How To Build Back-to-School Readiness

ASHA Offers Tips for Strengthening Communication, Learning, and Social Skills

August 1, 2023

(Rockville, MD) With the new school year rapidly approaching, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is providing ways that families can help elementary-aged children transition back to the classroom.

“Because kids often lack structure, work, and responsibilities during the summer, the return to school can be little bumpy for some,” said Robert Augustine, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2023 ASHA President. “However, with a bit of preparation, parents and caregivers can help prime children for learning and meeting expectations in the classroom, and also reduce any back-to-school worries they may have.”

ASHA suggests that families try one or more of the following activities, which can help build their children’s communication, learning, and social skills, and give them a positive outlook toward school:

  1. School supply scavenger hunt. Give your child 10 items from their school supply list to find—either in the store while you’re shopping or at home. Can they mark off the ones they’ve found?
  2. Favorite summer book. Ask your child to select a favorite book. Discuss it together, and then have them draw a picture and write three to five sentences about why they liked it. Is your child able to persuade someone else to read the book with what they write?
  3. First-day-of-school clothes. Talk with your child about what they want to wear on the first day of school. Compare and contrast what they wore last year with what they want to wear this year. These are important language skills.
  4. Meal planning. Create a menu of healthy breakfasts and lunches for the first few weeks of school. Shop for ingredients together. If your child is provided with (or buys) breakfast or lunch at school, look at the school calendar together, and discuss favorite meals or new foods that they can try.
  5. Game night. Take a break from screens, and organize a family game night. Let kids choose the games they want to play. Board games build language, math, turn-taking, problem-solving, and direction-following skills, in addition to being fun for all ages.
  6. Daily schedule. Talk about your child’s new routine for the school year. Have them write or decorate a visual list or chart that will help keep them on track. Discuss ways that they can stay organized (e.g., pick out clothes the night before, put shoes by the front door, and pack lunch ahead of time). Practice wake-up and bedtime routines a few days before school starts.
  7. Backpack shopping. Ask your child to describe what they need in a new backpack. Is there a particular character, color, and size they want? Can they draw their ideal backpack or list special features?
  8. Group gathering. Organize a playdate or other meetup with a few classmates, especially if your child is new to the school or hasn’t seen school friends over the summer. Meet at a local park (or school playground), the pool, or an ice cream shop. This can help kids reconnect ahead of time, so the first day doesn’t feel so overwhelming.
  9. Favorite summer memory. Teachers often discuss and/or assign writing activities about this topic during the first few weeks of school. Practice drawing a picture or writing about it at home, so they’ll feel confident when doing so at school.
  10. Back-to-school books. Read some books together featuring characters going to school. This gives you an opportunity to bring up possible feelings or fears—and to help your child work through them.
  11. School visit. Take your child for a visit to school, or drive past it to discuss who might be their teacher, where their classroom will be, and the important places in their school, such as the library, cafeteria, restrooms, and office. Can they explain where these places are in the school?
  12. Photo archive. Find some photos or a class picture from last school year, and talk about friends your child might reconnect with this year. Talk about age-appropriate qualities to look for in a good friend and ways to be a good friend to others.
  13. Dear diary. Encourage your child to write in a journal (for younger kids, you can write for them). This is a great way to hear—and talk through—their worries or fears. They can continue this during the year, writing about the high points and low points of their days.
  14. Pretend school. With a younger child, you can play school. Let your child be the teacher, and have them give you instructions. With an older child, take turns giving each other tasks like a teacher would.
  15. Pep talk. Let your child know that you believe in them and will be by their side to help and encourage them through the school year. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader! Give them the tools to start the school year with confidence.

For more information on children’s communication, literacy, and social skills, as well as how to connect with a certified speech-language pathologist if you have concerns in any of these areas, visit

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 228,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology assistants; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

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