By Emily Hajec
Back-to-School. Three little words that abruptly seem to change everything. In what can feel like an immediate shift, suddenly those weekday summer camps, neighborhood BBQs, and evening bike rides come to a screeching halt. And it’s back to routine, schedule and-for many families-hectic mornings trying to get everyone out the door on time.
If you are like many parents, getting to school and work on time can be a real challenge. More so, doing it in a calm, collected, and stress-free way is an even bigger trial. But we all have one thing in common: None of us want to start the day frazzled and rushed- kids included. So here are five proven parent hacks for back-to-school that will surely help ease the morning madness of Monday thru Friday.
1: Lunch Prep
We all have heard this time-saving tip time and again: MEAL PREP! Yet, why does it seem like such a daunting task come Sunday? Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t have to be! Setting aside even one hour on a Sunday to meal prep for the week can save serious and unnecessary hurry on those busy weekday mornings. Plus, getting the kids involved with the meal prep makes it a fun family activity and builds independence! Just turn on some upbeat music…and get preppin’! Create a sandwich assembly line and make all the lunch sandwiches for the week—don’t be afraid to mix it up, too (nobody wants PB&J every day of the week—boring!). Take out all the fruit for the week to wash, chop and pack in reusable containers. As a tip, fruits like grapes, strawberries, and blackberries wash well in advance without getting soggy or brown. Or include peel-able, non-prep fruits like bananas and oranges. Purchase larger “family size” bags of chips, crackers, and nuts as opposed to single, individual “snack size” bags—this saves money and cuts environmental waste. Then simply portion the snacks in reusable containers during your meal prep. This truly will save so much time in the mornings during the week, and you will feel like a super parent for being so prepared!
2: Organized Outfit Hangers
Is it just my kiddo, or are all 6-year-olds so indecisive when it comes to choosing an outfit for the day? Seriously! It’s like watching a teenager get ready for their first date night—how many times can a person change their clothes in a single morning? Jeesh! If your child has a difficult time picking out their clothes and you find it’s hindering the morning flow, the solution is simple. Instead of waiting until morning to choose the day’s outfit, get organized the night before. Implement an outfit hook (or several hooks for multiple days) where the next day’s clothes can be hung in advance. Have your child pick out their outfit the night before, and hang it on the hook (even the socks!)—this will cut a ton of time (and parental frustration) come morning.
3: Chore List
Most young children need prompts to help them along. However, this can get a bit trying for parents to have to constantly be reminding them over and over, day after day. Instead, help your child create a morning chore checklist (hint: kids love whiteboards!). Especially for those first few weeks of back-to-school when everyone is still needing a little reminding, a visual to-do list can come in handy. Be sure to have your child draw the prompts themselves, so they can refer to the list and know what it is that they still need to accomplish that morning. Brush hair and teeth—check! Fill water bottle—check! Feed Fluffy—check! A little checklist can go a long way. And—I promise—kids will love being in charge and checking chores off their list.
4: Backpack and Jacket Station
Convenience, organization, and accessibility are everything when it comes to out-the-door success! Create a place to hang backpacks, jackets, keys, and hats that kids can easily reach, is right near the front door, and has room for everyone’s belongings. Tossing the day’s things into a big heap on the floor may feel like the quick fix when you get home from a long day, but this will only cause more stress the next morning when nobody can find what they need and nothing is organized. Bolting a horizontal coat rack to a nearby wall is a quick and timesaving fix!
5: Turn Off the Screens
This is true for both parent and child. To limit the distractions, tuck that phone away, Mom and Dad! For the hour leading up to leaving the house, make it a habit to turn off your phone or put it out of sight. Don’t be tempted to check and respond to texts, emails or social notifications—it will only get you off task and distracted. The same goes for kids. Many kids have a difficult time mentally transitioning from screen to reality. So, while it may seem like a good idea to simply hand them the iPad so you can get those last few chores completed, instead try giving your child a look-and-find activity, word search, or some other stimulating book or brain-teaser activity to keep them occupied. This will also help get their minds in gear for the upcoming classroom activities. Screen time is never a good idea in the morning whether child or adult, so get in the habit of not making it a habit.