back to school tricks

5 Back to School Tips Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

I can’t believe that Back to School is around the corner.   In honor of back to school this year, I’ve decided to share my 5 best back to school tips!  They may seem simple, but they work!  So here goes!


1) For the child who doesn’t hold their pencil correctly…

This is a great tip for kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers.   Kids still need reminders to hold their pencils correctly.  Why not make it fun?  Rather than spending money on an expensive pencil grip that the kids lose, chew, and pick apart; simply take a sharpie and use it to make a face on each pencil.  For the Kindergarten teacher who spends an hour sharpening every pencil to get ready for the first day of school, this should only take another ten minutes.   For the mom of the child who needs reminders, it takes 30 seconds.  And it works!

  pencil grip trick
Drawing a face on the pencil is a simple visual cue. Kids love it when I ask them what kind of face they want: girl or boy? happy or sad?, etc.
pencil grip tricks,
The thumb goes on one eye, index goes on the other. It’s a quick trick that works wonders!


2)  For the Clumsy Child who knocks their crayon box over once a day…

This is a quick fix for this pesky problem.  Children who can’t seem to manage their belongings often spread their things out all over the desk.  The next thing you know, “BAM!” crayons everywhere!   For one dollar, your problem is fixed.  Simply cut a piece of cabinet liner as big as the bottom of the crayon box and have the student place their crayon box on top. This decreases your chances of “crayon explosions” significantly.  Sometimes, however, the child who has trouble with organizing their space and managing their belongings also has trouble remembering things (like to place the cabinet liner under the crayon box).  So in this case, just whip out your hot glue gun and glue the cabinet liner to the bottom.


This absolutely works, and can really help in decreasing distractions in the classroom. (Distracting Classrooms are Totally a Pet Peeve of a School Based OT!)  A dropped crayon box usually leads to at least three children out of their seat scrambling to “help” and five minutes of everyone else watching.

Back to school trick

A piece of cabinet liner can stop a slippery crayon box from falling off the desk

3)  For the  fidgety, hyperactive kid…

Place a bag of rice in the  bottom of the student’s backpack.  For your own sanity make sure it is in multiple zip-lock bags or a pillow case, to avoid the rice explosion that potentially happen.

But back to the backpack!  Children who need a lot of sensory input benefit from heavy work before they sit down to learn.  I have worked with some very dedicated parents who actually work the morning routine to include massage, outside playtime, or deep pressure with a therapy ball. This is awesome, but sometimes, there is just no time!  A quick fix for that is some weight in the child’s backpack.  Children should wear both straps to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed.  This is basically the same kind of input as a weighted blanket or a weighted vest.   *A child should never carry more than 10% of their body weight (AOTA).  Make sure the input is enough for your child to feel it, but not so much that it could cause back or neck problems. For other Fidgety kid tips, click here.

Weighted backpack

Placing a bag of rice in the bottom of a child’s backpack provides deep pressure, which can help calm a fidgety child


4) For the child who simply can’t sit….

This is a little-known fact: Nine times out of ten, a child has difficulty sitting because their chair, table, or desk are not sized properly. Many teachers come to school over the summer to get their classroom ready for the year. The teachers have a list of names.

And that’s it.

Nothing about if the child wears glasses, is tall, is small, or has trouble with attention.

So taping the name tags on the desks is getting ahead of yourself.  Most teachers run around with their giant tape dispenser and  heavy duty clear tape to make sure those name tags stay put until June.

But what happens when the children come in?  The child who is a foot taller isn’t fitting in his desk.   The youngest child in the class has five inches between his feet and the floor.  Uh-oh.  Neither of these kids will be comfortable.

I urge, beg, plead, with teachers… please make sure the kids are sitting at a desk that fits them.   As an adult, we would have no problem complaining to our boss if our “working environment” was uncomfortable or inappropriate.  Yet we expect kids to “sit still” and do their work in these situations.  Most desks are adjustable.  Your building custodian can adjust the desk for you.  Teachers have said to me, “but they are going to grow.”

Yes, we hope that’s true.  So you adjust it again. It’s worth it!  And really, the kids deserve to work in an appropriately sized desk.  I’ve also had teachers say, “How do I know if it’s the wrong size?”  To read my most recent post on this, click here.


1) if feet are swinging…

2) if the child sits on their legs…

3) if the child stands all the time…

4) if the child has more than three inches between the bottom of the desk and their thighs…

5) if the child’s arm is straight  out instead of hanging down, with the elbow near the ribs…



Then it’s time to adjust the desk! For some tips to size a child’s desk, click here.

For parents, all of these rules apply for homework time.  The kitchen table is a typical spot for homework time, but it is adult size.  A child size table would be much more appropriate for a child, especially children who are just learning how to write.  Children who are still developing Shoulder Stability especially need the right size furniture.  It’s important!  If you don’t have a child size table and chair, there are other options.

This one is my favorite!  A client of mine had this on her kitchen chair so that her little one could sit at the  kitchen table appropriately.

kaboost kitchen chair booster

This simple booster is a quick and attractive way to raise the seat for your little one.

5) For the child who holds their scissors upside down…

It is very common for little kids to have trouble remembering how to hold their scissors.  A quick fix for this is to glue wiggly eyes to the “top”.  This way the eyes are “looking” up at the child.  Hot glue doesn’t last forever, so the eyes will eventually fall off. That’s okay!  If the child has learned how to hold it, they don’t need the visual cue anymore.  If not, glue ’em on again.


eyes on scissors visual cue

A simple visual cue is a great way to help a child hold the scissors properly



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5 thoughts on “5 Back to School Tips Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

  1. says:

    These are some Great tips! I love the smily face pencil and the googly eyes on the scissors. My son had a hard time with both of those things. Such a fun simple way to remind them.

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