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ABC’s of Getting Kids Ready to Go Back to School

A is for Advance Planning

  • Do as much as you can the night before. Make lunches and pack non-refrigerated items into lunch bags or backpacks, sign permission slips and gather anything needed for show & tell or special projects.
  • Designate a space for the child to do homework where there are no distractions, and keep the necessary supplies right nearby – in a cupboard or portable caddy. Schedule homework time in the afternoon or after dinner so there is no last-minute rush do deal with it in the morning. (As far as timing goes, each child is different – some need downtime right after school; others would be happy to get their work finished and “over with” as soon as possible.)
  • Watch the weather report and choose appropriate clothes the night before. Have the clothes hung on a closet door or other designated spot, so kids can dress themselves without searching for a matching sock or favorite shirt.
  • Encourage an easy breakfast routine by setting the table for breakfast the night before. (Plan too what that breakfast might be with no short-order cook requests allowed!)
  • Purchase multiples of often-used school supplies, then store them in a central “supply closet” so there is no need for a last-minute trip to the store for something like glue or markers.

B is for Boxes, Bags, Baskets & Backpacks

  • Routines are essential to keeping the clutter contained. Kids should come home and place their “stuff” where it belongs right away – which parents should help designate using anything from a shelf to a box, basket or cupboard. Having “homes” for stuff makes it easier for kids to comply when you say “Put your stuff away!” (Where is “away” anyway?)
  • An OUT box and IN box or folder for each of the kids and parents may be just what’s needed to keep papers in order. Homework goes IN when kids get home, and OUT when they’re finished. Permission slips go IN to a parent’s box to be signed and then put in the child’s OUT box. Every morning (or the night before) the child needs to take items from his/her OUT box, rather than searching all over the house or asking a parent during the morning rush.
  • A basket or cubby system with each child’s name on it can hold accessories such as hats or gloves. You can even designate a special hook with a child’s name for their jacket and backpack to go. (Remember too that a hook or rod placed at the younger child’s height lets them hang their coats/jackets themselves, giving them wonderful training and accountability for taking care of their things.)
  • Kids can be clutter magnets especially when it comes to artwork or special assignments that you or they want to show off or save. Contain the paper in a box – as cheap as an unused pizza box that can hold lots of large artwork. Or you can purchase a portfolio or frame to store or display prized artwork long-term. Either way it’s best to review the saved items every quarter and (if old enough) have your child pick and choose his/her favorites to save.
  • The same is true for graded papers. Instead of hanging every masterpiece or “A” assignment on the refrigerator, designate an Award Wall with enough room to display just a few items at a time. (Try the Li'l Davinci Frames for a classy collection.) Rotate the winner every week or two, and put the old one in the pizza box, portfolio or trash/recycle bin. (Yes, it’s hard to toss, but good to practice now and then. It helps to take photos of the child holding a prized piece before tossing.)
  • Weekends are a great time to have kids clean out their backpacks. This is a great time to discard forgotten trash (such as a smelly banana peel) and prevent the pack from being overloaded. Moms can join in the fun and clean out their purses at the same time!)

C = Coordinate using calendars, color-coding and communication

  • A well-managed family is one where each family member can be accounted for – so it’s essential to have a one-stop family calendar with EVERYBODY’s activities, whether it’s a field trip, babysitting job, school play or business dinner for mom or dad. When you see everyone’s comings and goings on the same page, you can more easily coordinate pick-ups, drop-offs, dinner plans and more.
  • The family calendar might also help you see when things have become “overly scheduled” in which case maybe it’s time to “schedule” a day off for Family Night At Home.
  • Another way to keep things coordinated, esp. in families with multiple kids is to make sure you color code school supplies for each child. Rather than stocking up on 6 red notebooks, consider getting 3 red and 3 blue, so child #1 and child #2 can get the notebook that’s theirs without even reading the cover or looking inside.
  • Color-coding can also be used for accessories, such backpacks, gloves, hats and scarves. Pick the same color (e.g. green) for the child each time, or at the very least, just be sure every “twin” item is “different” and can be identified for each child (e.g. purple and pink hats; striped and dotted gloves).
  • Best of all, communication is essential to keeping kids organized. Get them in the habit of telling you what you need to know about upcoming events, tests and projects. Like many other things, being organized takes practice, so accept that some things will fall through the cracks now and then. Just remember that kids are students, and it’s their job to make some mistakes and learn from them! (And provide parents with some teachable moments as well.)

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