It’s time for the kiddos to go back to school! Are you ready?
I always loved preparing to go back to school. I was one of those nerdy kids that loved to learn, but also it meant a shopping trip with my mom to get school clothes and school supplies and lip gloss! Then I would dump out my haul on the floor of my room and proceed to sort and organize and take off the sticky labels so I could fill my well-worn backpack for the first day (which was usually still a week away!). I’d plan my first day of school outfit–it had to be just right–and usually I’d go on to plan the rest of the week’s outfits. It was the fresh inspiration of new possibilities. The chance to reinvent yourself over the summer. It was so much fun!
Follow these tips to reduce school-related stress and frustration. A little planning and organization can help turn this school year into a success!
TIP #1 DECLUTTER AND INVENTORY CLOSETS
Before you pack everyone up for that exciting back-to-school shopping trip, go through your kiddo’s closet and drawers to make sure they’re organized and well stocked.
Start by setting aside outgrown clothes and shoes that are still in good condition to donate or save as hand-me-downs for your younger kids.
Involve your kiddo in the process so they can try on anything you might be unsure about – can we say, summer growth spurt!! They may also have opinions regarding colors, textures and patterns. Sometimes last year’s favorite outfit can be ‘not cool’ for school anymore. You want them to feel confident in who they are and who they are becoming.
Once you’ve gone through everything, take an inventory of what items your kiddo has, and make a list of items that are lacking. Remember to check outerwear if you store that in a separate location. Keep this simple. Kids don’t need a ton of clothes! They grow too fast for that. They really only need enough to form outfits for a week. Think versatility. One item of clothing should be able to be worn at least 3 ways.
Now you can take the kiddo clothes shopping with your list. If you have several kiddos, it’s worth considering taking each kid out on their own (if it’s logistically possible) to really make them feel like this is a special process and that they have your undivided attention. This is a terrific bonding opportunity!
Once the clothing/shoe haul has been de-tagged and washed, encourage your kiddo to create their ‘First day of School Outfit’. I’ve always encouraged my kiddos to express themselves the way that brings them joy, so even at a young age I encouraged them to wear what made them feel confident and powerful. Of course the outfit needs to pass a final parent inspection so that it’s not breaking any dress codes or is wildly inappropriate (ahem: a bikini, slippers and fairy wings), but if it can be played in safely, doesn’t offend a marginalized group, and bolsters the kiddo’s confidence, then it usually passes. Keep the lines of communication open and be respectful of their feelings and opinions and you’re off to a good start! Try not to take your kiddo’s choices personally. What they wear is NOT a reflection of you, it is a reflection of them.
TIP #2 SET OUT EVERYTHING NEEDED THE NIGHT BEFORE
School day mornings can be stressful and hectic for all involved, so the more you can do to plan ahead, the better.
I like to mount a wall hook in the bedroom to hang the outfit for the next day. Sleepy kiddos aren’t the fastest decision makers. Therefore, it saves time and stress in the mornings by deciding and setting out everything, even accessories, the night before. That also means teaching the kiddo how to check the weather forecast to have appropriate outerwear and shoes ready. This really empowers them and reduces the morning struggles, because these are things that they chose for themselves and it provides some control in their life.
If your children are also participating in extra-curricular activities (sports, dance, music, martial arts, etc.), organize their equipment and make sure you have everything that’s required. Decide with your kiddo on a designated place and keep a bag packed and ready to go. Train your kiddos to put dirty uniforms and gear straight into the laundry so it can be washed and ready for the next practice. Kids as young as 8 can learn how to care for their own belongings, so this might be the year they learn to wash and reset their own sports bags. Having systems in place can prevent the dreaded “MOM! I can’t find my cleats!!” For younger kids you can print out a photo of what’s needed for each activity so they can reference it and pack up their own activity bags. It becomes a treasure hunting matching game!
TIP #3 SHOP LAST YEAR’S SCHOOL SUPPLIES
One thing I noticed was that the school supply lists get longer every year! It’s been my experience that there are usually quite a few things left over from the previous year. So before you go shopping, collect all of the supplies in your home and see if anything can be salvaged and reused. It can save you money and reduce waste. If you live in the US you can usually find the school supply lists for each grade on the school or district website. If not, the big box stores like T@rget or W@lmart usually have kiosks with the lists for local schools printed out.
Once you have your list and you’ve shopped your stash, then you can go out and purchase whatever is still on the list.
TIP #4 CREATE A FAMILY COMMAND CENTER
Once school and activities are in full swing, it’s more important than ever to keep everyone in your family on the same page. Setting up a large calendar in a common space like your kitchen, hall or entryway, can help you keep track of everyone’s schedule, activities and days-off. Complete the center with a clock, some hooks for coats and backpacks, maybe a white/blackboard to write reminders or the dinner menu and a basket for pens or markers. I recommend using a different color for each family member, so it’s easy for them to see at a glance what they have going on the next day. This is a perfect place for key hooks and a mail basket so important things don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Part of the command center should also be a set of folders, bins or boxes that can be used for school forms and papers. (You’d think by now we would have everything digital, but no, schools are still stuck in 1980.) Label one FROM SCHOOL and the other TO SCHOOL. If you have more than one kiddo you will need a set for each. Teach your kiddos to drop off any paper correspondence that needs a parental review AS SOON AS THEY GET HOME! Make it part of hanging up their backpack and taking their lunchbox to the kitchen to be emptied. (I know it’s not just me that hates having to find science experiments in their backpacks. Gross.) As a parent you need to check the bin and fill out what needs your attention then move the papers to the TO SCHOOL bin. Teach your kiddo to check the bin on the way out and take the papers back to school. With a little practice, this can be an extremely effective method that can be used all the way through high school. Lost permission slips and what-not are a thing of the past!
For more inspiration check out this awesome command center (below). I love how this mom personalized the space with each kiddos’ favorite superheroes!
TIP #5 SET UP A STUDY ZONE
Whether your kiddos are attending school, doing virtual learning or homeschooling, they will need a designated area to study.
Decide on a space in your home that works for your kiddo. Depending on their age and how much assistance they require, this spot could be in a common room, like at the kitchen table, or at a desk in their own room. Provide adequate lighting (no mole eyes!), supportive seating, and a stable work surface at a minimum. The area should be free from distractions yet have easy access to what they need. For example, if they are using a laptop then proximity to a power outlet is a must! If they need to do creative work then a space to spread out and tools within reach can increase efficiency. If a dedicated desk space isn’t possible, consider using a small shelf, cabinet or rolling cart to store all the supplies needed to do their work nearby. The goal is to get them working in an ergonomic set-up with a table and chair instead of working from their lap or floor. This way they establish good habits, can properly work on their handwriting and have room to spread out all their materials.
With a little advance planning and organization, back to school this year will be a breeze!