Heading Back to School: A Must-Have Checklist for Parents



Over half — 54% — of Americans agree that parents can never be too involved in their children’s education. While you may think of involvement in terms of meeting with teachers, helping out at events, and assisting with homework, your involvement actually begins way before the school year even starts.

Getting ready for the school year involves a lot of preparation — and it falls to parents to ensure that children have everything that they need to succeed. This includes not just picking up everything on the supply list, but also covering doctor visits and buying essentials that may not be immediately obvious. To help make the process easier, here is a checklist for going back to school that all parents should have.

Physicals and Check-Ups

Many schools require students to undergo a physical before returning or attending for the first time, though the specifics may vary between states, districts, and grades. Early learning centers, for instance, may require a physical, whereas a kindergarten class may not. Typically, physicals will be required starting in first grade for elementary students and then again before middle and high school. If you’re unsure if your child will need updated health information, speak with your child’s school.

If your child does require a check-up, you may wonder where to get a physical exam for school. Thankfully, your primary care physician will be able to take care of everything. Most physical assessments are straightforward and will only take a short time to complete, so expect to be in and out (and back to shopping for school supplies before you know it).

However, if you’re having trouble meeting with your primary care physician or if you don’t have time to work out a scheduled appointment, some walk in clinics can provide physicals quickly and without the need for a pre-set appointment. This can also make it easier for parents with multiple children, especially if you can’t make an appointment that works around your already busy schedule.

Taking care of this should be a high priority on your checklist for going back to school, and it is something you shouldn’t wait too long to take care of. Even with the availability of walk-in clinics, putting off your child’s physical for too long can put a hold on their registration and make it the process more hectic than it needs to be.

Dental Check-Ups

Similar to physicals, dental exams are mandatory for certain grades in certain states. In Illinois, for example, dental exams are required for kindergarten, second-, and sixth-grade students, with similar requirements existing in New York, West Virginia, Oregon, and Kentucky. Check with your school or your dentist or your school district to learn more about the exact requirements in your area. That said, even if a dental exam isn’t necessarily required for school, it’s often a good idea for families to schedule these appointments to start the year off on the right foot.

While most children have dental check-ups once a year, the dentist can still be a scary place for many young kids. If a dental exam is required for your child, consider finding a dentist for kids that specializes in making visits as fun as possible. This can be especially helpful for kindergarteners who need an exam but hate going to the dentist.


Another thing to add to your checklist for going back to school includes vaccinations. Often, schools will require specific vaccinations and immunizations at different points. Children between the ages of four and six will have to have the chickenpox vaccine, the DTaP vaccine, the MMR vaccine, and the IPV vaccine, in addition to their yearly flu shots. While these vaccinations are rallied against by some, they can help keep children healthy throughout the school year and are only required for the protection of the entire student body.

All immunizations can be taken care of by your primary care provider. However, many walk-in clinics and pharmacies also offer some of these services as well. This can make it easier for parents who may not be able to meet with their primary physician or are otherwise burdened with a hectic schedule. If for any reason your child is unable to be vaccinated, you should speak with your school as soon as possible to see what accommodations can be made. While there are sometimes religious or medical exemptions that can be made, waiting until the last minute will only complicate the registration process.

First Aid Kit

While schools will always have first aid supplies on hand, it can also be a good idea to make your own to have at home or for your child to bring to class. If possible, try to add a couple of these must-have first aid items to your checklist for going back to school:

  • Waterproof bandages
  • Antiseptic pads
  • Tweezers
  • Hydroquartizone cream
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Instant cold packs
  • Sterilized gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape

The exact contents of your first aid kit will vary depending on your child’s age and what your child may need. For example, if your child struggles with their blood sugar, glucose tablets may be included. Regardless of what you include, packing a first aid kit for your child can help should a minor injury occur. While it hopefully will never need to be used, it’s always good to be prepared.

New Glasses

A visit to the eye doctor usually isn’t required by schools. But if your child has glasses or has otherwise been struggling with seeing things correctly, it’s worthwhile to have a check-up before school starts. This will allow your child to get the glasses they need so that they won’t struggle to see things during class. Similarly, if your child is going to be participating in sports, you may want to consider adding specially designed sports glasses to your checklist for going back to school.

