Want back to school tips that make your life easier? That’s a big tick from us! We asked a panel of parent experts for their A+ advice on back to school shopping for school supplies, setting up routines and so much more. It turns out the secret to beating back to school stress is being organised, so now’s the perfect time to start planning!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Front view of artist and mum Ann Nguyen holding a painted terracotta pot, with other pots in the background, to illustrate an article about back to school tips.‍

Ann Nguyen is an artist, plant lover and mum of two, known as The Artful Grimmer to her many fans online. When it comes to back to school time, Ann has sustainability front of mind, making eco-friendly choices whenever and wherever possible. It also saves you money. “We always reuse school supplies if we can. Items like pencils, markers, erasers, calculators and headphones can be used for many years,” she says. 

It pays to spend a day doing an audit of your kids’ bedrooms – empty every pencil case and pen cup to see what school supplies you actually need and what can be saved from last year’s collection. “If we can't reuse them, many things can be recycled,” Ann says.

Just drop into Officeworks where you can recycle pens, markers, printer cartridges and even USBs and hard drives through the Bring it Back program

SEE ALSO: How to Save on Back to School Supplies 

Start Shopping Now

Don’t leave your back to school shopping until the last minute, warns Jessica Henwood, a busy mum and teacher who runs Retail Reductions Australia, a Facebook shopping group with over 100k members.

“My best tip for parents is to create a schedule and checklist of what to buy and when, and work through it during the holidays to prevent stress and missing out on stock,” Jessica says. “I usually plan ahead and write a list of all the important dates, like when the school uniform shop is open. I also get my children to try on their uniforms early in the new year, to see if they need bigger sizes.” Look out for bargains throughout the year, too, to pack away for when school starts up again.

Hot Tip!

Outsource your Back to School shopping with Officeworks. The Officeworks School List Service is so handy – simply upload your child’s school list in under three minutes and we’ll prepare the rest. 

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Set Up Systems

A woman and a man look over three children sitting around a large wooden table doing school work in either a book or device, to illustrate an article about back to school supplies.‍

There’s a lot to juggle on the first day of school each year, but you can save yourself from brain strain by sticking to simple systems at home, says Shannon Wong-Nizic, a primary school teacher and mum of three.

“Every family will have different needs, but it pays to think a few things through, like how will you manage school communications? Where will the reading folders live? What will the process be with lunch boxes and drink bottles before and after school?” says Shannon, who also shares book reviews and genius art projects via her popular Instagram account @ohcreativeday.

“Organisation helps you to manage the chaos of back to school. Which isn’t to say that your systems will be perfect from the outset – tweak and tune them as you need.” We say: invest in storage solutions like plastic tubs and command hooks so there’s always a spot for their school hats and homework books to live. 

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Organisation Through Colour Coding

Colour coding is so simple and effective. Decluttering and organising expert and podcast host Amy Revell says it’s a must to survive the back to school onslaught. “If you have a big family, colour coding lunchboxes and drink bottles can keep things simple. Each child gets allocated a colour so they know what to grab each morning and can keep track of it more easily,” she says. You could even extend your colour-coding scheme to include backpacks and pencil cases. Another tip is using a colour-coded magazine file or manila folder that can be used to organise each child’s school notes and homework sheets.

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Label Everything

Image of large cream coloured chest of drawers with one pair of pants and two tops on hangers hanging from door knobs, with a navy satchel and shoes on ground.‍

Labelling is key – not just at the start of the year, but checking that labels stay stuck as the year goes on. “My number-one back to school tip is to have all uniforms and school items labelled and ready for the start of the year,” says Josephine Mazzotta, a speech pathologist and super-organised mum of two. “I know from personal experience that school hats, jumpers and library bags tend to get lost and left behind, and it’s very annoying and expensive to replace them.” Instead, invest in a laundry-proof marker or order iron-on labels from the Officeworks Print & Copy Shop and you’ll save your sanity, as well as your bank account.

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Start a Scrapbook

“One thing I do is start the year with fresh big scrapbooks, one per kid,” says paper creative, and mum of two, Kashia Kennedy. “When the kids bring stuff home that they are particularly proud of, like artwork or principal’s awards, after a few weeks stuck on the fridge they get glued into the scrapbook. That way we can all look back at them when the kids are older.” This is a wonderful way to manage all the bits of paper coming home from school each day, not to mention it creates an ongoing archive of special school memories. 

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SEE ALSO: How to Improve Handwriting for Kids of All Ages  

Sync Your Calendars

Side view of young child reading calendar on fridge, with adult female leaning down next to her, to illustrate an article on back to school tips.

“Now that my kids are teens in high school, we use Google calendars to stay organised,” Ann says. “When any one of us has an event, we will send the rest of the family a calendar invite so we can all keep track of what we are doing.” Calendars are most parents' saving grace when it comes to back to school and throughout the term. Digital calendars are super handy, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping things old-school with a paper calendar or wall planner. Hang it in a communal space, like the kitchen or living room, and update it regularly so that kids can check what’s on the agenda each week.

“I find things become stressful if I have to think about them too much, so I try to action them as soon as possible,” Ann says. “When I get the school book list, I order it the same day so that I'm not having to worry about deadlines. I do the same thing for permission forms and birthday party invitations as well.”

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Make a Mornings Chart (With Pictures)

Studies suggest that children learn better at school when they’re provided with visual aids, such as posters, wall charts and flashcards. These tools not only increase engagement and motivation, but help kids to remember things as well. You could also make your own illustrated ‘To Do Lists’ for your family. “You can make your mornings simple by having a visible list of what the children need to do in order to be ready for school,” Amy says. “Include Breakfast, Make Lunch, Brush Teeth, Get Dressed and Pack Bag.” Laminate your list before the kids head back to school and hang it in a spot where everyone can access it. 

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Go Gently and Ease Into It

Side view of woman kneeling down buttoning the shirt of child in school uniform with a backpack, a bed in the background, to illustrate an article on back to school. ‍

“The school day is very full and very busy! After a long and lazy six weeks off, readjusting to life around the school bells can be quite a shock to the system, so expect tired children with some big feelings,” Shannon says. You can support your children by establishing healthy back to school routines. Aim for consistent bed and wake-up times, ensure kids are drinking plenty of water and eating healthy food. Ask them questions and encourage open conversations about how they’re feeling as the school year kicks off.

“It’s also a great idea to have some play dough, clay or art supplies on hand for that after-school period, before dinner,” says Shannon. “Creative, sensory input can help children to self-regulate and relax after a big day at school.”

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SEE ALSO: 5 Hacks to Get Kids Excited About Home Learning