The last days of summer…time to get in one last day at the pool, one last after dinner trip for ice cream, and one last morning without anyone asking “Mom, where’s my ….?” while you frantically repeat “We’re going to be late!” and shove handfuls of chips and fruit into little plastic bags. It’s going to be here before you know it, so kick back and enjoy these dog days of summer.
Do just enough to make sure you have clean clothes and easy lunches to pack for the first few days the kids are back in school. Let yourself enjoy the end of summer! Take a few school days to see what the new year’s routine will actually be. The kid who had no homework last year may have a full backpack every day. The child who used to happily wear whatever outfit you laid out the night before may decide you have no fashion sense. Or, maybe, just maybe, (fingers crossed) this is the year they would rather pack their own lunches. Give it a few days and see what your school day routine will be like this year. Then, tackle that mountain of ziplock bags, coats, shoes and overflowing backpacks.
When organizing for the new school year, focus on maximizing your kid’s independence while cutting down on the prep time and clutter for you. A few more sips of coffee and a few less trips up and down the stairs is always a good thing.
Getting the kids up and dressed…
If you have an older kid, you probably don’t have much to do with his or her hygiene or high fashion besides hoping they are up and making progress behind that closed door. If you have younger children, there are a few things you can do to help them accomplish as much as possible on their own. A message board hung in their room can display the morning routine to make sure teeth are brushed (before getting dressed so that clean shirt isn’t splattered with toothpaste stains), hair is tamed and the right clothes are on (remember, today is gym day!). You can take it as far as selecting matching outfits, right down to the socks, for the whole week using a hanging closet organizer with pockets for each day of the week. I like to roll the dice, though, and see what my kids come up with on their own. That is, after I pack away all the too short shorts and make sure that pajamas are clearly separated from the rest of the clothes! Nothing ruins a morning faster than a battle over whether something is “fingertip length” or not. As for the socks, I don’t even attempt to match them. I just throw all the kids’ socks in one bin by their shoes. Good enough!
Getting the lunches packed…
If you have a picky eater, a child with food allergies or a degree in nutrition, you are probably packing lunches at home. Even though I happily eat the same lunch every day, I somehow feel my kids require a variety of lunch options throughout the week. In reality, this just ends up with more rejected open hummus dips and gogurts leaking into the lunchbox (why won’t they just throw it away?) So, my advice is to keep it simple. If they love only turkey sandwiches, pack only turkey sandwiches! You will save time, money and sanity not trying to come up with new ways to present the same foods(turkey wrap, turkey and crackers, turkey cut into the shape of a turkey with cheese and celery feathers.) Have a few options on hand for fruits, veggies and crackers and call it a day. Or, buy a thermos and pack last night’s leftovers for today’s lunch. I’ve had great luck with spaghetti, pulled pork and mashed potatoes with cheese. Just make sure to preheat the thermos with boiling water for a few minutes, and the food will stay hot until lunch. If your child wants to pack their own lunch, you can guide them into making healthy choices. Buy a few clear plastic bins, load them for the week with portioned out fruit, veggies and crackers and tell the kids to pick one of each every day. A water bottle loaded with ice keeps lunch cold and delicious. A little food prep the weekend before can pay off huge!
Getting out the door on time…
Shoes, bags, coats and sports gear can begin to take over your entire home if you don’t have a good place to keep it all. And, the best place is right by the door you leave through each morning. If you have the space, a separate area for each kid can help avoid the arguments caused by (heaven forbid!) reaching past each other or even (gasp!) touching. Shoe organizers, hooks for hanging backpacks and sports gear, a shelf for musical instruments and extra school supplies and a hanging rod for coats will help keep gear in its place and easily visible. If space is an issue, a few hooks and a shared shoe rack will do the trick, but it might be a good idea to have each kid get his or her coat and shoes on and a separate time.
Getting ready to do it all over again…
The after school rush can make mornings seem easy breezy in comparison. With school activities, sports, homework and separate pickup times for each kid, there can be more to do than there are hours left in the day. Once you do make your way home, most of the stuff ends up being dumped in the kitchen and dining area. So, it makes sense to have a dedicated space for dealing with the stuff right where it lands. Keep a family calendar either on a wall, the fridge or a cabinet door and update it daily when you go through the permission slips, assignment notebooks and school newsletters. Have a tray or file folder to put important papers in to deal with either at the end of the day or over the weekend.
A dedicated spot for homework and school supplies lets your kids find what they need themselves, or at least lets you answer “It’s in the homework center” every time they ask where the glue sticks or paper are. If you have the space, a dedicated computer armoire or desk is ideal. But, if space is an issue, you can make a portable homework station that can be easily removed from your dining room table or kitchen counter when needed. Having everyone work at the kitchen counter or dining table lets you be close by for help (and to make sure the computer isn’t being used to watch reruns on nickjr.com instead of researching the state birds of the west) while getting dinner made.
After all the homework is done and the school forms are filled out, take a minute to repack them in the backpack and hang it back by the door you will leave from to start a new day. One less thing to track down in the morning means one more sip of coffee for you!
Check out our pinterest board for great ideas to get your home back-to-school ready. Here’s to another great school year!