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Back to School basics for 1st timers

by | Jan 9, 2019 | Just Motherhood, Parenting | 0 comments

Hello fellow 1st timers! Are you feeling a little lost and unsure about what to expect? You’re not alone… This is our 1st official year of school as Eliana enters Grade 1. Emotions are running high and we are still in total disbelief… How can we be parents to a Grade 1? How are we already apart of the “Back to School” crowd? 

Maybe you’re right here with us – unsure about what lies ahead or maybe you’re a seasoned pro at having everything ready and everyone on schedule from day one. All I know for sure is; we don’t want to go at it alone and thanks to the help and advice from many mama’s I asked and talked to, we’ve got the 1st day prep covered!

First things first; “Back to School” essentials


One thing is clear, once you go to school EVERYTHING needs to have your name on it. Yes, mamas, everything – down to socks and undies too. Little ones are experts at losing their belongings at school so make sure you label it all.

We’ve been happy customers of It’s mine for the past 4 years and ordered from them again last year.

TOP TIP: Order at the beginning of December otherwise you’ll only get labels in February.

Clothing stamps, iron-ons and sock labels will keep your little one’s clothes coming back home. The also have labels especially designed for pencils, water bottles, shoes, lunch boxes, suitcase tags and just about anything else in need of a name.

Each has a name and contact number on it (I just smudged ours out for this post). Now that Eliana can read her name she prefers keeping her labels clean and picture free. When she was younger (and unable to read) we added a cute icon. She could easily identify her belongings and keep them safe.

There are so many fun ways to customise your labels and the girls enjoy choosing their own icon from the vast collection It’s Mine offers. We order everything online so be sure to check them our at


The list of school supplier needed is quite daunting, especially when the school requests a certain brand… Thankfully we could order directly from them so I think we’ll be doing that every year.

For Grade 1 we needed the following:

  • 2 packs of Monami Crayons
  • 1 pack of Pentel Oil Pastels
  • 9 Steadler Pencils
  • 1 Whiteboard with 3 PentelMaxiflo whiteboard markers
  • Crayons
  • 1 Pair of scissors
  • 1 20 page Flipfile
  • 1 pack of Steadler coloured pencils
  • Grade 1 pencil grip
  • 2 pencil bags
  • 4 36g Bostik glue sticks
  • A pencil sharpener
  • Gum paper
  • 2 Steadler erasers
  • A chair bag
  • Grade 1 dictionary and a few other Grade specific goodies like sight words and alphabet cards

Every school obviously has there own school uniform. This can usually be purchased at school or from a specified distributor. The basics however; socks, white shirts, grey pants and skorts can be bought at most department stores. We found a good selection of sizes, reasonably priced and made locally at Ackermans.

TOP TIP: School clothes aren’t fitted so don’t wait till the last minute to buy them. You’ll be driving all over town trying to find the correct sizes.

Once again, every garment needs to be labeled!

Iron on labels work well for darker and smaller items while our It’s Mine clothing stamped made labelling shirts easy!

The sock labels are iron-on as well and I’m not sure if I put them in the correct spot? Let’s see if the last. Please feel free to share how and where you label socks.

Eliana is most excited about her new school shoes and wanted the T-bar style. She thinks the “raindrops on her toes” are awesome. We stuck with local favourite brand, Toughees – also available at most leading retailers.

School bag

The school sells a school backpack but after speaking to a few moms we decided to go old-school and stick to a classic school Blue Juice School Briefcase. Hopefully it will last for the next 3 years.

We bought ours at Waltons.


We took finding the perfect lunchbox very seriously. I wanted something that would last and that would make packing lunches easy. Of course it needed to be leakproof and durable.

I asked all over social media and the number one lunchbox, recommended by the most moms (locally and abroad) was the YUMBOX.

I hadn’t even heard of a YUMBOX but quickly found them… They have the coolest website with loads of info, not just on their range of products but also recipes and lunchbox ideas.

It’s a company that cares about the environment as well as the health of their little clients making bento style lunch boxes that last, are easy to pack and promote healthy eating habits.

Locally Cloud + Co sells YUMBOX. You can expect a detailed review about why these are worth every penny within the next 2 weeks – keep an eye on the blog.

Cloud + Co also stock some funky lunch prep extras that I couldn’t resist…

These lunchpunch sandwich cutters make me smile and the girls too.

And if your kids love food on a stick as much as mine… Then these reusable food stix are a must. The girls will eat just about anything, if it’s on a stick and what better way to include veggies to lunch?

Now just remember a water bottle and you’re little one’s set. PURA stainless steel drinking bottles are amazing. We’ve been using this one for months and it still looks brand new. Get yours from Healthy Home Box as well as Faithful to Nature.

Read our feature on why PURA are the only drinking bottles we use – even Ava only uses PURA baby bottles. HUGE money saver in our home.

And PRESTO! School lunch is served.

Preparing for the 1st day

I’m sure you all remember the drill… Fresh hair cut, short nails, putting out your school uniform the evening before. Anything to make those early mornings go more streamline but, we shouldn’t forget about the fun stuff too…

Do a little count down

This is probably only applicable to Grade 1’s seeing as most older kids rather dream of longer vacations. Eliana actually did a little countdown herself – telling everyone for the past week how many days were left before she enters school.

Prepare a special breakfast

It doesn’t have to be something fancy or a royal spread. Just something delicious that you know your little one enjoys.

We ate good old “mielie pap” but added a peanut butter and honey heart. Eating together also made our day that much better – we’re definitely doing to try starting everyday like this.

Be prepared to take loads of photos!

It’s an oldie, but goodie. Take a photo of your child on their first day of school. Begin at any age and stick to it. I just know these pics will be one of our biggest treasure one day.

We do the classic letter board as well as a Chalk School Years Chart that we started using last year. Seeing all the info captured on a photo makes keeping track of your child’s development and the ways they grow and change easy. We got ours from Nectar & Ink.

Don’t forget to take some other photos too. Details like the school uniform, that 1st school bag, what you packed for lunch and a photo as a family too. Find a handy photo checklist below for you to use – and don’t be too hard on yourself, these can be taken anytime during the 1st week or 2 of school. (We won’t tell).

Simply click on the link below to download and print your own.

Questions to ask your child every year

Take some time a to ask your child a few questions (or if they are older, have them fill it out by themselves). Do this every year. It will be interesting to see how the answers change and I’m sure we’ll be giggling at some creative job titles and “things they want to learn”. (Again you can find a link to download and print below.)

The afternoon unload

We made it! The first day is done and the school year has begun. I want to have a “first day after school tradition” and right now I am thinking an ice cream date is in order.

A time to unwind and find out what the first day of school was like…

I’ll be honest, Grade 1 hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional. I’ve been swallowing hard and holding back tears (not very well) for the past 48 hours. I’m overwhelmed by how proud I feel of our beautiful, healthy Grade 1 daughter. She’s ready, excited and eager to learn and I know her school years will be amazing. Together we are going to make this new chapter even better than the ones before but at the same time my mommy-heart is having such a difficult time letting go of our baby and toddler years as I count down the minutes till I go fetch her.

Eliana on the other hand, had the best day possible and couldn’t stop telling us all about her wonderful teacher, pretty classroom, new friends and the tennis balls they put on bottom of the school chair legs… It’s the small things that make you giggle, right? She can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

We’ll definitely be sharing more about school, how we are coping, how reality measures up to what we’ve been told and everything else. We also REALY don’t want to take this journey alone so PLEASE leave us a comment below sharing your 1st day of school and be sure to join our Facebook Group; THE SCHOOL RUN.

Let’s make school days easier together.



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