Parent Hacks for Back to School Mornings

“Where are my gym shoes?”

“I don’t want to eat that sandwich for lunch today.”

“I am NOT wearing that to school today!”

“Who took my math book?”

“I can’t log in and I don’t know the Wi-Fi password.”

If any of these questions sound familiar on a busy school morning, you know it’s that time again – back to school. Whether your children are home schooling, taking virtual classes, attending in person or some combination, the entire morning cadence changes with the start of the school year.

My children are in their early twenties and there were only two of them (a son and a daughter) and I fondly recall the early morning rush when school was in session. Isn’t it interesting how we look back with nostalgia on times that perhaps weren’t that enjoyable in the moment? When your children are small, the days go by slowly and the years go by quickly. True that, right?
Here are a few hints and tips that might help smooth out that morning routine.

Start the Night Beforemom packing backpack

The number one helpful is hint is Start the Night Before. I found so many frustrations, tears and indecisions were prevented by spending 20 – 30 minutes the night before getting organized.

  1. Lay out the clothes for school the next day the night before. My son would have worn the same t-shirt and shorts every day, but my daughter had very specific tastes in her clothes. We made a pretty hard and fast rule that what was chosen the night before (unless there was a drastic weather change, of course) was what would be worn to school the next day.
  2. Pack the backpack the night before. That means finding the favorite pencil, the calculator, the signed permission slips, the gym shoes – it is all packed the night before.
  3. Locate every item that goes with your child to school – coats, gloves, hat, shoes, backpack, lunches – my husband is very organized and he always says, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Perhaps there is a space in the mudroom or garage that can be the loading station before they head out the door. In the winter, we would put their gloves and socks on the mitten tree by the wood heating stove – they were warm and toasty when the children were ready to head out into the cold.

Create a Calendar

Make sure to keep the school’s calendar posted somewhere prominent. You can also keep it on your phone and set up reminders to upcoming events. However, a large, printed calendar is very helpful. When is pajama day? When is the book fair? When is the field trip – is there a form that needs to be signed or funds that need to be sent?

Prep Ahead for School Lunchesfamily packing school lunches

If you are packing their lunches or eating at home during school breaks, get children involved. Talk about the categories that comprise a healthy lunch (sandwich or wrap, veggies, fruit, protein) and let them go to the grocery with you – one child at a time if that makes it simpler. I used to put four categories in the fridge, and they could choose one item from each category. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were always a favorite.

Make a Chart

My son used to be very pokey, and then in was a rush at the late minute. So we made a train sticker chart for each morning chore that needed to be done. There was a small reward at the end of the week for completing the chart. I do recall one time I told him, “You are running late – you had better fly.” And my daughter, who was three at the time, looked at me and said, “But he doesn’t have any wings.”

I also found, as the parent in charge of the morning routine, that the first words out of my mouth set the tone for the morning. So instead of “If I have to tell you one more time to get up…” I said something like “Did you know the weather is going to be just spectacular today,” and started the day on a positive note.

Make Breakfast a Priority

The next hint I found hard to follow, but very valuable. Get up early enough to have a nice, sit-down breakfast. I am not talking omelets to order, necessarily, but set the table, sit down together and eat a healthy meal before they start a busy day of playing of learning. A bowl of granola with fruit and yogurt is a nice, simple, stick-to-the-ribs breakfast.

You know your children the best so this one might not work for you – I found after school they needed some time to unwind, play, have a snack, etc. I would have preferred to crank out the homework and the “get ready for tomorrow” routine before dinner, but for them play time, then dinner, then chores, worked the best.

Good luck and keep smiling!

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