Welcome to Fall, a season punctuated by crisp, early mornings filled with cries of “Where are my soccer cleats?” and “Mom, I can’t find my library book!” as the mad rush to get out the door begins.
Help yourself out with a few of these organizing tips that will make the return to school a smooth, seamless and shouting-free transition.
1. Create a Command Center
Use a command center to provide big, bright visual cues. From a family calendar to this week’s spelling words, making the information visual gives your child the ability to be in control of it. Choose a central place in your home where your children can see the calendar and easily reach the designated places for their art or school papers. Ideally, the kids should be able to see it while eating breakfast or dinner so they can mentally prepare for their day without the need of repeated verbal input from you.
Visual cues are proven to work with all children, and are especially useful for children with special needs. Psychologist Katherine McCalla advocates for the benefits of visual aids, explaining in this Washington Post article how writing things down to provide children with visual cues works extremely well for all kids.
Try not to let the command center get too cluttered, and avoid the temptation to put your entire work schedule on the calendar. Keep it simple and clear. Color-coded entries for each child help them see what’s on their schedule, and recurring entries for things like sporting activities and library days at school help keep you on track, too.
2. Make Morning Sticks
Continuing the visual cue theme, these morning chore sticks are an ingenious, easy idea that helps gamify your child’s morning routine. Simply write four or five steps on colored popsicle sticks. Use different colors for each child and pop them in two containers, one labeled “To Do” and the other “Done.” Whichever child gets all their sticks in the “Done” jar firsts gets a special reward. In my house, it’s the chance to press the garage door button as we drive off to school!
3. Craft a Chore Chart
Writing chores down in a chart and allowing your child to take action when they complete each one is a proven motivator and driver for success.
In our home, we have our “regular,” non-compensated chores as well as “extra” ones the kids can earn money for. Each chore envelope has an IOU slip in it, and when they complete the chore, they get to put the slip in their personal envelope. When they’ve saved up enough for an item they’ve wanted or a trip to the movies, they can cash them out.
4. Build a Backpack Station
End those precious minutes spent each morning searching for a book, shoe, backpack or jacket by investing in a dedicated “cubby” for your child. Even if it’s as simple as a hook or two or as elaborate as these custom-built lockers, the concept is the same: a designated place where everything school-related needs to go before bedtime, meaning it can easily be found in the morning.
5. Designate a Sports/Activities Closet
If the backpack station gets cluttered up with leotards, soccer cleats and other paraphernalia, it will become useless. Instead, designate a section of a communal closet in your home to all this extra-curricular gear.
When you do the laundry, put sports clothes straight into the activities closet and direct your children to put their gear there when they come home from the various activities. This way, you’ll never be late to a soccer game because you couldn’t find those cleats. One way to prevent this cupboard from becoming its own cluttered mess is to use a hanging organizer to corral shoes, shin guards, shorts, socks and other accessories.
6. Have a Homework Station
It’s important to be organized when you come home to set you up for success the next morning. The first thing on everyone’s mind when they get home is homework—either doing it or getting out of it!
Creating an organized, attractive and central homework station is a real lifesaver. At the core of a homework station is a supply caddy—something where all the pens, pencils, crayons, tape and glue can be reliably stored and accessed. You’ll also want a space for library books, school books, folders, extra paper and file system for storing older work.
If you don’t have a lot of space, a homework cart is a really great solution. It’s something that can be rolled around and pulled up to the kitchen table when it’s time to work. The best option for something like this is a traditional kitchen cart. Look for one with a built-in drawer, or simply throw a few baskets on the shelves to help keep everything tidy and organized.
How do you keep your family organized on those busy school mornings? Share some of your tips in the comments below.
Jennifer Tuohy is a busy mom and a stickler for using strong organizational techniques to keep her household running—well, mostly—smoothly. Jennifer writes her organization tips for The Home Depot from her home in Charleston, South Carolina. You can research a selection of wheeled tables that can be of value in better organizing your own home here.