It’s that time of year again: when your house is overrun with backpacks, school jumpers, cardigans, colored pencil sets, and brand-new lunchboxes. The back-to-school season can be hectic for everyone, whether you have younger school children or not, but especially for parents of kids in the younger elementary age bracket who sometimes still need you to find their shoes for them. As a parent, you’ve probably heard plenty of advice on the best ways to optimize your child’s schedule and your own for as smooth a transition into the busy fall season as possible. We’re not here to tell you what you already know, just to offer some tips on the sneakiest hacks that your favorite parenting blogs may have left off.
1. Pre-Made Lunch Materials
You’ve all seen the thousands of cute little bento box ideas on Pinterest for making kids’ school lunches quick, easy, and very compartmentalized. You still have to take the time to put each of those items in each of the little containers, however, and sometimes you just don’t have time for that in the mornings. Instead of trying to portion each day, consider meal prepping ahead of time. Make a bucket of cheese sticks, a bucket of sliced oranges, and a bucket of washed grapes in little baggies, so that making lunches turns into just cramming a bunch of pre-packed sections into a lunchbox. The best part? Kids can do it themselves. (As long as you’re checking to make sure they aren’t eating only cheese sticks for lunch.)
2. Plan Outfits Ahead of Time
Avoid the lost sock brigade and take outfit planning to the next level by planning a whole week’s worth of clothes at a time. A hanging closet organizer can be used to lay out five days’ worth of clothes at a time, folded in neat stacks, one outfit per cubby. That way there’s no indecision about what to wear, everyone always knows what shirt goes with what pants and nobody wastes time looking for socks.
3. Ikea is your friend
Setting up a coat hook and shoe cubby organizer and enforcing a “jackets and shoes stop at the door” rule can eliminate a lot of lost accessory confusion before it even begins. IKEA has an endless variety of nifty organizers for every space, whether you’re expanding on an existing coat closet or have no entryway at all. If shoes go on the shelf as soon as you get home, the odds they get lost in someone’s bedroom decrease dramatically.
4. Breakfast matters
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it has to take a long time. It’s okay to not make a 3-course homestead breakfast every single day. You can make 14 egg and cheese breakfast bagels on Sunday evening, stick them in the freezer, and lo and behold, you have ready-made breakfast for at least two kids (or yourself), every day of the next week. Want more variety? Overnight oatmeal can be made the night before, homemade breakfast tacos can also be frozen, and you can add any variety of meats and veggies you like!
5. Stay on top of your schedule
When your schedule is changing, you can’t write it down in enough ways. Whether you prefer all your appointments and extracurriculars for the kids on your phone, or a wall calendar plastered to the inside of the front door, making sure that everything gets written down is the key to not missing anything. Ideally, it would all get written in the same place, but sometimes sticky notes are a close second. Don’t rely on your memory when you’re so oversaturated with new information—write it down so you’ll know it when you need it!
As you’re just trying to stay one step ahead of the kid’s schedules, remember to take a deep breath and keep calm. Soon you’ll have everyone settled into their normal routine, and you can take a step back and relax.