I know, I know, here I am talking about back to school when we're only a week in to the holidays. Too soon, do you think? Perhaps. But much like we tell our children not to leave their homework until the day or night before it's due, I think it's sometimes wise to take our own advice. We might not feel ready to start thinking about September while our minds are currently full of fun plans ... or panic at having to think of six weeks' worth of activities or childcare ... but a little bit of advance preparation can make heading back to school a lot less painful and hectic. Trust me!
In collaboration with Tesco and their Tesco School Shop, here are my top five back to school tips ... how to get you and your children ready with the minimum of fuss and without losing your marbles.
1. Snap up uniforms and school supplies at the beginning of the holidays
Having learnt from my mad dash around every single online and real life shop a few days before my eldest son started school back in 2014, do not leave buying school uniforms until the last minute. There might still be the odd handful of items left, but I can guarantee that they won't be in the colour or size that you need.
Filled with the fear of 'but what if he grows?', I hadn't wanted to buy it too early. Let's face it, yes, children grow quickly, but they tend not to shoot up by several centimetres in a few short weeks. Now is the time to snap up uniforms, shoes and bags to make sure that you get exactly what you want and need. You can always size up to be sure that the clothes will see them through the school year.
Last week, I popped to our local Tesco and managed to get uniforms, shoes and school bags for both of my boys in one single shop. Thirty minutes, with the rails packed full of ALL sizes and colours, the job was done. You could make it even easier by ordering everything online and picking it up the very next from your local store using Click+Collect.
2. The smell of stationery is what memories are made of
While I'm all for making the uniform purchase as quick and easy as possible, choosing stationery is almost sacred in my eyes, and not something to be rushed or done online.
There's something so special about selecting a new pen, deliberating over coloured pencils or felt tips (always coloured pencils in my opinion), and deciding which notepad is going to be on the receiving end of your very best handwriting.
When I was younger, a new pencil case was almost the best part of going back to school. Maybe with school uniform styles and colours being out of our hands, choosing an appropriate pencil case was the only form of self expression allowed. I'm not really sure what a Snoopy one says about my fourteen year old self, though.
And so I always take my boys in to Tesco to choose their own stationery. It might be easier to order it online or for me to pick it up for them when I'm doing the weekly shop, but I think it's too special for that. Sometimes, the memories are more important than simply getting the job done.
3. Shirts, knees or both?
I have a four year old whose tops are like a magnet for every dirt and dust particle known to man and a six year old who you'd be forgiven for thinking walks around on his knees. Cleaning grubby t-shirts and mending worn trousers are my life's work.
This year, I've bought Tesco's Teflon Eco-Elite polo shirts (from £2.50 for a pack of two) with a carbon-free fabric protector designed to repel stains, and trousers with reinforced knees. Hopefully, they'll keep my boys looking neat and tidy for the whole school year and leave my stain remover and needle and thread redundant.
Shirts and trousers are not all made equal. Buy the ones that promise you less cleaning and mending time!
4. Wear those shoes in
If you have change-resistant children like mine, particularly when it comes to footwear, get them to wear their new school shoes for a few odd minutes here and there over the summer holidays. The last thing you want is cries of, 'they hurt, I don't like them, they're not right, I want to wear my trainers', on the first day back at school.
Actually, I've heard the same advice for high heels ... wear them ten minutes a day for a few weeks before a big event and your feet will be fine. Give it a try!
Tesco's school shoes feature their upgraded outsoles for improved durability and a cushioned insock for more comfort underfoot. Their leather options are amazing and are so competitively priced. The ones I picked up for the boys were just £19. £19! For school shoes! That's pretty amazing, isn't it?
5. Prepare your heart to feel the widest range of emotions possible
And finally, if your child is just starting school, has been in school a few years, or is heading back for their final year, be prepared to feel ALL the emotions. The summer holidays can be fun, exhausting, long, not long enough, fraught, full of love and laughter, tinged with sibling bickering, but no matter how much you might look forward to the return of routine and a quieter house, your heart will always break a little on the first day back at school. It's inevitable. And you'll end up counting down to the October half term so you can have them at home again.
Back to school ... it's bittersweet, isn't it?
If you have any tips to add, let me know in the comments.
This post was written in collaboration with Tesco.