Are you and your family prepared for back to school? Do you feel overwhelmed during the school year?
Back to school is just around the corner, which means shopping for school supplies, preparing for extra curricular activities, events, meetings, making daily lunches, and organizing transportation to and from school.
The school year does comes with a few challenges, but it’s also a time to see your kid’s growth, development, and of course, watch him/her achieve their goals. With over a decade of experience in the field of Health & Human Services, working with families and children, I’ve seen some of the challenges that families face, many of which, can be solved with structured routines and organizing. According to the Child Development Institute there’s a connection between a well-organized home and the educational and financial success of children. I agree with this, as children learn by example through their environments, and teaching your kids to be organized at an early age comes with many benefits.
As a professional Organizer, I can tell you with certainty that effective organizing is a skill, and the process is continual. The earlier your kids get organized, the better he/she will be prepared. The following 7 tips will organize your kids for the school year and beyond:
- Create a Monthly Calendar
- Daily Routines/Planning
- Have A Buddy System in Place
- Weekly Meal Plan
- Use Clothes Tags to Organize Weekly Outfits
- Choose the Right Organizers
- Organize for Ease of Use
1) Create a Monthly School Calendar
A monthly calendar is very similar to a checklist, it allows you to see what’s on your schedule, but at a glance. This simple organizing solution keeps you and your family on track during the school year:
- Place in the hub of your home (usually the kitchen)
- Use erasable markers so you can edit and reuse it again
- Record upcoming school events, meetings, deadlines, etc.
- Discuss and go over the details with the family
2) Daily Routines/Planning
During the school week, your mornings consist of getting the kids up, fed, dressed and out the door in time to catch the school bus, and all of that can be hectic to say the least. You can avoid the chaos with a well-organized plan, and when there’s a routine in place, progress happens! Research studies from Child Development Institute says that routines build structure and consistency, which helps your kids learn better while fostering their independence.
Begin organizing your kids with a clear outlined schedule (include times, dates and place a copy in their room), go over it with each child to make sure that he/she understands what’s expected, then sit back and let your kids follow their daily morning schedule:
- Set your alarm clock 10 minutes before the kids get up for school, and use this short, yet valuable time to review your own to-do list for the day (on your digital planner and monthly calendar). This way you have a head start on your day, and with a clearer mind. Remember, you set the example, and if you’re confused, so are they.
- Label food containers with each child’s name, and as your child leaves for school they can easily grab it from the fridge, without your assistance. A simple labels is another step in allowing your child to gain independence, which also saves you time.
- Have a set time and place for homework/projects, for instance, homework is done everyday at 4 pm in the den or home office. Avoid using the bedroom, or kitchen, as these spaces are full of distractions, for example: TV, toys, iPad, posters of Justin Bieber, people talking, cooking, etc. If you don’t have a spare room to use, the living room works great too, just make sure you have the remote control.
- After homework is completed, place their Book Bags by the front door (this is part of their daily routine), hang from a coat rack, or put underneath bench seating, this is a convenient location, and the kids can grab it on their way out the door to school. Plus, bags on the floor creates unnecessary clutter that takes up space, and obstructs the flow of your entryway.
3) Have A Buddy System in Place
It’s never a bad idea to have a buddy system, especially if your child walks to and from school, it’s safer, and if they don’t have one, you won’t need to worry about making calls and plans at the last-minute:
- Pre-arrange pick ups & drop offs prior to school, for things like carpools, or after school activities. Use your child’s school contacts, as well any community or school resources, but plan ahead to give yourself time to find an alternative solution, if need be. Also, using your phone, set alerts in your digital planner with any important school dates and events, for example: Soccer practice, parent teacher meetings, etc. Why, I have this on my monthly calendar? Yes, but that’s a family calendar, and if you’re at work, but directly afterwards you have an appointment with a teacher, you could forget this without a little friendly reminder.
4) Weekly Meal Plan
A monthly calendar is useful, but so is a weekly meal plan. We all know that a healthy breakfast is essential for good health, but lunch is too, especially for active children who are running around burning energy playing outside. Afterwards, they need a recharge to keep their young minds alert and ready to learn. Children go through a variety of developmental phases, and sometimes becoming a picky eater is one of them. I have a few tips, and a couple sneaky tricks that you can try to help your kids eat healthier without all of the fuss:
- Plan in advance to save time and prevent stress. Create a weekly meal planner and place it in the hub of the home (kitchen), this will give you a clear idea of what’s on the menu for the next day, this is such a time saver! How many times have you went to make supper, and oops, you don’t have the ingredients? A weekly meal planner also provides you with your grocery list, and ensures that you don’t forget what’s needed for the kid’s lunches and breakfast. You can also prep foods like fruits that can be put in the freezer, and pre-bag foods like nuts and crackers.
