50 clever back to school hacks that make life easier
We're all trying to juggle so many things when it comes to parenting a school-aged child. And if we really think about it, it wasn't always like that. Compare your childhood to that of your child's and I bet you'll find a huge difference in how many things you and your parents tried to achieve.
We either need to pull back on the ridiculous expectations we’ve set for ourselves and our children, or we need to streamline the way we do things to buy ourselves more time and headspace. Personally, I’m all for trying to do both. Here are 50 ways to get things started.
Lessen the lunch load
1. Menu plan the lunch boxes
Plenty of us have become good at meal planning our family dinners (what a relief that is, right?), but how many of us plan the weekly lunch boxes with the same amount of zeal? Instead we are left floundering on school mornings, wondering if we can get away with yet another Vegemite and cheese sambo / apple combo. Plan what you’re going to put into the lunch box each week, shop the ingredients and see the tip below …
2. Dedicate space for lunch box food
In the pantry and fridge, add a plastic container that can house all of the food you’ve bought especially for the lunches. Not only will this save you time when it comes to putting together the lunch boxes (just pull out the containers and start making), but you can also slap on a ‘hands off’ note and hopefully guard your carefully-planned treasures from wayward snacking children.
3. Cut off the crusts
If your child doesn’t like crusts, cut them off. One day they will eat them, but until that day, cutting them off means they will eat more of the sandwich and you can use the crusts to make breadcrumbs (if you were so inclined).
4. Freeze a wet sponge
Freeze a clean, wet sponge inside a resealable bag to use as an ice pack before lunch and refreshing face cleaner after lunch.
5. Stick on some googly eyes
A pair of googly eyes makes anything fun, so save yourself the terror of packing an elaborate bento box and just stick some eyes on your kid’s banana, juice box, sandwich wrap, etc. instead.
6. Add a lunch box note
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a little love letter in every lunch box is more likely to result in the lunch being eaten. This may or may not be true, but it’s still a lovely way to say hello to your school kid, especially in the early days of ‘back to school’ angst.
Standard lunch hacks every parent can use:
7. Pack the lunches the night before and store in the fridge or freezer.
8. Slice an apple, put it back together, secure with a rubber band – no brown!
9. Freeze drinks and they’ll double as an ice pack.
10. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches and freeze them in Ziploc bags. Put them into the lunch box frozen and they’ll be ready to go by lunch time.
11. Use a straw to punch out a strawberry stem.
12. Check out this cool mandarin segment hack by JewelPie.
13. Pack leftover dinner into tubs and serve cold in the lunch box (you can also get Thermos containers to serve food warm if you’re keen).
14. Roast an extra chicken on Sundays and shred it to use in the lunches throughout the week – make a bunch of sandwiches and freeze them (see tip above!).
15. Pack a lunch box for yourself when you pack the kids’.
16. Have two sets of any plastic containers you need for packing lunch boxes – that way you can make the lunches the day before when the kids are at school.
17. Trace around your kids’ feet
If you can’t bear a trip to the shoe shop for the school shoes, simply trace around each of your child’s feet – and take just their feet with you instead. Measure from ground to the top of their foot too.
18. Use a school list service
When it comes to purchasing the school supplies, do it on-line. This means you can just enter the stationery you need and they’ll select and pack all of the stationery items on your school list for you and deliver it at an appropriate time. School supplies shopping, sorted!
19. Add a ‘post office’ to your child’s school bag
You can get an over-sized zippered pencil case or a document folder to keep in your child’s school bag. Label it ‘post office’ and let your child know that in his role as official post person, he needs to make sure that mail is delivered successfully between home and school at all times. All mail should be delivered via the post office, not scrunched up and thrown into the bottom of the school bag.
20. Add a ‘homework safe’ while you’re at it
A pencil case or document folder in a different colour can be exclusively for homework coming home or going back to school. They can keep their homework schedule in this folder too.
21. Print on some Post-It notes
Watch this tutorial by Tatertots + Jello to learn how to print on Post-It notes on your home printer. Use the Post-Its as star charts, chore chats, lunch box printables and personalised messages.
22. DIY a homework stationery caddy
Add paper cups to the holes in a muffin tin and fill them with leads, pencils, markers, rubbers and sharpeners. The kids can move the tin to wherever they are doing homework (returning it back to its rightful place when they’re done, of course).
