Beat the Back-to-School Blues
It’s that time again. Believe it or not, one day us parents will miss the chaos of school supply lists, filling out forms, and all of the other back-to-school tasks. But when you’re in the thick of it, back-to-school (and the rest of the year) can be
stressful. Putting systems in place can help set your family up for a successful (and less stressful) school year. Here are some systems that I think every family needs.
#1 Incoming Papers:
A system for incoming papers is probably the most critical system for elementary-aged kids. Find one spot for each student to put their papers. (Preferably close to the backpack storage. More on that to come.) For elementary students, we recommend a larger document box or empty drawer. You can also use a paper tray or folder to collect all of the incoming papers that don’t have to go back to school. Sort through them regularly (weekly or monthly depending on volume) and recycle anything you don’t want to keep permanently.
For papers that you want to keep, make sure they have your child’s name and grade on them. Have one spot for each kid's keepsakes. We recommend a file box with a folder for each year.
What about those papers that need to go back to school? Designate a visible spot for students to put those papers as they're unpacking their backpacks. Try to tackle them immediately and get them back in your child's backpack as soon as they're complete!
Speaking of backpacks…
Use hooks or a basket to house backpacks when the kids are home.Try to find a space close to the door. This makes it more likely that they will end up there, and easier to grab on the way out the door.
Create a routine where they empty their backpack as soon as they get home. Have them pull out any homework materials or paperwork and put them in the designated spots. Have them take lunch boxes and water bottles straight to the kitchen sink or dishwasher. Once a week, have them clean out everything. Don’t forget about all of the extra pockets! Dump out goldfish crumbs and candy wrappers, and check for forgotten teacher notes and assignments!
Bonus tip for elementary kids - include cleaning out your child’s pencil box or pouch in the weekly routine. Replace dried-up markers and glue sticks, and any other missing or on-their-last-leg supplies.
#3 Lunches & Snacks:
Create zones in your kitchen to make lunch and snack preparation easy for you and/or your kids. For younger kids, have them help pack lunches and snacks. Make older kids responsible for their own (although you may want to make sure they’re not just packing chips and cookies!)
Put lunch boxes, food containers, and water bottles all in one place. If possible, make it a low cabinet or drawer that smaller kids can reach. Make space in your pantry and fridge for lunch and snack foods. By having these items in one place, your kids know what’s on the menu and where to easily find what they need.
Make sure lunch boxes, water bottles and non-disposable food storage are labeled with your child’s name. Give the lunchroom helpers a break by packing utensils and napkins!
For the most efficient lunch and snack prep, have everyone chip in once a week to prep ahead of time. If your kids struggle to get out of the door in the morning, pack snacks, lunch boxes and fill water bottles the night before so they can grab and go!
Have a designated area for each child to do their homework. The best place will depend on your child and household. To figure out what will work for your student, think about the following. Do they need a space completely free of distractions? Can they stay focused if they’re alone in their bedroom? How often will they need help or direction from a parent? Depending on your answers, the best spot may be their own desk or the kitchen table.
No matter the space, make sure they have enough space to spread out papers, books, and their computer. If their workspace is in a family area, put supplies in a cabinet or on a cart nearby so that running out of paper or needing to sharpen a pencil doesn’t completely derail their efforts. If they have a space in their bedroom, have the needed supplies in their desk.
A routine time to do homework each night can set the expectation so you’re not constantly badgering your kids to get their work done. Some kids need a break after school and some might work better while they’re still in the school mindset. Just don’t wait until late in the evening when they’re tired.
For long-term or recurring assignments (like reading) have a family calendar or have your child put reminders in their phones.
#5 Library Books: I don’t know about you, but we’ve had to pay for at least one missing library book. To make sure library books don’t disappear into the abyss, put a basket to hold library books in the area where your kids do their reading. Put a reminder in your phone (or your kid’s) with the due date!
#5 Extracurricular Activities - Sports Equipment, Etc.:
If your kids are involved in extracurricular activities, there’s even more stuff to keep up with. That may mean sports, music, art, service, or more than one of these. To keep track of the equipment or supplies they need, have a second bag specifically for that activity. Keep it in a spot that makes it easy to grab on the days they need it.
Have them unpack and clean any items that need it each day when they get home. Have them take their uniforms straight to the washing machine. Repack as soon as it’s clean so it’s ready to go. (Have smelly athletic gear? If possible, designate a spot in the garage to leave the bag open to air out!)
I know that having these systems in our home makes the transition back to school, and the whole year, easier even as they’ve gotten to middle and high school. Now if I could just make getting them to pose for the first-day-of-school pic easier…
Our Favorite School Supplies
We love this document box for storing kids' incoming papers to keep.
This backpack held up for YEARS.
We love these machine-washable lunch boxes.
These stacking water-bottle holders are a game changer.
These carts can be rolled into a corner or closet when not in use.
Use drawer organizers to organize desk drawers.
This decorative basket will look great anywhere and hold plenty of library books!
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