team before the first week of school. 

If you have a child in after school activities, there are a few extra things you want to make sure you have: 

  • Shoes for sports. If your kiddo plays a sport that requires special shoes, make sure they still fit. 
  • Clothes for practice and uniform requirements. Make sure they haven’t outgrown any clothes from last year. 
  • A bag for gear. Make sure they can haul all their equipment to and from practice. If you already have one of these, go through them for any leftover snacks, shoes or socks from last season!  
  • Sport equipment. Even if you know there is one in a specific place, go look for bats, gloves, helmets, balls, etc. Make sure they are still in usable condition and haven’t gotten lost!  

Must haves for the classroom 

Most schools will give you a list of exactly what your student needs, but just in case, here’s a list of the most common school supplies needed throughout the year! If you’re not sure if your child will need one of these, double check with their school before purchasing.  

  • Notebooks  
  • Folders 
  • Binder 
  • Binder dividers 
  • Notecards 
  • Pens 
  • Pencils 
  • Highlighters 
  • Eraser 
  • Scissors 
  • Markers 
  • Crayons 
  • Colored pencils 
  • Looseleaf 
  • Pencil bag 
  • Glue 
  • Calculator  

Younger kids are going to need different things than older kids. Here are a few of the things your preschoolers and kindergarteners may need that everyone else doesn’t. 

  • Construction paper 
  • Safety scissors 
  • Thick washable markers 
  • Thin washable markers 

Your older kids have a few extra things they need, especially those starting middle school and getting their first locker.  

  • A combination lock. Before purchasing one of these, make sure your kids’ school doesn’t provide them.  
  • Locker organization. In order to fit books, notebooks, backpack, lunchbox, etc., in a locker, your child will probably need something to organize their locker with, such as a locker shelf.  
  • A USB drive. If your kid goes to a school that does not give each a personal computer, a USB drive for the computer lab and for working on homework at home and school may be helpful.  

Want to donate?  

If you want to help other area children prepare for back-to-school to start the year off right, here are a few places taking donations around town. 

These are some of our top things to remember to do and get before the school year starts. First and foremost, make sure you are getting what the school requires your child to have. Also remember to go through what you already have, with all the assignments and artwork your kids will be bringing home, you’ll need the space an extra notebook or binder is taking up in your cabinets!  Happy start of the school year!  


Child Psychology, Pediatric Gastroenterology

Director, Gastroenterology Integrated Care Services; Child Psychologist; Director, Abdominal Pain Program; Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine

Office of Community Impact Strategy, Innovation, and Partnership