Summer is winding down, and kids will soon head back to school. After a couple months of relaxed schedules, this transition can be a challenge for families. Taking a few proactive steps now can help get the new school year off to a smoother start.

“Some studies show that kids learn and then lose a third of the previous year’s education during the summer,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

That’s often referred to as summer slide, when kids experience academic dips in math and reading. It’s estimated that older students lose more over the summer than younger ones. To slow the slide, have your child:

  • Read every day: A great time to do this is each night before bed. If you have young children who are not yet proficient readers, read to them grade-level and above books. This will build their vocabulary, strengthen their listening comprehension skills, increase their knowledge and expand their experience with text.
  • Use flash cards: This is an easy way to keep simple math facts or spelling words fresh in your child’s mind.

Dr. Bradshaw encourages parents to take advantage of day-to-day opportunities for addition, subtraction and writing.

“Have your kids help you to add up how much money you’re spending on the different items you are buying at the grocery store,” she says. “Or have them write a creative story about something they enjoy or would like to do before the summer ends.”

Get back to sleep
Adequate sleep is essential to a student’s success in the classroom, so use the two weeks before school starts to ease your children back into their school year bedtime and wake-up routines.

“If you can swing it, so that the kids are out of bed and eating breakfast at the same time they’ll need to be taken to school, that’s going to give them an edge when they’re back in class,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who do not get enough sleep have difficulty concentrating and absorbing information—insufficient sleep has been linked to higher rates of absenteeism and tardiness.

How much sleep your child’s body and brain require depends on their age:

  • Teens: at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Tweens: 9-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Elementary school-aged kids: 10-12 hours of sleep per night.

Check in with your doctor
If your child is due for an annual well check, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. Make sure your kids are up-to-date on their vaccinations, including your teens. Now is also a good time to fill prescriptions for EpiPens, inhalers and other medicines that may need to be given to your child during the school day.

Plan for success
If last school year was a little bumpy or stressful, plan for ways to make the new year go smoother. Dr. Bradshaw suggests calling a family meeting to talk about how you will handle all the busyness that’s sure to come over the next nine months.

“Summer is a good time to sit down as a family and think: ‘What is next school year going to look like?’” she says. “What are some of the things your family appreciated about last school year and how you managed your family’s schedule, and what are some of the things that weren’t so great that maybe you can make better this year?’”

Involving the family in this discussion gives everyone a chance to have their say, and also helps ensure that you won’t be alone in trying to manage schedules, homework and activities all by yourself.