I am beginning to feel like a bit of an old hat at back-to-school preparations.
This year I am headed into the third time round and I have vowed to get organised early. I’ve got my list (my very, very long list) with the normal required items.
There are pencil cases and wind-up crayons, dictionaries and hand sanitiser, rulers and calculators, USB sticks, wet wipes and two pairs of old socks — for wiping the whiteboards I’ve learnt since my first double take at that request.
And then there are the uniform requirements. The school shoes, the sports shoes, the hats and the tops, the jumpers, the dresses and those odd things you only understand if you have girls – the scungies.
I’ve also got my requests in from the kids. One wants a baseball style school hat this year, now he’s a great big year one boy – not the broad brimmed one he’s worn when he was just a baby in kindergarten. Another wants laces not Velcro shoes, even though he doesn’t know how to tie them.
There is strict “superheroes aren’t cool” directive and a very enthusiastic please-please-please-I’ll-do-anything to get one of those highlighter pens that stack on top of each other.
We’ve got it planned with military precision and while my number one tip would be to avoid taking kids with me at all costs when I go shopping, when it comes to back-to-school requirements – and until I can 3D print off of a perfectly mapped version of each of my children’s feet — there is no getting around the fact you have to take them with you.
The first year I ventured out with three kids to the nearest school shoe retailers, 200 of my not-so-closest-friends taught me two things. Firstly, that my storytelling repertoire could do some work. After standing in a line clutching a number (63) for an hour and a quarter with three bored, hungry kids and no entertainment, I realised there were only so many versions of Grimm’s fairy tales you could adapt for the modern day child. The kids loved the bit where Little Red Riding Hood face-timed her Granny.
Three years into this school caper and I do have a few tips I can share about how to not let your back-to-school shopping experience end up throwing you to the wolves.
1. Give your kids a list of items to find themselves in the aisles of the stationery store.
Like a treasure hunt, only with stationery.
2. Tag them, cause you are bound to lose them.
While some parents might go down the route of the leashes and tracking devices (well, they do tend to wander) others just write their phone numbers on the kid’s arms.
3. Bring dad, grandma, the neighbour or ANYONE who can help with the wrangling.
4. Try not to take them to the Tupperware aisle.
It’s hard enough to match up the lids with the containers at home let alone doing it on the floor of the nearest convenience store after the kids pull it off the shelves.
5. Slowly dribble out those snacks.
Rice cracker after rice cracker to keep them quiet.
6. Pre-negotiate the “Can-I-haves?”
Can I have Pokémon cards? No.
Can I have that Elsa bag? No.
Can I have those rainbow markers? No.
Can I have the Spiderman shoes? No.
Unless you are really, really, really good at holding out with your nos then in order to avoid a tantrum try pre-negotiating before you go. And if all goes to hell remember you have those rice crackers to fall back on.
7. Never let them push the trolley.
Ever. If you want to see your youngest again.
8. Let the kids look at the items online beforehand.
Research, research, research! If you have an indecisive one like I do, you will be grateful you did. There is nothing worse than waiting 20 minutes while a six-year old debates the pros and cons of a Minecraft lunch box or a Lego one. Prep him beforehand.
Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be disastrous. With a little bit of planning, an online booking and a purse full of rice crackers, it will be a cinch.
What are your tips for back to school shopping?
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