Phew, wasn’t summer great? – sleeping in, playing until dusk, swimming in the backyard, going to bed late. But now, all of a sudden, summer is over. In the blink of an eye a new school year is under way and reality hits a little too quickly and abruptly (even with a helmet!). That means it is time to get back-to-school and into daily routines- early, hectic mornings become the norm, the kitchen table transforms into the new desk area, and keeping all the kids’ extracurricular activities in order seems like an impossible task.
With proper preparation, getting back into the swing of a daily school routine doesn’t have to be one big nightmare. Skip early morning arguments, irritation, and dawdling with these tips to help your family get back into the groove of school. Before you know it, school won’t seem so bad and your activity-filled days will fly by like clockwork. Okay, okay, maybe not, but it’s okay to dream a little.
- Take Time to Transition- Up to two weeks before school starts, begin to enforce an earlier bedtime. Reinforce this new curfew with earlier wake up times as well. Mom and Dad: this might be more of a transition for you! Make sure to get yourself ready before you wake up the kids. Seeing Mom and Dad ready for the day teaches your kids the importance of preparation and presentation.
- The Night Before- Establish a nightly routine before bed. Allow your child 30 minutes to get cleaned up and ready, set out clothes for the next day, gather up any straggling homework papers and school supplies, and organize backpacks for school. As they prepare, Mom and Dad can make lunches for the next day. This will drastically cut down on hectic, last-minute prep time in the morning, and your child will be less likely to use the “My dog ate it” excuse during the school year.
- Lists, lists, lists!- Like the list we take to the grocery store, comprise a list of each children’s back-to-school necessities such as uniforms, a backpack, pencils, pens, and paper, binders, notebooks, and a lunch box. Stay organized by asking your son to cross each item off his personalized list as he drops items in the cart. Invest in your own day planner, accordion file, and notebook paper to stay up-to-date with schedules, important school dates, parent-teacher conferences, dentist and doctor appointments, and store coupons.
- Speak Positively- Positive reinforcement is key to establishing daily routines that stick. Take time to greet your daughter each morning with a big “Good Morning!” smile and kiss. If necessary, remind her of the obvious (lunch, shoes and socks, and brushed teeth) in an upbeat way.
- Whiteboard Station- Designate a small wall in a high traffic area of the house. Mount a whiteboard or tape up a big calendar where each child’s activities and pick-up times are easy to read and color coated. Teach your kids to get into the habit of checking the board each morning before they run out the door to start their day.
- Stock the Pantry- Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy snacks your kids can grab to refuel on the go. Yogurts, apple and veggie slices, cheese sticks, 100% fruit and veggie juice boxes keep for a long time in the fridge. 100 calorie popcorn bags, pre-bagged dry, healthy cereals, and dried fruit and nut packs are all great in-between meals found in the pantry.
- Meal Makeovers- After the kids are dropped off at school take time to plan tonight’s dinner. Transfer frozen meat to the fridge to thaw. Set aside veggie and whole grain ingredients you will need to make a quick, easy meal the whole family can enjoy together. Planning ahead will not only limit fast-food consumption, it will also help your children to foster healthy eating and conversation habits. Make time to sit as a family for dinner and your kids will love sharing the activities of their day with you.
- Homework Hour- Designate one to two hours of quiet time right after dinner for the kids to finish up their homework in a studious environment. Sit with them to monitor productivity and answer any questions they might have.
By Elizabeth Schroeder