I don’t know about your child’s school but at ours … it is project time; which we know is really mom’s project time. When my son was in kindergarten it was easy. We had to cut and paste pictures of objects to represent letters of the alphabet using animals that run, fly or swim. First grade is a whole other ball game, with competitiveness beginning to rear its ugly head.

My son’s recent science fair project was supposed to be non-experimental. While most kids (mine included) did the usual solar system and magnets or the human skeleton, one child brought in a high-tech circuit board with computer hardware accessories that lit up, beeped and probably did the laundry. This was just first grade. I can’t imagine what that kid will do for third grade. At any rate, whether it’s the annual science fair or a state project for social studies, here are a few tips for all the newbies to help you survive project season.

Choose a Topic

Unless the teacher chooses a topic for you, you are left to think up something that is both interesting and fun for you and your child. There are several websites showcasing experiments for kids or great project ideas. Spend a little time online or go to the library – that’s always a rich source of project information. Start off with a simple product, so that when the time comes to execute, you are not overwhelmed. Keep it simple.

Save Those Periodicals

You can never have enough magazines, as they are a rich source of colorful pictures you can add to any project.

Many states offer free tourist guides that give a lot of details and pictures for social studies projects. Postcards are great too.

Organize and Plan

Gather up the necessary supplies ahead of time. Back to school is a great time to stock up on all the markers, copy paper, poster board, glue sticks, and paints you may need for your project.

Engage and Involve

Get your child involved. Talk about the project with your child and discuss different aspects of the steps involved. Get your child’s input so that it does not become “mom’s project.” Practice the presentation ahead of time.

Think Outside the Box!

I know. I hear the collective groans. After all, which of us busy, tired, sleep-deprived moms has the time or energy to think outside the box? Like I said before, it’s best to keep things simple – but you can try to put your own, unique spin on the usual tried and true. For example, a friend of mine did an erupting volcano with her son in first grade; only it oozed glittery lava. This may also be a good time to enlist the help of older siblings, relatives, or childless friends who can (and are willing) to think creatively for you. It takes a village right?

Most importantly, start early so you don’t have to be up all night the night before the project is due.

Oh, and have fun!