Which of these describes your family during the school year: forever forgetful or totally tardy? Or, like many families struggling to balance school kids and working parents, is the answer a resigned “both?”
Whether you have one little angel or a baseball team’s worth of miscreants, the struggle is the same. How do you get out the door on time AND make sure everyone is dressed, fed, clean and carrying everything they’ll need for the next 8 hours?
After a long day, how do you keep your kids focused and organized until homework is done? How do you stay afloat in a sea of paperwork and extracurriculars?
Do you want to make this school year easier and more successful? Use these tips to create an organized routine that will keep you prepared and on time.
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Create a Routine (and Write it Down)
Create a written list of before-school to do’s for your kids to follow. Include items such as: make bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, pack bag, etc. For kids who are too young to read, make their list using pictures to represent their task.
Personalize how you use the lists:
- Keep them on the fridge and mark completed tasks with magnets.
- Frame the lists and use dry erase marker to check the glass.
- Teach kids to complete the items in order, or let them go in whatever order they choose.
Expecting kids to transition from no routine to a strict routine on the first day of school is asking for trouble. To keep kids from getting whiplash when school begins, make a modified schedule for summer.
Take the Guesswork Out of Getting Dressed
Who wants to spend 16 minutes picking out an outfit each morning? Streamline your family’s morning routine by planning the week’s outfits in advance.
Set aside time each weekend to help your kids pick their outfits for the week. Let older kids complete this on their own and check in once they’re done to make any necessary vetoes. Younger kids love a bit of fashion autonomy, but may not take weather or activity or practicality into consideration. Keep them involved by picking a few extra outfits and letting them choose which they’ll wear.
Hang outfits on hangers and use a special marking system so they don’t get overlooked in the morning shuffle. Try using different colored hangers or labeling them with washi tape.
Don’t Leave Lunch to the Last Minute
Whether your kids buy or pack, you can complete most lunch prep ahead of time:
- For kids who purchase lunches, have them pack their lunch money the night before, so it isn’t forgotten in the morning rush.
- For packed lunches, do as much as you can ahead of time. Decide on your lunch menu when making your weekly meal plan. Portion snacks, fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Designate one spot in the fridge and one spot in the pantry for lunch supplies. That way you only have a one-two stop when packing in the morning.
Meal plans and reliable storage habits also make it easier for older kids to take over responsibility for packing their own lunches.
Dedicate a Homework Zone
Teachers assign, on average, 2.9 to 3.5 hours of homework a night. Help your kids stay focused, manage their workload and stay motivated by creating dedicated homework zones.
Find the spot that works for your kids and stock it with all their homework needs. Fill it with all the basic tools: pencils, glue, calculator, paper, etc. By stocking one designated spot, you cut down the mess, confusion and wasted time. No more wandering off to get a pencil and getting distracted by the TV or family pet.
Hours of homework isn’t always fun, so design a space that will keep them inspired. Pick appealing storage, hang maps and photos, or decorate with an inspiring quote. My quote wall is my favorite wall in the house, and the stickers are also a great use for labeling bins.
Keep a book of brain teasers, riddles or fun facts at hand for when they need a break. Don’t forget to make sure all their hard work makes it out the door: dedicate a spot for backpacks and school gear as well.
Manage Paper With Color
Color coding is a simple but effective paper management tool for families with multiple kids. Follow these easy steps to launch your system:
- Start by assigning each child a color.
- Get two folders in that shade. Keep one folder where parents can easily find and reference it: filed in the office, in a drawer in the kitchen, a wall organizer by the door. Papers that are information only—that don’t need to be returned to school—go straight into that file.
- The second file is for papers that need to be signed or returned, and should spend most of its time in your kid’s backpack.
- It should come out once a night to be reviewed and signed, then go immediately back in the bag.
- For younger kids, be sure to pick a file that zips, snaps or bands shut, so they don’t have to worry about papers falling out.
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A well-maintained calendar is the simplest way to keep you sane and organized.
Take advantage of modern tech and pick a hardworking calendar app. Color code schedules, set reminders, sync calendars with your family and, if possible, import the school’s calendar to your own. To help younger kids, keep a large calendar where they can easily check it and use sticker or color codes to help them keep track of important events.
For each hour of change to their sleep schedule, kids need one day to adjust. Use a calendar to help schedule a gradual change so they’re fully adjusted by the first day of school.
Once you master these basic time savers, start adding personal touches that meet your family’s specific needs. And remember, what’s good for the gosling is good for the geese. Many of these time-saving tips and organizational tricks can help you streamline your personal routine as well.