Throughout August, MomsGetReal will be celebrating back to school with daily reviews & giveaways. To get us thinking about (can it really be coming up so soon?) school, MomsGetReal™ Featured Contributor Lisa Van De Graaff shares her favorite back to school products and routines.

Here are a few ideas that have made our back-to-preschool routine stress free and more satisfying…

Bento Box
I ordered this box from Pottery Barn, and it fits perfectly inside a standard lunch box. My daughter and I prepare her lunch together so she can make her own healthy choices (apples or grapes, cucumbers or carrots). It is fun for us to load up the little compartments, and she can keep all the elements in one place at lunchtime. I’m considering one for myself…

A Basket
This sits near our front door, and my daughter loads it up with all the things she wishes she could take with her to school but can’t (stuffed animals, flip flops, peanuts, her red sequined purse, etc). I grab it on my way to pick her up after school, so she’ll have her treasures in the car for the ride home. I prefer a basket with a handle across the top, so I can throw it over my arm when lugging my own load of stuff to the car (in order of priority: latte, cell phone, purse, sunglasses, shopping bags, car keys).

Evening Routine
For us, a successful school day starts the evening before. We try to keep a consistent bedtime on school nights: take a bath, eat a healthy supper, make the next day’s lunch, set out school clothes, read, and snuggle. When we put forth this extra effort, the morning is usually smooth sailing.

Remembering our Community
Buying back-to-school supplies is expensive in the best of times, but with the economy in such a slump many families can’t afford the basics. This year, we’ve decided to buy two of everything we need and donate the extra. If we can’t afford to buy two, we don’t need one.

Getting Dirty
I believe Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus is absolutely right: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” How can a child learn to be an artist without splattering some paint? How can he learn to cook without slopping some batter out of the bowl? How can she build a bridge to a magical place without getting her hands in the mud? School clothing should certainly be clean (at the beginning of the day) and mended, but keeping the apparel practical, washable, and comfortable is far more important to me than fashion. (Fashionable clothes for high tea in the garden are another story to be discussed in a future blog….) Another quick note about clothes: lightweight, long-sleeved shirts can lessen the amount of sunblock she needs on sunny days.

Show and Tell
“What did you learn at school today?” was the standard question at my childhood dinner table. I sometimes had to scramble to remember (or make up) a tidbit, but I always felt listened to as I gave my answer (especially when there were follow-up questions!) We have incorporated this question, or a derivative of it, into our dinner conversation – Each member of the family shares some element of their day, and everyone listens intently. We then follow up with expectations for the next day, which seems to help her get her head around anything that will be out of the ordinary the next day (field trips, substitute teachers, Daddy picking her up instead of Mama, etc).

The Toast
My mother used to get us on the bus and then go out with her best friend on the morning of the first day back at school. She used to tell me it was a planning meeting or some other nonsense. It was actually a celebration, a toast (perhaps with mimosas), to the end of summer (insert tongue in cheek) and a job well done for the mamas. This may be the best back-to-school tradition ever.