No matter what we say to our children or how often we say it, when it comes to the morning routine for school it always seems to be the same: panicked, hurried and often messy.
Transitioning back to school right now is trickier than usual, so having some ways to keep back to school life simple will reduce stress for you and your child. Our tips below focus on empowering your children to look after themselves wherever possible so they form good habits that’ll last them into adulthood.
The set up
Whether it’s an old favourite or a brand new garment, getting ahead of the game and preparing for going back to school with your child’s uniform is essential. We often recommend buying a couple of each item: one to wear, one to wash and one to store. That way you can keep things simpler and avoid doing laundry every day.
Storing your child’s uniform in the same place each time, whether that’s in the airing cupboard or their room, helps them learn where they can expect to find it when they want to dress themselves in the morning. Label your child’s uniform, using a fabric marker, name tapes, or even a small colourful button or thread in an inconspicuous place. That way anything they lose will be found again and there won’t be any mix up between their clothes and uniform of siblings or friends.
Setting up certain areas of your house to make it easier for your children to get themselves ready for school helps make life simpler. Place a ‘catchall’ for each child – a plastic box or wicker basket – at key points in the house to ‘catch’ their stuff. For example, you might place a catchall in the hallway where they first get home from school and one outside their bedroom door. For older kids, this can be relatively small for their ID, wallet, phone and keys. Younger children can have a bigger catchall into which go their school shoes, school bag, books and PE kit. Teach them that’s where school stuff goes – and nowhere else! It’ll make both your lives a lot simpler when school starts.
In primary schools, teachers often stick a small picture of an animal or plant on children’s coat hooks, a different one for each child. A child get used to hanging their coat on the ‘lion’ peg, keeping things tidy when there are 30 kids running wild. At home, you can use this system or try something a bit more stylish; colour-coordinate your coat hooks, catchalls and other school items like water bottles so your kids know where to place their gear.
Depending on your child’s age and preference, they may be taking packed lunches to school (or, for older kids, snacks). Make things simpler for yourself by enlisting your children in helping prepare items for packed lunches at the weekend. Veggie sticks, dips, snack boxes and even boiled eggs in the shell can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up for a week.
The night before
We all know it’s easier to get things ready the night before rather than rush about in the morning, but how often do we do it? Making a commitment to get the majority of the school prep done in the evening makes life a lot simpler on those mornings where you want things to be as easy as possible.
A simple way to encourage this habit is to do it as a family. Get everybody – including you! – to pack their bag for the next day and lay out their uniform or work outfit. Choose your lunch for the next day, whether it’s leftovers or making sandwiches, and fill your water bottles and pop them in the fridge. If your kids see you doing it, they’re much more likely to think it’s ‘normal’ and to pick up this good habit themselves.
The morning of school
For children who struggle to get ready in the morning or get distracted, a great tip is to have a visual chart showing the routine you want them to take in pictures. Place this somewhere they will have easy access to it; the back of their bedroom door or on their bedside table. Again, they will pick up their morning routine from your habits, so try to make it consistent across the family wherever possible.
Breakfast time often means slips and spills, so to make life simpler try having breakfast before you all get dressed for the day. Kids are less likely to mess up their uniform which means less frantic rifling through the cupboards to find a clean shirt.
Before you head out the door, get your child to grab their lunch and select from the snacks in the fridge – a chart about what they’re allowed to eat on the front of the fridge is handy – and ask them to pick up their items from their catchall or colour-coordinated area.
While it can feel easier in the moment to do things for your child to make the back to school routine more efficient, in the long run this teaches them to rely on you rather than on themselves. By setting things up effectively in your household and modelling good evening and morning routines for them, you’ll be able to make life a lot simpler both today and in the future.