It’s that time of year again, fall’s right around the corner and the kids are heading back to school! Panic starts to set in as you realize you’re not prepared. What do you do?? The answer is simple, have a plan in place and work with the kids to get the school year started on the right foot. Kids thrive on routine and the following ideas will help make everyone’s life easier and your days run smoother.
Start by allowing yourself enough time to get the kids list of school supplies, new backpacks, and lunch boxes. Choose a day when you aren’t in a hurry and the kids have time to make some of the decisions. This is also a great time to purchase back up supplies that you know they will need throughout the year or for use at homework time. Once you are done shopping, have the kids put all of their supplies in the backpacks so they are ready for the first day. This is also a great time to set up an area in the home to store all they need for each day. Ideally a mud room with hooks for the backpacks and close to shoes and coats. If you don’t have a mud room, a place by the front door or in your kitchen works as well. Starting the first day of school, have them put their stuff where it belongs so they develop good habits right away.
Set up a command center somewhere in the home. There are many different ways to set up a center but I am focusing on a very basic system to start the ball rolling. The command center is a place where you can keep all of their school papers along with a calendar for the whole family to see daily activities at a glance. Label a folder for each child to deposit papers that you need to see. As soon as they arrive home from school, have the kids empty all papers out of their backpacks and into the folder. Every evening a parent should empty out the folders. Fill out any permission slips and deposit into backpacks for the following day. Any papers that don’t need to go back to school can either be looked at and thrown out, put in a separate folder to view later, or filed in their keepsake boxes. The importance of this daily routine is key to keeping the system running smoothly and only takes a few minutes each day. The command center is not a dumping ground. If you let papers build up, more than likely the frustration will keep you from using it.
Young children bring home lots of crafts and artwork weekly. It’s unrealistic to think you can keep it all. I suggest finding a place to display a few items and rotate every week or two. The items can then either be thrown out or stored. There are many ways to store artwork and keepsakes so do some research. If it's difficult for you to throw papers out, take pictures of the art before you toss it. This way you have the memory to enjoy again.
Have a homework station set up in the home. If they are young and need assistance, it may be best to set up a portable station right in the kitchen. Parents can prepare dinner while also helping the kids get their work done. However, have a quiet place set up somewhere else if they have silent reading to do. Once they arrive home from school, give them a healthy snack and 30 minutes of downtime. After that right to the books! Extracurricular activities and sports can make it difficult to stay on a good schedule so do your best to have them jump on the homework as soon as possible.
Parents can take a few simple steps in the evening to make the morning run more smoothly for everyone. Before the kids go to bed, help them pick out an outfit for the next day. Put the signed permission slips in backpacks and make sure to include any money owed. Make their lunches ahead of time or at least part of it. If they get hot lunch, make sure their account has money in it or leave money out for them to take. Have all their items gathered and in the car for after school activities. After taking these steps, if there is anything that still needs to be done the following morning, make a list. If you have a steel door leading to the garage, consider a magnetic board for reminders.
To help keep the kids motivated to do their part, use a reward system. Set up a chart for them to check off “to do’s” during the week in exchange for something special over the weekend. It can be as simple as a new pack of stickers or a trip to a favorite restaurant.
Most importantly, remember even routines have to have some flexibility so don’t give up when “life happens,” adjust and go from there. Keep in mind, the more prepared you are the less stressful change will be. If you are reading this article and the kids have already started school, don’t throw in the towel until next year. Pick up the ball and run with it!! It’s never too late to start good habits!
For ideas on command centers, homework stations, or storing kids artwork and keepsakes, check out some ideas on my Pinterest boards. Most are very simple, easy and cost effective.