Back to School Hacks for Every Parent

It’s that time! The day every parent either dreads or adores…the first day of school. Some parents are sad to see the summer end and others are so stinking excited to get the kiddos out of the house. Maybe you are feeling a little of both?

My three darlings are almost grown. Well, the oldest is completely adulting at this point – she’s twenty-three. The next one starts the University of Texas at Austin in just a few weeks. Yikes! And my baby is going into her junior year of high school. Wasn’t it just yesterday that they were all in elementary and middle school?

Back to school time can get really stressful. There’s so much to do while still trying to enjoy the last days of summer. Our school starts on July 31 this year. So early!! With just one week to go, I thought it would be a good idea to share some tips, tricks, and hacks that will make your back to school season as stress-free as possible.

  1. Get back on your routine BEFORE the first day of school. You might have been letting your little ones enjoy late nights all summer. Please don’t wait until the night before school starts to re-establish a firm bedtime. Start at least one week in advance. If they’ve been up really late, slowly dial back the bedtime. 9:00 pm one night, 8:30 the next, etc. until you reach your desired time. Do the same for mornings. If they’ve been really sleeping in late, start waking them up a little earlier each day. Give their body clocks a chance to reset without a huge jolt.
  2. Know how much sleep is age appropriate for your child. Hell hath no fury like a sleep-deprived child! Calculate bedtime based on what time your child has to wake up every day. Here’s a great post from Parent magazine that will tell you just how much sleep children need from birth to age 12.
  3. Stock up on lunch and snack supplies. Grocery stores know we are all getting ready for the same thing. So, guess what they put on sale to lure you in with the hopes that you will impulse-buy a bunch of other things? Pick up plenty of snack items, sandwich bags, and lunch items. Bonus points if you use coupons on top of the sales to really save money.
  4. Organize your lunch and snack supplies. One of the biggest time-savers for my mornings was to have lunches that were easy to put together. I would set aside a couple of hours, gather lunch meat, bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Then, I made several loaves of bread worth of sandwiches. I packed each one in a sandwich bag, then filled up one of the empty bread bags with the packed sandwiches. The whole bag went into the freezer, labeled with the type of sandwiches that were inside. In the morning, I just tossed a frozen sandwich into the lunch box with a couple of side items (fruit, veggies w/ranch, chips) and the frozen sandwich kept the lunch cold and it thawed out by lunchtime. For snacks, pick a kitchen drawer, a container in the fridge, and/or a basket in the pantry and fill it with snack-sized items. Store the rest of your snack stash elsewhere and let the kids know these are the places they should go for their snack. (Bonus tip: When making peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, stir the peanut butter and jelly together in a bowl first. Then, you only have to spread one thing on the bread instead of two. Time saver!)
  5. Organize the kid’s closets. Separate school clothes from play clothes. Toss, donate, or sell clothing that has been outgrown or is worn out. For really young children, here’s a great way to ease up your morning: Grab five shoebox-size plastic bins with lids from the dollar store. Place one complete outfit in each bin (underwear, socks, shirt, pants/shorts/skirt, or a dress). Label each bin Monday through Friday. Voila! Worrying about getting dressed is a thing of the past. If your children are old enough (age three or more), don’t label the bins with the day of the week and let them choose one bin each day. They love the independence of choosing their own clothes and you can rest assured that they will choose an outfit that is appropriate for the weather and it will actually match.
  6. If you don’t have a family command center, make one now. What’s a family command center? A centralized location where all important information and items are stored for daily use. It can contain a chore chart, a calendar, a place for backpack storage, homework supplies, a dinner menu board, hooks for hanging keys/purses/coats. I found this list on the11best.com. You guessed it – the 11 best family command centers. There are some really great ideas that look super cute, too.
  7. Use a dinner menu board. This one is a life-changer. How many times have you come home from work, opened the fridge or pantry, and stared at it? Were you hoping a meal would raise it’s hand and say, “Cook me! Cook me!”? Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. There are tons of great ideas for menu boards. If you’re really frugal, like me, you can make one with a picture frame from a thrift store. In addition, you’ll need a can of paint; a pretty piece of scrapbooking paper or wrapping paper (go very easy on the print – you will want to be able to read the words you write over it); and a whiteboard marker. Paint the frame and insert the paper under the glass. Print out the days of the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.) in a pretty font on your computer. Glue them onto the scrapbook paper and insert it in the frame. Voila! Use the whiteboard or dry erase marker to write your daily menus. On Sunday evening, I spend a few minutes looking at what I have in the fridge and freezer. I map out my menu for the week and make a list of anything I need to pick up at the store. It is SO much easier to prepare dinner when there are no decisions to make. I just walk in the door after work, look at the board, and start cooking. Life-changing, I tell you. Even though my kids are almost grown, I still do this. Now, if I could just figure out how to get back all those hours I stared at the fridge before my menu board days.
  8. Plan a weekend getaway after school starts. Your family will so look forward to a special weekend. It will take everyone’s mind off of the flurry of back to school activities if there is a date set for a mini-vacay. Even if it’s a staycation and you just plan on doing something different in your own hometown. Give your family that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
  9. Plan ahead for teacher gifts. Quick, while all the school supplies are ridiculously cheap – go ahead! Pick up some extras that you can put in a cute package and give to the teacher during the holidays or Teacher Appreciation Week.

I hope these tips will encourage you to enjoy back to school season with a little less stress. What things do you do to make it easier on your family?