GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: Our 2017 back-to-school guide

Use props to add pizzazz to your family’s back-to-school photos. (Photo by Mike Garten)

With our back-to-school tips, your child can have his or her best year yet.


Try these pro tips from Thomas Kubik, dad of two and founder of TK Photography.

Cheat the calendar: A photo session on the actual first morning of school may be too hectic. Stage one the day before, in the hour leading up to sunset. (Photographers call this “the golden hour” for its soft, flattering light.)

Choose an annual place: “Position your kids against the same marker at the beginning of each school year, and you’ll have a striking visual of how much they’ve grown,” said Kubik.

Play with props: A bright backpack or lunch box adds a pop of color and gives kids something to do with their hands.

Stagger siblings: A group shot is a must, but do solo pics first, starting with the oldest kid; the group photo comes last. “The little one wants to do whatever her big brother or sister is doing,” and so she will cooperate with the solo shot, said Kubik. “When you have her positioned, add the older kids to the frame – they follow directions better.”

Skip saying “cheese”: “Smiling on command always seems fake and forced,” he says. “For younger kids, ask them to make silly faces or noises – then snap when they laugh afterward. For older kids, ask what their favorite ice cream is. Then say, ‘Did you say pickle ice cream?’ It doesn’t have to be a genius joke to get them to crack a smile.” And if your teen rolls her eyes at you? Capture that! It’s an authentic response that you’ll love later (we promise).


Even the most confident children can feel insecure during the start of school. Here’s how to support them through first-day jitters.

“I won’t know anyone in my class!”

“Tell your child: ‘Someone in your new class is waiting to be your friend, and your job is to figure out who,’” said Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Princeton, N.J. “Then, with younger kids, talk about clues they can look for, such as a child glancing around for company or offering to show them something – some of these signals aren’t obvious to a nervous kid. When they’re busy sleuthing out signs of friendliness, they’ll focus less on their own discomfort.”

“I’ll always be bad at math.”

“Oh, honey, you’re not bad at math,” is on the tip of your tongue, but resist the urge to contradict him – he’ll only dig in. Instead, help frame the problem with specifics, so it feels smaller and possibly temporary. “Saying, ‘You’re confused about exponents right now’ shows

your child an external problem that can be addressed, and it isn’t an indictment of his overall aptitude,” suggests Kennedy-Moore. As you two brainstorm ways of dealing with the issue, remind him to focus on progress, not perfection.

“No one else will have zits/be a foot taller/wear a bra!”

“Empathy is the best response, but don’t dwell on the drama you went through when you were her age,” said Kennedy-Moore. “Saying, ‘I know what you’re going through’ can kill a conversation with tweens and teens,” she said. Instead, describe the situation using the word “you.” Say, “It seems like you’re feeling self-conscious” or “It sounds like you hate it when other kids comment on your body.” By narrating your kid’s emotions, “you’re wrapping these big, messy feelings up with words, which makes them understandable,” said Kennedy-Moore.


Best of the Test: Chef’s Knives

Our experts chopped, diced and minced to find you the standouts that are a cut above the rest.

Winner: The Ultimate Tool

Victorinox 8-Inch Rosewood Forged Chef’s Knife ($176, With its wide, slightly rounded blade, Victorinox’s workhorse handled every task smoothly, from cleaving hefty bones to coring delicate tomatoes.

Lab lowdown: In Lab tests it quickly turned parsley into fine dust, basil into ribbons and a whole chicken into eighths.

Runner-Up: Nice Price

Zyliss Control 8-Inch Chef’s Knife ($30, For a do-it-all knife without the hefty price tag, Zyliss’ tool can’t be beat. You’ll get a comfy, ergonomic grip whether you hold it by the handle or by pinching at the rear of the blade (a pro-chef technique).

Lab lowdown: It easily managed every cutting task, and unlike most others we tested, it’s dishwasher-safe.


Three Tricks to Save on School Supplies

It’s no shock that 75 percent of parents say back-to-school shopping is a serious stressor, according to GH Seal star RetailMeNot. The company’s shopping expert, Sara Skirboll, offers these savings tips:

Shop on tax-free days: Many localities waive sales tax for a few days – search online for exactly when. Some tax holidays apply only to school supplies, while others cover electronics, clothing and shoes.

Wait a bit: Sometimes the late bird gets the best deal – clothes and shoe prices typically drop 40 percent after mid-month, and class supplies can be a third less by the second week of September.

Get social: Brands like Kohl’s, Old Navy and Macy’s usually offer deep discounts, while others offer flash sale alerts to shoppers who follow them on social media.

Recalls Alert

The following products and vehicles were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Unless otherwise indicated, discontinue use of the products immediately and return them to the store where purchased for a refund. For more information about the products, call the manufacturer or CPSC’s toll-free hotline, (800) 638-2772. Only some cars or trucks recalled are affected. Contact a dealer for your model to see if it is included in the recall. The dealer will tell you what to do.



BRIO soft hammer baby rattles, sold at HomeGoods, Kidding Around, Nordstrom and other specialty toy and mass retailer stores nationwide and online at, from March 2015 through June 2017 for about $13.

The wooden rings on the hammer rattles can crack, posing a choking hazard to children. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled baby rattles and contact BRIO for instructions on how to receive a full refund or a replacement product of similar value. Consumers can contact BRIO, through North American distributor Ravensburger, at Click on “Recalls” at the bottom of the page or call (800) 886-1236 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for more information.

Mazda 2004-2008 RX-8

Heat from the engine and the exhaust may cause the main fuel pump pipe to crack. If the fuel pump pipe cracks, fuel may leak, increasing the risk of a fire. Mazda will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump filter kit for free. Owners may contact Mazda customer service at (800) 222-5500. Mazda’s number for this recall is 1017E.

© Hearst Communications Inc.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

–GOOD HOUSEKEEPING REPORTS: Our 2017 back-to-school guide–