Back to School Basics-Tips for Success

by Joyce Ravary, Occupational Therapist

Ok, this has been a great summer so far!  My only complaint is that it’s flying by way too quickly.  I am originally from Michigan, and state law does not allow any school to start back before Labor Day since travel and tourism during the summer months generate a lot of money for the Michigan economy.  However, here in Ohio, school will be starting in a few weeks!  Wow!

So I would like to offer a few resources to help you begin to prepare for BACK TO SCHOOL!

Bedtime Routines. One of the most important areas to think about in preparation for back to school time is to re-establish a good bedtime routine for the kids!  It’s not too early to start backing up the bedtime over the next several weeks so that everyone is ready to rise and shine on the first day of class.  See below for a list of suggested bedtimes, by age, to help you:

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Duration Recommendations:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended

0-3 months


14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours

18 to 19 hours

Less than 11 hours

More than 19 hours


4-11 months


12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours

16 to 18 hours

Less than 10 hours

More than 18 hours


1-2 years


11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours

15 to 16 hours

Less than 9 hours

More than 16 hours


3-5 years


10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours

14 hours

Less than 8 hours

More than 14 hours

School-aged Children

6-13 years


9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours

12 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 12 hours


14-17 years


8 to 10 hours 7 hours

11 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 11 hours

Young Adults

18-25 years


7 to 9 hours 6 hours

10 to 11 hours

Less than 6 hours

More than 11 hours


26-64 years


7 to 9 hours 6 hours

10 hours

Less than 6 hours

More than 10 hours

Older Adults

≥ 65 years


7 to 8 hours 5 to 6 hours

9 hours

Less than 5 hours

More than 9 hours

*For additional information you can check out the articles written by the American Occupational Therapy Association, by going to  Just search for Sleep Fact Sheet Establishing Bedtime Routines for Children.

Backpack Tips.  You may be thinking about buying your school supplies, so here are some practical tips for purchasing a backpack:

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) urges parents and caregivers to consider the following when selecting a backpack this school year:

  1. Appropriate Size. Make sure the backpack extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waste level, or slightly above the waste.
  2. Backpacks should have well-padded shoulder straps that can be worn so the weight can be evenly balances by the student.
  3. Hip Belt. Backpacks with a hip or chest belt take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles and improve the student’s balance.
  4. Just as your child will try on clothes and shoes when back-to-school shopping, experts say it is important to try on backpacks too.

*Be aware that it is especially important to select a proper backpack for kids with low muscle tone and decreased integrity of their joints (hypermobile joints) and many kids with autism or sensory processing disorders have these issues.

*For additional information go to

From the Expert. “A child wearing a backpack unbalanced or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain, especially in the low back,” says Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, clinical professor of occupational therapy from Boston University, and an expert on school ergonomics and healthy growth and development of school aged-children.

After school Routines– All of us benefit great from establishing good routines to help us stick to a schedule to perform necessary tasks.  Children who are still developing executive function skills, rely on adults to set up routines for them, teach them the routine, and provide supports to maintain routines learned.  Having a well thought out after school routine can go a long way in helping school to home transitions to go smoothly and to ensure essential tasks are completed on a daily basis.  I found a wonderful resource to share with you in setting up a visual chart for an after school routine!  Check out  They have many FREE resources and one such resource lets you print out an after school routine chart, and gives you 35 options of different tasks, which allows you to customize your chart.  (While you’re on the site you might enjoy looking at their free resources…..there are many!)

Healthy Lunches and Snacks:  A great resource for healthy snacks, breakfast and lunch ideas that I often check out is on Facebook, called the Step Stool Chef.  Please check it out!  They post often and have easy to make recipes, but that doesn’t mean they lack taste! They also post great articles about nutrition and give tips for grocery lists to make shopping fast and simple.  Additionally the Step Stool Chef features ‘how to videos’ of kids cooking up some of the recipes.  So many kids I work with as an occupational therapist learn best through visuals and LOVE watching videos of other kids!  For parents who have picky eaters, involving their child in the cooking process may entice them to try new foods!

In closing………let’s accept the challenge of getting ready for another school year, and cherish the excitement and fun of the season ahead………….just think…………..fall leaves, pumpkins, apple cider, Friday night football, new friends and new experiences!!!  What’s not to Love!






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