The return to school is a wonderful time to hone your household systems. Today I want to share with you some ideas for how to set up some practices in your home that will support the rhythms and routines of the school year. Feel free to customize these according to your family’s specific needs!
A Place To Unload After School
Everything in our home needs a designated permanent place where it lives, and when we keep our items in those places, our home is tidy. Before the school year begins, determine on a permanent home for backpacks, sports bags, hoodies, shoes, lunch boxes, and papers that require attention. This way, when your children arrive home, they can learn (with patience and repetition) how to put their things away.
Packing lunches immediately after arriving home from school is a non-negotiable in our house. No snacks. No screens. No playing. No homework. Nothing happens until you have packed your lunch for tomorrow. It sounds like a real buzz kill in the moment, but it is the single biggest gift you can give yourself in the morning.
Prepping For The Next Morning
In addition to packing lunches, before we go to bed, we prepare for the next day. Clothes are out (including shoes, socks, and hair ties). Backpacks and folders are checked and ready. Computers are charging. Forms are signed. And sports bags are packed with knee pads, snacks, water bottle, and any other necessities.
Shutting Down For The Night
Before we tuck our children in, we make sure they reset their spaces. This means their closet, bathroom, and bedroom are relatively tidy and things are put back where they belong. They also shower, brush their hair and teeth, and are device-free before bed to allow their bodies and minds time to unwind. A book, a dim light, and a clean room create a pattern of calm that facilitates healthy sleep.
Wake Up Responsibilities
As your child grows, so too will their scope of personal responsibility in the morning. Of course you will help your first-grader with most tasks, checking in frequently and confirming that the teeth are brushed, the hair braided, the breakfast made. But little by little, as they grow up, you need to allow your child to manage more of their morning. I have a post sharing my system for building scaffolding in school-aged children who are not naturally gifted in executive function, and it works really well. Consider ways your child can grow in this area, knowing that by the time they are in high school, waking up on their own and getting themselves out of bed is the goal.
I love a good family laundry plan, and in our home, everyone has one day a week to get all of their laundry done. I have taught my children how to do their own laundry little by little over the years, and as a result, they have a sense of personal responsibility in this area. Laundry is a great way to teach natural consequences, and again, by the time they leave home, you want them to know how to manage their own laundry. I like to make sure the laundry room is organized and well-stocked with big baskets, hampers, and a clear understanding of how to use the soap and any other products.
In addition to having a place for backpacks and lunch boxes, it is important to have a designated spot for devices to charge. In our home, all phones charge outside of the bedrooms. Each child has a charging cord and a designated spot to put their phone overnight. My children also have laptops that are expected to be fully charged when they arrive at school each day. We have a place for these to charge as well.
Sports Equipment and Uniforms
If your child is in soccer, ballet, karate, volleyball, cheer, or any other extra-curricular activity that requires special clothing or equipment, do yourself a favor and create a bag specifically for each activity and store the designated items in each bag. The leotard and tights go directly from the laundry to the ballet bag. The soccer cleats and shin guards go into the soccer bag after the game. The pompoms, uniform, and practice shirts live in the cheer bag. This prevents scrambling around for all the pieces, wondering where they are, and it keeps everything exactly where you need it. When it is soccer day, the bag is packed and waiting.
As an added layer, if my children have an activity after school that does not occur on campus, they are responsible for putting their activity bag into my car in the morning so it is with us when I pick them up. Little steps like this help simplify the afternoon shuffle and create another opportunity for your child to learn how to manage the details of their life.
Creating intentionality in our home is a beautiful way to model how to manage the different aspects of life for our children. It also provides a path for smooth mornings and afternoons. I hope these ideas help you as you manage your own home!