The Complete Back-to-School Checklist for Parents

From registration to school supplies, and everything in between, here's a back-to-school checklist to help parents keep track of what they need to do before school starts.

Parents need to be at the top of their game as summer draws to a close. There’s so much to do before the days of packing lunches and helping with homework resume.

While it’s not time to get the cameras ready for those first day of school pictures just yet, it’s best to start planning now for a smooth transition into the school days routine.

Here’s a handy back-to-school checklist that should cover everything you need to do before the first day of class. Have something to add? Tell us in the comments!

Take inventory

Find out what clothes still fit (and clear out the things that don’t), whose backpacks and lunchboxes can be used again this year and what sizes you need of anything new. Then make a list of exactly what items you need to buy so you’ll be ready the next time you see a sale.

Check for supplies

Find the required school supply lists for each child and take cell phone pictures of them, just in case they get lost or you find a deal unexpectedly. And before you go out and buy every item, look around to make sure you don’t already have any unused notebooks, folders or other items saved from last year. And, be sure you reference this guide to saving money on school supplies before you hit the stores.

Mark your calendars

Get out your planners, laptops, phones and head anywhere else you keep a calendar and add in all the important dates: registration, meet-the-teacher days, first day of school, curriculum nights, PTA meetings and fall registration deadlines for sports, dance or other activities.

Get in sync

Having a calendar full of important dates and times doesn’t help if your spouse isn’t on the same page. If you use a calendar app on your phone, make sure it’s synced to your spouse’s calendar and anyone else who needs to know the important dates like babysitters and grandparents.

Child care considerations

Start looking now if you’ll need to hire someone new to handle school drop-off or pick-up. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find part-time care for early mornings and late afternoons. If you’re new to the school and need information on latchkey, most districts have a central office open year-round that will have the information available.

Visit the pediatrician

Schedule a visit if your child needs an updated physical or any new vaccinations before the school year starts. Get in soon since doctor offices are typically busy with a back-to-school rush for physicals. You might also want to get in a dental cleaning before your child’s schedule gets busier.

Summer homework and reading

Make sure your child has made sufficient progress on any summer homework packets provided by the teacher and check in on summer reading assignments. Even if your kids weren’t assigned anything, it never hurts to brush up on some basic skills as a confidence booster.

Make time to shop

The earlier you tackle those lists of things to buy, the better. Last-minute shoppers often find shelves cleared of common school supplies like Ticonderoga pencils and the shoe stores sold out of multiple sizes. Do your online shopping now, too, in case any returns or exchanges are needed.

Contact the school if needed

If you’re new to the school or your child has a medical condition or other situation the school should know about, consider contacting the teacher or principal in advance with a quick call or email. Contact the district’s main office to find out the usual protocol for your situation.

Lunch planning

Start planning what you’ll pack for lunches and snacks, keeping in mind any allergy-related restrictions at your child’s school, and offer new choices at home first. Those lunchbox-art foods you’ll find on Pinterest sure are cute, but will your child eat them?


You’re also likely to find that there’s a back-to-school rush for haircuts in the days before school starts. If your son or daughter wants a fresh look before the first day, get it scheduled now.

A trial run

Especially for kindergarteners, it’s not a bad idea to practice with that new bento box to make sure your little one can open it easily. You can also encourage practice with backpack zippers, buttons on jeans and tying shoes.

Parental involvement

Planning on joining the PTA, heading up a committee or volunteering to be the room mom for your child’s classroom? Do a little online research, contact the PTA president or talk to some other moms about how you can get involved.

Plan a play date

Younger kids might feel more confident about heading back to school if they can reconnect with some of their school friends before the first day. Consider planning a play date or two this month.

Set back the bedtime

Staying up late and sleeping in until 9 a.m. won’t work so well once fall rolls around. Start gradually setting back your child’s bedtime now (and waking them up earlier, if needed) to make the transition easier.

Have some fun

Summer is always over too soon, isn’t it? You might not get to all the fun things you planned for your kids this summer but there’s still time to have one more hurrah. Lucky for you, we have a list for that too.

This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.

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