Think back to your own school days. Whether you felt excited or nervous or just couldn’t wait to show your friends the new moves you learned at basketball camp—you wanted to be sure you were prepared for that first day back in the classroom. And while today’s back-to-school shopping lists might be more tech-focused than they were in your youth, much remains the same. Pocket folders are still adorned with kittens, unicorns, and super heroes (no shame in picking up one for yourself while you’re hitting the school supply aisles—they can hold grown up stuff like tax documents, too…) and that fresh crayon smell is just as you’ve always remembered it. Ah, nostalgia.
But beyond pencils, paper, and glue sticks, there are a few back-to-school essentials you won’t find at your local big-box store, and that you can’t even order online. Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald recommends adding these vital things to your girl’s back-to-school checklist:
- A Bold Streak
Raising your hand to ask for help, or to answer a question you’re not totally sure you have the right answer to, can take courage. So can trying out for the basketball team or running for student council. Help your girl get comfortable taking these kinds of risks by talking with her about the value of trying—and yes, of failing! The most successful leaders in our world take risks all the time. Many of them don’t work out, but the ones that do make it all worthwhile.
- Team Spirit
While it’s vital for your girl to feel confident completing tasks on her own, it’s just as crucial that she knows how to work collaboratively as part of a team. Talk with her about the importance of listening to others’ opinions (even if she doesn’t agree with them) and how everyone has something unique and valuable to add to the team effort. Oftentimes, the most innovative and creative ideas and solutions are reached when a group of diverse people put their minds together!
- Social Smarts
Making friends is easier for some kids than others. Give your girl some strategies to get to know her classmates. For instance, being observant and noticing characters, animals, or even music groups on other kids’ clothing, backpacks, or school supplies can help her start a conversation about things they have in common. Asking if they want to join in a game at recess or asking about the books they get at the school library can be good openers, too!
- Energy to Learn
Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation recommends that children aged 5 to 12 get between 10 and 11 hours of sleep each night? It’s true—and following their advice could raise your child’s test scores. A well-rested brain is better at retaining new information and at remembering what it’s already learned. And once your little learner is out of bed and getting ready for her school day, ensure that she gets a good breakfast—preferably one with protein and whole grains that will help her feel fuller longer and give her lasting energy. Many studies show a link between having a balanced breakfast and good school performance, so make sure to start her day off right!
- A Supportive Adult—that’s YOU!
Your girl needs you more than you may know. Get engaged by asking specific questions about her school day and showing interest in the things she’s learning. She’s growing into an independent girl, but knowing you’re on her side will make her far more likely to discuss any academic or social challenges with you if they do arise. Plus, knowing you’re on her team and that you’re cheering her on in all that she does will help her confidence grow.