Technological Investments

With so much of the learning process being digitalized, it’s important to ensure that your children have access to laptops or tablets that they can use for homework and classwork. You may consider adding laptop repair to your checklist for going back to school to eliminate the need for a brand new device. Often, old laptops can be easily repaired — especially if they’re only suffering minor problems, such as slow processor speeds, dying backlights, or missing keyboard keys. It’s worth having a professional look over your old laptop before heading out to buy another one. Though, if you do need another, you can always invest in refurbished options to further cut costs.

Refurbished laptops are laptops that have been fixed to work as new and are usually a safe option to consider. Similarly, some shops will have pre-used tablets for sale, which can be a good option for younger students who may not need a laptop for essay writing or more extensive research.

Additionally, due to the fact that many schools are digitizing, it’s worth asking your school if they can provide a tablet or laptop to use during the school year. It’s becoming more common for schools to provide these tools for lease during the year, provided they are returned in good condition once the school year is done. This can help families save the most money. However, because not all schools provide this service, you may still need to consider alternatives.

New Clothes and Shoes

Another important thing to add to your checklist for going back to school includes ensuring your child’s clothes and shoes are up to snuff. This is especially true for growing children who seem to go up a size every other month. The pants that were too long last year may be highwaters now and new ones are needed.

When shopping for new clothes, make sure to have your child try on different sizes to ensure they get the size and fit that they need. Additionally, you can save money by shopping around at nearby thrift stores and second-hand shops. While these locations are often overlooked, they often have the best quality clothing for growing kids. Furthermore, you can also donate the clothing your child is no longer using — and in some cases, this can even grant you a percentage off of your next purchase!

Shoes are likewise another item to consider, especially if your child will be doing after school activities. Keep an eye out for back to school deals on gym shoes, dress shoes, or slip-ons to ensure that you get what your child needs without having to break the bank.

New Backpacks and Lunch Bags

While new clothes are a must for growing active kids, likewise are backpacks and lunch bags, both of which can undergo a lot of abuse throughout a school year. For kids going into grades with larger homework loads, bigger backpacks will be an essential addition to your checklist for going back to school.

Similarly, if your child is going to be participating in sports, it will be important to invest in sports bags to help carry all the gear and uniforms that they’ll need. You may even consider having a separate lunch bag for after school sports practices where you can store extra bottles of water or small snacks to help keep energy levels up.

Lunch Menus

If you’re planning on packing your child’s lunch, it’s a good idea to come up with a set lunch menu and add that to your checklist for going back to school. For instance, have your child list the foods they’ll want to eat and work together to set a menu for the week. This helps cut back on last-minute lunch making, while also ensuring that you can buy everything that you need in one shopping trip. Additionally, setting a lunch menu can also give you the change to ensure that you can create a balanced meal that allows your child to get all the nutrients they need.

Setting a menu can also give you more control over what your child is eating, which can be important if they have any sensitivities or allergies that could potentially be life-threatening.


Waking your kids up and getting them ready for school can be a battle in and of itself. However, this process can be made slightly easier by stocking up on soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, and deodorants that your children will enjoy using. Consider taking your kids along and having them pick out the soaps and shampoos that they like best. This not only ensures that they’ll enjoy using them, but it also allows you to have a stock of everything ready to go in the morning or before bed.

Similarly, if your child needs toiletries to take to school, it’s a good idea to keep a stock both at home and in your car, just to ensure that they’ll always be on hand if they are needed.


While parents of multiple children may benefit from this more so than single children, creating a daily schedule is something to consider adding to your checklist for going back to school. Consider everything that needs to be done both in the morning and the night before, and work with your kids to set specific times for them to complete all the needed tasks. For instance, if you have multiple children who all need to use the bathroom before school, work with them to schedule out who will go first and how long each of them will have to get ready. A schedule like this can help add a level of predictability to an otherwise hectic morning, while also ensuring that all kids will get enough time to get ready.


The main goal of creating a checklist for going back to school is to ensure that you and your children are as prepared as possible. While some things, such as medical check-ups, will be required by your school, many of these other inclusions are things that are overlooked in the rush to get everything together. While things such as schedule setting and lunch menus will depend on your family’s needs, pre-planning these everyday activities can help make the process of tackling going back to school easier on both you and your kids.

If you’re getting ready to send your kids back to school, keep in mind these checklist must-haves to help make the process simpler and a little less hectic for everyone.

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