Supplies have been purchased and stashed in the new backpacks, shoes two sizes bigger than last year are in the closet, the first day outfits have been selected, and the camera is ready to take the commemorative back to school photo. At my house, we’re ready for the first day of school. If you are anything like me, though, you are also always looking for ways to make the actual school year less frantic. So, here’s hoping these 7 back to school tips will mean more calm and less crazy for your household, too!
Back to School Tips and Tricks
1. Stock Up – Our school started this handy-dandy way to get all of the school supplies the teachers want and the kids need. You just purchase supplies in a kit that is delivered to the school on the first day. So easy! Throughout the year, though, the kiddos will have projects that will require markers, glue, scissors, and every other school supply imaginable. I am always sure to grab whatever I see that is on sale (or buy extra to keep at home when making the supply run), and the bonus is that if it goes unused teachers are extraordinarily grateful for the later in the year supply donation!
2. Everything In Its Place – Those extra supplies have a special spot in our house, as do backpacks, shoes, and anything that has to be signed, returned or remembered. Sure, there will be a brief time when you feel like the ultimate nag, reminding everyone in your house where everything goes. Believe me, though, conditioning everyone in your family to put things where they go is definitely worth it to avoid the great shoe search when the bus is at your doorstep. At my house the backpack (and eventually jacket) goes on the hook, their folders go in the basket, and their school shoes go under the bench as soon as we walk in the door. They do the same thing in their classrooms, so if you aren’t doing this already you’ll be amazed at how quick they catch on!
3. Establish a Routine – My kids are not good in the mornings (neither am I). My daughter is a sleepyhead, and my son has trouble getting motivated. So, they each have a dry erase board on their bedroom door with five things to do – and each requires a check mark in the mornings. They are simple tasks – brush teeth, brush hair, get dressed (including shoes and socks), eat breakfast, pack a snack. We usually only keep up with actually checking things off in the first few weeks – and after that it becomes routine. Having the reminder, though, helps them get back into that routine after a lazy summer, and ensures that they are basically ready for each day.
4. Give Them Responsibility – We have a drawer in our kitchen that the kids call “theirs”. In it are things like muffins and pop tarts (because four people trying to get out the door at the same time sometimes necessitates that being breakfast), granola bars, popcorn, and goldfish. Before last year I would pack each child a snack and more than half the time it would come back uneaten (because they had decided they no longer liked what had previously been a favorite). So, it is now their responsibility to pack whatever snack they choose, from the drawer each morning. They like being able to pick, and I like that it is one task off my plate.
5. Gather the Gear – When the kids were little we kept a separate diaper bag in the car for emergencies. Now that my kiddos are older, we no longer need the diapers and bottles, but there is certainly a lot of gear to keep up with. More often than not I am racing from work to pick them up from school and take them to a practice or a game, or some other activity that requires us to bring something. Cleats, pom-poms, shin guards, balls, gloves, bats, play clothes – they are all in a bin in my car. This method means that the kids are often required to suit-up while I’m driving, but also means we are much more likely to have what we need and know where it is! I even keep game jerseys, hats and socks in the car – just in case.
6. Simplify – Everyone has those things that drive them crazy, and others that they can live with that would make someone else insane. I know my laundry habits would drive some people batty. Clothes are not put away until the weekend. Separating colors and whites never happens, and my children know to look for their favorite shorts in the basket beside the dryer. If laundry isn’t where you prefer to pare down during the week – maybe you would rather eat on paper plates and cut down on dishes, or let the dust bunnies gather a bit longer. Either way, there is probably some bit of housework that it is worth it to you to simplify to give you back some time!
7. Prepare for the Worst – My daughter had lice 3 (THREE!) times last year. Other children had colds they just couldn’t shake, or mystery viruses that meant multiple days out of school. Most of these things are largely unavoidable, but it never hurts to do what you can! Encourage hand washing at every opportunity, attach anti-bacterial vials to their backpacks, use tea tree oil and mint spray on hair, and make sure kids know that sharing is good – but not when it comes to hats, scarves, or drinks! I saved this for number 7 in hopes that it would bring good luck – but it wouldn’t hurt to do some advanced prep, and cross your fingers too!
Shellie Fossick is “mom” to school age boy/girl twins. She is also the Development Director for a non-profit organization that provides high quality early care and education for more than 400 low-income children in Middle Tennessee. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two children. To read more of Shellie’s Twiniversity articles, click here.