Handy uses for school supplies you might not have thought of …
23. Make a neat phone camera tripod / stand out of a binder clip.
24. Add a strip of clear contact paper over name labels for extra stick.
25. Use a three-tier letter tray as an electronic devices rack – you can stack all kinds of devices ready to charge.
26. Use sticky-notes to clean along your keyboard keys (oh, the gunk down there!).
27. Stick a little pretty washi tape around cords and label them with a Sharpie.
28. Use a paperclip if you break the zipper-pull of your children’s school bag.
29. There are actually more uses for a paperclip than you can imagine!
30. Write the routine down
Instead of pretending you’re a voice recording, try writing down your children’s morning school routine. Kids are actually really great at following a list if you give them one.
31. Use a timer
It’s amazing how motivational a simple countdown can be. You can use the microwave or oven timer, your phone or even buy a dedicated timer. Setting a five minute countdown for getting dressed in the morning speeds things along nicely. Slow eaters also benefit from a ticking clock (although give them plenty of time because indigestion at school is to be avoided).
32. Take a picture
If you want to start encouraging the kids to pack their own bags, tidy their own rooms, make their own breakfast, etc., take a picture of ‘best practice’ so they know what’s expected of them. This is especially good for helping them put things away – kids never remember where things go. Organise their things perfectly, take a snap, pin the photo up in the general area and instruct the kids to use the photo to match up where things are supposed to live.
33. Blu Tac some pegs to the fridge
If you stick some pegs to the fridge, you can quickly clip notes and new artwork up where you can see them. Magnets are great, but often the weight of the paper makes the pegs slip down the fridge. Blu Tac will hold everything up nicely. You can decorate your pegs with washi tape, Sharpies or paint.
34. Add a shoe rack to the top of the desk
You can make a neat stationery shelf for homework on your children’s desk using a shoe rack. Allocate a shelf to each child to keep homework and supplies neat and tidy. Mark each child’s shelf by writing on a binder clip and then securing the clip to the shelf.
35. Make a reminder bracelet
If you really need your forgetful child to remember to do something during the school day (give a note to her teacher, go to his music lesson, go to Sam’s after school, etc.), write the reminder on a strip of coloured paper, tape over it with sticky tape and then wrap it around their wrist as a bracelet, securing with sticky tape.
36. Transfer school notes to the calendar straightaway
Read the note and then write the event on your calendar immediately. Take a picture of the note using your phone and store it in an *Evernote file so you can refer back to the original note if necessary. (*Download the Evernote app).
37. Sort the calendar
Every home needs a BIG calendar that lets you write in lots and lots of activities. If you don’t have a calendar that has a different area for each family member, organise things using coloured washi tape for each family member. Give each person a washi colour or pattern, add a strip of their washi tape to the date and write their activity on top of the washi. That way everyone can see at a glance whether they have something on that day or not.
Everyday organisational tips we can all use:
38. Hang school bags on hooks behind the front door.
39. Get everything ready the night before and set up a morning ‘launch pad’ that houses everything needed to get out of the door.
40. Make a healthy breakfast super-speedy to prepare: here are loads of good ideas.
41. Car pool with other parents in your neighbourhood, or start a walking bus.
42. Allocate a cupboard just for school uniforms to keep everything in one, accessible place.
43. Build a really simple flip-down wall desk for each child’s homework. Once done, flip the desk closed. Click here to see how it’s done.
44. Make up Go bags to simplify after-school activities that way they will always be ready for that quick afternoon transition.
45. Have the kids read to you while you put on your make up.
46. Keep a separate hamper for school clothes so you can keep them together throughout the wash cycle.
47. String up a clothesline in the study for the kids to hang their artwork. Every other month, they can pick their favourite to keep.
48. Buy the kids an alarm clock and put them in charge of their own mornings.
49. Give up on ironing – the uniforms are generally creased to oblivion before the kids leave the house anyway.
50. Use a sticky Velcro patch to temporarily fix a dropped hem; apply clear nail varnish to stop a run from spreading; wipe a banana peel across shoes to give them a shine.
This article was written by Bron Maxabella for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz