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It’s August which means back-to-school season is here! My tweens just got their teacher assignments yesterday and I’m busy with my new position as the Director of a preschool. It’s been interesting having one child headed off to middle school while preparing to welcome a whole group of preschoolers to their very first day of school ever and taking care of a new baby while doing it all. It will be a juggling act for sure! Since back-to-school season means busier schedules for everyone I wanted to share some hacks that I’ve discovered over the years that have worked for us. From making mornings run smoother to helping kids become self-sufficient to spending less time running errands, I hope you’ll find a couple ideas to try :)
#1 do as much the night before as you can.
Things can be hectic in the morning so do as much the night before as you can. We try to pick out outfits, get homework back in the backpacks and get the lunchboxes on the counter and partially packed before we go to bed. The less you have to do in the morning the better!
#2 start your morning routine earlier and plan to be ready or out the door earlier than you need to be.
I’ve found that my kids always need more time to get ready than I think they will need. We start our morning routine earlier than I think we will need to and, when we drove to school, our goal was to leave our house 30 minutes early every day (though school is just a couple minutes away). Most days we were out of the house on time and I treated myself to coffee on the way to school drop off. Even on mornings we were running a few minutes behind we still ended up arriving to school early. We would sit in the car talking about our day, getting in reading time, watching funny YouTube videos, or practicing math facts. It’s such a more relaxing way to start the day and even Luke’s teachers had commented in the past that he seemed calmer when he is one of the first kids at school versus when their dad would drop them off closer to the bell time and they had to rush to their lockers and class. (Sidenote… This year will be the first time in 5 years that I don’t have to drive my kiddos to school so hurray for not having to navigate the school drop-off-line! This tip still applies if your kiddos are bussed though.)
#3 have quick breakfasts ready to go for the kids (and yourself).
Am I the only one who has had a child say they “forgot” to eat breakfast right as they are walking out the door (even though said child has been up a couple hours already)? For those mornings I have cereal in a baggie ready to go and they can eat on the go. I’ve even made breakfast muffins that take 5 minutes of prep time and can be frozen so they just need to be reheated in the morning.
#4 have a snack station to make packing lunches easier (and teach older kids how to pack their lunches!)
Just a couple years ago Jacob and Lucas started packing their own lunches and it’s been wonderful. To make things easier to pack lunches (and to see when we are running low on things) we have all of the snacks in two places. We use three containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge to keep yogurts, cheese sticks and bags of fruits and veggies and a number of small bins on the shelves of our island that store raisins, portable applesauce, crackers, chips and other snacks.
#5 freeze water bottles overnight to keep lunches cold.
In place of a freezer pack you can freeze a water bottle to stick in the lunch box. It will keep the lunch cold and melt in time for a nice cool drink to enjoy at lunch. (Remember to not fill the bottle up all the way ;) lol)
#6 help kids learn routines with schedules.
Whether you use picture schedules for younger children or written schedules for older ones, schedules help keep things running smoothly. I’ll never forget the first day of school a few years ago when Jacob woke me up early in the morning to tell me he was all ready for school without me having to remind him of a thing! It was wonderful…still working on that with my 10 year old but he’s getting there!
#7 have a homework station and stock it with everything your children will need to complete projects and homework assignments.
I’ve learned over the years that children need a lot more than a pencil to complete homework assignments. Find a place in your home where you can keep everything children need at homework time- from scissors to markers to glue sticks. Make sure to have plenty of sharpened pencils there as well! Need a portable homework station? Here are tips to set up a homework caddy.
#8 simplify after-school activities with separate bags for each activity and keep all items related to the activity in the bag.
We’ve found that bags for each activity my kids are in makes it easy to get out the door because we aren’t trying to find items as we are getting ready to leave the house. A simple reusable bag or backpack works to keep everything together and we no longer have to hunt for their scouting books or the soccer shin guards.
#9 tame paperwork with a paper file.
As parents we get tons of papers on a weekly basis. Many of them have important dates and information on them. Write all dates on your calendar immediately and file the paper away in a file folder by category (school, sports, community, etc). When that activity comes up on your calendar you can find it in your expandable paper file and refer to the paper for information about location, what to bring, etc. Once the event is done you can then throw the flier away. (Real mom talk: currently all said school papers are mixed in with my mail in a basket that’s overflowing but, when I can keep up with it, this method works amazingly. Until then I just dig through the one basket lol)
#10 make memory boxes for art work, school work and other memories.
Keep a box for each child labeled with the school year and put all “memory” things in it (art work, stories, pictures, awards, etc) as you clean out their folders every day or week. At the end of the year you can go through it and decide which things you want to keep and what you can let go of. My mom made boxes for my siblings and I and I’ve loved looking back through them as I’ve gotten older- remembering everything from my first concert to my sweet 16 birthday party. Even if you don’t physically keep everything but choose to take photos of the items and store them digitally, your children will cherish the memories you have kept for them.
#11 as you commit to things add them to your calendar.
“Mommy brain” is real. I swear! lol. Make sure to add things to your calendar immediately. Don’t write them on post-it’s, count on reminder emails or think that you will remember. We already have enough on our minds as parents so there is no need to try and add a list of important dates on top of everything else.
#12 have children take uniforms off and put them directly on (or in) the washer.
Whether it’s their school uniform or their karate uniform, nobody wants to dig through dirty laundry looking for that essential item of clothing they need. I have my boys take their sports uniforms off and put them right on top of the washer so I can wash them before their next game or practice and we always know where all of the pieces of their uniforms are. No more missing soccer socks found at the bottom of the laundry basket!
#13 prepare fruits and vegetables one day a week.
One day a week, wash and cut up all the fruit and veggies for snacks and lunches and then portion them into individual ziploc bags. I know in our house our produce is likely to be eaten more often if it’s easy to ready to go. It also makes packing healthy lunches easier because all the work is already done and we just need to put it in the lunchbox in the morning. (BTW you can always make sure you have fruits and veggies in your home with Imperfect Produce delivery.)
#14 take some time on sundays to plan the week ahead.
Every weekend look at the schedule for the week coming up. Add anything you need to your shopping list (like a birthday gift for the birthday party your child will be going to or snacks for the soccer game) and plan out your to-do list. The week will run much smoother if you know what’s coming up instead of waiting until that day to see what you have planned.
#15 limit errands you have to run by doing as much as you can online.
During the school year I have so much to do that I don’t want to be spending most of my days running errands around town. I’ve found that most of what I need to do can be done online or even via my phone. Whether it’s buying a birthday gift, putting money in my kid’s school lunch account, or paying bills, there is little need to leave the house to run errands these days.
What hacks do you have to share? I could use some help figuring out how to make sure Lucas gets dressed the first time I ask and tips to keep my car (aka the place we basically live in during the school year) clean and tidy!