Playing until the sun sets, then sleeping late.

Watching a movie in the middle of the day. Time spent by the pool, living in swimsuits for days on end.

There is no question that when the lazy days of summer come to an end, the transition to a new school year can be tough. Going back to a strict schedule and routine can make the first few weeks of school gruelling.

Here are some tips to make that transition go a little smoother.

1. Return to morning and bedtime routines a week before school starts

Helping children return to a normal sleep schedule at least a week before school will help ease that first day of school when they are already used to the routine.

2. Review after school rules

If you have a homework-first rule, make sure the children remember what is expected. Can they have a snack after school, or do they need to get ready for an after school extracurricular activity? Knowing what to expect can ease a great deal of frustration and stress.

3. Review after school schedules

Make sure everyone is on the same page by having a calendar or schedule readily accessible. Children will feel less stressed when they know ahead of time if they are coming home, going to a sitter or other after-school care, or if they have an activity they need to attend.

4. Prepare school supplies

Spend some time making sure their school supplies are in order. Do they need new backpacks or lunch boxes? Do they need a few new clothes? Does mom need some chocolate?

5. Take advantage of back-to-school sales

After assessing your needs, take advantage of the sales. It can be difficult to find supplies at a decent price halfway through the school year. I've had to track down a backpack in January more than once, and I always end up paying too much.

6. Get back in the reading habit

Take a trip to the library and choose a few books to read. Then, have the kids spend a few minutes every day reading. When school starts, they will be ready for all the required reading.

7. Get organized

Create places for backpacks, lunch boxes and school papers to be kept. Mark important dates on the calendar and check that their school information is up to date.

8. Check on transportation

Whether they walk to school, ride the bus or carpool make sure everything is in place. Walk the route to school with them once or twice before school starts if they are feeling uncertain. Take them to the bus stop a few days before and make sure they know where to wait. Check with the carpool and make sure everyone knows what days they drive, so you are able to communicate that information to your children.

9. Talk about any concerns

Sometimes children will feel anxious over seemingly simple issues. If you are able to discover what concerns they may have ahead of time, you will be able to assuage their fears by helping them understand what to expect.

10. Fill out forms online

With all 7 of my children now in school, the more I can do online the better. Spend an afternoon - or even just 5 minutes - and fill out as many forms as you can. It will save you time and writer's cramp.

Making the transition to a new school year can be a positive experience if you spend a little time making some preparations. Before long you will be knee deep in a new school year with everything running smoothly. A little chocolate always helps, too.

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