It is hard to believe that summer is coming to a close, but the fall and school season is fast approaching. Our son will be beginning his first year of preschool this year and we are both excited and nervous. How nice it has been to not be on a schedule and to be able to lounge around in our pajamas, yet at the same time I am looking forward to having some time on my hands to tackle those projects that have been looming before me all summer long.
I remember the hectic mornings of my youth with three children in our parent’s house. I remember the constant fight over the bathroom, the rushed breakfast, our poor mom driving us to school every single day, and the frantic sense of urgency that we all had to get to where we need to be. I hope that with a few of these organizational tips that you can avoid those hectic mornings and be able to really sit down and enjoy that cup of coffee before your hurried day begins. Here are a few of my ideas for staying organized during a more stressful part of your day.
Much of the stress in our lives can be avoided if we can plan ahead and this is the case with returning to school. Usually the teachers send home with your children a list for what will be needed for the next school year and it is important to get all of the required items as well as several back-ups for later during the year. Take advantage of all of those back to school sales with the huge bins of notebooks, loose leaf paper, and pencils and stock up. Designate a spot in your home, which is accessible to the children, for storing all of your back up supplies. Be sure to check your local dollar store as well for the pricier items that your child will need in order to get started for the year. You will be very grateful when the spring rolls around and you do not have to make another trip to the store and pay higher prices for the same items later in the year.
Next, label, label, label. Everything will need to have your child’s name on it and you will be glad that you labeled your child’s items when another child accidentally brings them home with them. You can write your child’s name in permanent marker on belongings such as backpacks, lunch boxes, gym shoes, and other fabric items. For notebooks, pencil totes, and books it might be a good investment to purchase a self-stamping rubber stamp with their information on it or purchase address labels. A good place that I have found to get these is ChecksUnlimited and they offer a wide selection in different styles and fonts.
Be sure not to miss the child’s Back to School night and introduce yourself to their teacher. Be involved in any capacity that you can whether it is room mother, volunteer teacher, or just to help on those field trips. Not only will your child be grateful, but you can establish a relationship with the teacher and open the doors of communication. Remember that if you do not have a wonderful first impression of the teacher to reserve this information when you are around your child. Your negativity can rub off on them and immediately start the year off on the wrong foot.
Clothing Wars & Other Battles
Around the age of two or three you will start to see your child developing their own opinions on what looks good and what does not. Maybe looking like a “fashion don’t” isn’t of any concern to them, but it might be a concern to you on your child’s picture day. It can be a true battle of wills, but there are ways to help your child choose their own clothing with your help.
Invest in a five compartment sweater organizer and use the top one for Monday, the second one for Tuesday, and so on. On Sunday evening have your child help you plan the clothing for the week. Preset everything down to underwear, socks, barrettes, whatever you can do to help make their morning easier.
For younger kids, preset their combs, brushes, toothbrush, towel, and toothpaste so that they can quickly get ready in the morning without you getting everything out for them.
Be sure to have purses, briefcases, coats, and backpacks waiting at the door ready to go for you so that you don’t have to rush around getting everything together in the morning. You will be grateful when you don’t have to spend twenty minutes looking for that one paper or your keys when you are already rushed to get to where you need to go.
Much can be said about meal planning not only for your hectic morning, but also lunch preparation can be particularly cumbersome when you are trying to get your children to school on time. The supermarkets offer a variety of food that is both unhealthy and pricey, catering to the harried parent who doesn’t think that they have time to be creative. You will waste a lot of your money by buying these convenience and individually sized items. Instead of buying these, look for foods that are nutritious and which will offer your child the nutrients they need for energy to get through their school day. Buy large packages of crackers, cheese, milk or juice, carrots, celery, and other healthy foods and start by dividing these large packages into small lunch-size portions in baggies. Keep these baggies in a Rubbermaid container and then just grab them and drop them in the lunch boxes in the morning. Save your used yogurt containers and refill these with the boxed pudding or Jello that you can make large batches of for a fraction of the cost or refill them with yogurt from larger and less expensive containers. Instead of purchasing juice boxes or individual milks, fill a thermos with the drink of your choice. For younger children you can dilute the juice so that they are not getting too many empty calories. Be fun and creative with lunches and a little note to your child (or your husband for that matter) will really make their day and remind them of how special they are to you. By preparing these meals the night before, you will save yourself some time in the morning.
With that being said, don’t forget to offer your child a healthy breakfast in the morning. It is proven that children perform better on tests and have less health problems later in their life if their day is started with a healthy breakfast. Have a variety of foods on hand such as fruits, whole grain cereals, whole grain bagels, and other healthy foods on hand that your child can prepare for themselves. For the more motivated mother, you could even prepare large batches of French toast, waffles, or pancakes and then freeze them in individual portions for your child to zap in the microwave in the morning. I like to do this on Saturday mornings when I have more time on my hands to really prepare a nice morning brunch and just make tons of extras for those days during the week when I have less time.
Preset your table with silverware, bowls, and plates the night before. Place cereal and other breakfast items on the table where they are accessible to your child to help prepare their breakfast in the morning. Also make sure that your dishwasher is empty the night before so that you can immediately move breakfast dishes to the dishwasher avoiding a sink full of dishes to come home to after your busy morning.
Papers, Paper and More Papers
The beauty of your children’s craft projects from school will wear off if you are saving every single picture and drawing that they have done. Save yourself the loads of clutter by allowing your child to help you pick their most favorite projects for saving. Invest in a couple of inexpensive frames for their bedroom and reframe these periodically with their beautiful artwork or choose one picture for the refrigerator or front of one of your cupboards for saving. By allowing your child to help you choose, they learn the importance of weeding out paperwork.
It is also smart to create an area in your file cabinet or a plastic file crate for your child’s papers and report cards. Have them help you with labeling the folders or decorating them with stickers that they have chosen. This will give them a sense of ownership of their work and also teach them the importance of filing their own papers.
As a parent, your child will be bringing home lots of papers that require your reading or signature. Designate a spot in your home for an inbox and outbox for these papers. Label them clearly for your child and instruct them to unload their papers into the inbox. It also helps if you can create a box for them for their own room where they can put their own homework in that they need to do for the evening.
For papers such as emergency contact sheets, permission slips, and immunization records which come up frequently during the school year for field trips and sports, it is a good idea to invest in photocopying these documents and keeping them in a file for yourself so that you don’t have to constantly be signing and writing the same things over and over again.
When you get papers on bake sales, field trips, and other school events, be sure to immediately transfer these dates onto a calendar. If you have more than one child’s events to attend, assign each child and family member a color for their events. It will make it easier to see that it is Susie’s concert that you need to attend and not Billy’s. Buy a calendar that has plenty of room in it for all of your information and by immediately putting this on your calendar in a neat and organized way, you will have less chance of missing those important events. Consult your calendar first thing in the morning so that you know exactly what you need to do for the day.
Don’t forget to set aside some time in the evening for your child to work on their homework. By setting aside time in the evening you will not have to be trying to complete homework pages first thing in the morning. Take the time to check your child’s work and discuss their homework with them. If you have no idea what they are doing, bluff your way through it or run over to the internet and see if you can figure it out. Trust me, our parents did it- we just really believed them.
Now you truly can enjoy that cup of coffee, your morning paper, and your smooth morning.