- Use food containers, rather than brown bags to keep your child’s lunch organized, appealing and fresh. Many lunch containers have pictures on the front, compartments for sandwiches, fruits and veggies (and the sandwich doesn’t get squished by the apple or orange), which is better than being stuffed into a boring sandwich bag.
- Get the children involved with picking their healthy snacks, and packing their lunch container. As you know, many children love pretending to be a Chef, whether it’s in a plastic tiny kitchen, or in yours, and when you allow your kids to choose what they want to eat, it’s an opportunity to teach them about food. I understand, this could be a bit messy, but would that be surprising? Besides, a little mess presents another learning opportunity, to teach your kids how to clean up after themselves. With a few simple guidelines you can increase your kid’s independence, self-confidence, and in my experiences, they’re more likely to eat healthier foods, and make better food choices in the future. You know what they say, “Old habits are hard to break,” and these are the ones you want to them keep.
- If your child is a picky eater, try using these sneaky tricks. Disguise fruits and vegetables, the ones that your kids dislike by hiding them in various types of foods, for instance, you can mix cauliflower in with the potatoes, or blend greens like broccoli and spinach to use in salads or soups. Also, make salty or really crunchy foods, seem more sweet and soft, are you getting the idea here? I’m no Martha Stewart by any means, but you’ve heard of this common saying,”Out of sight, out of mind.” Many years ago, I worked in a Child Care Centre prior to entering the field of Human Services, and as part of their nutrition guidelines (set by the Department of Child & Family Services), a healthy structured meal plan was required. During that time, I discovered through a fun food activity, to turn undesired foods into creative food characters, for instance, place grapes on a plate for the eyes, apples slices for the nose, and pieces of a banana for the mouth, of course you can be as creative as you like. Food characters can make meal time fun for kids, mainly because they’re creating it, sharing and comparing their new food friend, for instance, I heard them say, “My sandwich has grapes for eyes,”and the other child will say, “Well mine has a strawberry for a nose.” Do you see how this is another learning opportunity?
5) Use Clothes Tags to Organize Weekly Outfits
Organizing is a continual process, and once you’re organized, it’s much easier to remain that way. A structured routine will have you and your kids, out the door in the mornings before you know it:
- Plan what outfits your kids will be wearing for the entire week, you can make it fun, kids love that, and allow him/her to choose on their own clothes (even the ones that don’t match). You might be thinking, oh no, this could be a task! Yes, it could be, but it’s also an important skill that he/she will need as they grow into adults, so why not start them early? Once their outfits are ready, apply clothes tags labeled with each day of the week, and place the tags over the hangers (use string or a hole puncher). This simple step saves you from doing it every morning, and when your kids wake up, they can easily get dressed independently. Sounds like a win, win to me, how about you?
6) Choose the Right Organizers
The school supply list contains specific items that you must purchase, and although you can’t shorten the list (although that would be nice), you can reduce the load on your child’s back, by organizing their school supplies correctly. What are the right organizers? The ones that save space, increase efficiency, and hold a variety of items, for example: Pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, rulers, etc., can all be placed in one organizer, like the one in the illustration above. This will also make it easier for him/her to use a variety of supplies at once, without cluttering their desk with several cases. Do you see why certain organizers are useful?
7) Organize for Easy Access
Organizing your kids for school, includes packing their Book Bags for the first day of school, and since it’s easy to overload their bags, your kids‘s Book Bag should be relevant to their size, and packed lightly. The best way to measure this, is to have your child put it on in the store to determine the right size, for instance, if your child is 5 or 6 years old, a bag that reaches the back of their knees, is too big. You might be thinking, why is that a big deal, it’s only a Book Bag? Yes, but all Book Bags are made differently, come in various sizes, and have different organizers, some built-inside, while others are on the outside, separated by several zippers. I can’t tell you how many times I observed children in elementary schools, struggling to carry their overloaded bags. Just think about what they have to carry: Food, clothes, footwear, music equipment, school supplies, and possibly a favourite toy; that’s a lot, don’t you agree?
To avoid this, separate and organize the supplies using the right organizers, then make neat piles and place into the bag. If you don’t do this already, have your kids try it on once it’s loaded up, this gives you adequate time to return it and get another one before school starts. Bottom line, a trendy colourful bag is cute, but it has to function too.
Now that you and your family have the tools to prepare you for what’s to come, you can enjoy the school year instead of dreading it.
Photo source: Cliparts.co