Set yourself up for back-to-school success
I don't know about you, but bu the time August hits, I'm ready for fall. Ready for back-to-school, ready for cooler temps and the return to routine. But the reality is this: Getting ready for back to school takes some work. There are things to do to get the family, the house, and ourselves ready for all that back-to-school season brings with it. Here, I'll give you some tips and tricks to help you set yourself up for success during this busy transition time.
It's about setting up systems.
One of the biggest reasons things get out of control during back-to-school times is lack of systems. Things go missing, forms don't get filled out, lunches are forgotten, buses are missed -- you know the story. One of the best things you can do to avoid these chaotic moments is to set up systems in advance to keep things moving in the right directions. What these systems look like will depend on your family's needs, dynamics, and schedule, but here are a few ideas you can use as a jumping-off point.
1. Create a lunch station
Mornings are too chaotic to be scrambling for lunch boxes, water bottles, and other lunch-packing supplies. Wherever possible, create a lunch-packing station that allows you to keep everything you will need to pack your children's lunches in one spot. This includes the lunch boxes, plastic containers, thermoses, plastic cutlery and even grab-and-go snacks that can easily be thrown into their lunches. That way, everything has a place and the lunch-packing process can go much more smoothly. This is especially helpful if the user packer of lunches is down for the count for whatever reason (back-to-school also brings with it cold and flu season). Another person in the family can easily take over this task without having to hunt for everything they need.
2. Do as much as you can the night before
Anything you can do the night before to ensure smooth sailing in the morning is valuable. There are so many things you can do the night before to get yourself up for a smooth and successful morning. You can:
Pack (most) lunches
Although there will be cases when packing a lunch the night before doesn't work (in the case of hot lunches, for example) there are going to be lots of days when you can pack at least some of everyone's lunch the night before. Most things will keep just find in the fridge overnight, and preparing lunches the night before can be a huge time saver for the morning
Set up the coffee pot (because, coffee)
If you're like me and go to sleep at night dreaming of that first sip of coffee that's to come in the morning, get your coffee set up the night before. Get the coffee pot filled up, set out your mug (including your travel mug if you are taking one to go) etc. Even if you have a pod-based coffee maker that doesn't take much time in the morning, taking the time to find your favourite mugs and get everything ready the night before will save you a lot of time in the morning, especially when you're dangerously undercaffeinated.
Lay out clothes for the next morning (for mom and dad, too!)
Choosing clothes the night before helps to cut down on time and chaos in the morning, big time. Not only will everyone know what they are wearing the next day, you'll be able to ensure that everything is washed and ready to go for the next day. School picture day at the kids want to wear their favourite outfit? There will be no tears and frustration when it's discovered that you forgot to wash those very important shirts the night before.
Be sure backpacks are packed and ready to go (homework packed, notes signed, field trip money packed, etc.)
Don't bank on the fact that you'll remember to sign that permission form in the morning (and you know you've waited until the last day to sign it). The night before, ensure everyone has what they are going to need for the next day. This includes things like gym clothes, musical instruments, after-school activity items, etc. Be sure to check the calendar to find out what's going on the next day (you DO keep a calendar, right?) so everyone knows what's required.
3. Create a "launching pad"
One of the best things you can do to keep your family's mornings moving smoothly is to create a "launching pad" for your family. This will look different for every family depending on your needs and schedules, but essentially a launching pad is a place where everything "lives" that will be needed for your family members to "launch" in the morning. This includes backpacks, coats, shoes, cell phones, briefcases, etc. All those things that we need to remember to grab on our way out the door in the morning. By having one central place for all of those things, you can see at a glance what is missing the night before, and ensure that everything is ready to go for the morning. Having one place for all of these things also encourages family members to form the habit of placing their items in the designated spot, saving those "Mom! Where's my _____?" moments on those bus school-day mornings.
4. Make the whole family accountable
Repeat after me: There is no law that says you have to do it all yourself. I know that this can be a challenging notion to accept as parents, particularly as women, but there is no rule that says you have to do everything yourself. Make everyone accountable for a part of the process. Even kindergarten students can do their part by ensuring they hang up their backpacks are hung up (in the launching pad area, please!) and bring their empty lunch boxes to the kitchen to be washed, etc. By giving everyone accountability, you not only take some of the onus off of yourself, but you instill good habits in your children by making them responsible for a part of what needs to be done.
5. Set up bedtime routines
Of course, successful mornings start with smooth bedtimes. It's important to establish bedtime rules and routines that help everyone get the kind of high-quality sleep they need to be on their game the next day. This will help prevent oversleeping (which inevitably leads to rushing), cranky moods, and forgotten tasks. Setting up bedtime routines will help everyone get up and hit the ground running in the morning!
These are just a few ways you can help your school-day mornings go more smoothly. It's about creating systems, forming habits, and having everyone pitch in. There's no doubt that weekday mornings are busy, but with these tips you can send everyone out into the world more effortlessly.