Simple tips for easy back to school routines highlights.
- Create routines that make back to school smoother for your family.
- Create a daily visual back to school routine calendar.
- Practice back-to-school routines ahead of time.
- Host a back-to-school playdate.
- Simplify the back-to-school morning routine.
- Let toddlers choose some of their back to school supplies.
- Get read for school the night before.
The back-to-school week is a trying time for all parents, and it always comes around quicker than we expected. It feels like one minute we're running in sprinklers and eating popsicles, and the next, we're worried about backpacks, lunch boxes, and new shoes.
Transitioning kids from a summer schedule to a structured school week is no picnic. The morning rush of getting kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door without a meltdown or two is no mean feat. Even the most organized parent forgets at least one thing and has to go running back into the house before you are finally on your way! School day mornings are classic fodder for situation comedies for a good reason.
School days are also our most critical time of life but are also some of the most enjoyable. The time spent in school, with their teachers and peers, can really shape a child's personality and interests and their love for learning and exploring the world.
While we cannot control all school experiences, we can set up school day routines that promote calm, make our kids feel loved and supported, and help them arrive at school in a headspace that promotes learning.
However, we think it's vital that before we even get started with this discussion, we remind you that you will spend countless mornings frazzled and stressed in the twelve-plus years your kids are in school. Some days, you'll likely leave the house amid a full-on tearful breakdown. When this happens, please give yourself grace and know that tomorrow is a new day.
But in the meantime, here are some of the ideas our families use to make school days a wee bit more manageable.
Create and sustain back-to-school routines that suit your family.
Kids thrive on routine. Routines help your children learn skills like establishing priorities, meeting deadlines, developing independence, and creating self-care habits. Even more importantly, the predictability of routines gives kids confidence that their needs will be met.
Kids can better handle changes and stress when routines are in place and, back-to-school can be a pretty intense time. School day routines also help parents accomplish their tasks lists while dialing down the drama.
In our families, when it comes to the school week routines, we've found that realistic expectations and simplicity are key. And, always budget more time than you need because somebody ALWAYS needs to pee just one more time before you leave the house!
Create a daily visual back to school routine calendar.
There are many calendars available that can help young children start to visualize the idea of a routine, doing the same things, in the same order, every day. We love this one on Etsy. Completing the tasks that they helped to layout helps them to feel accomplished and in control.
When directing them through the morning routine, refer to the calendar. Encourage kids to take the initiative for their daily habits and let the routine be the guide with statements like "OK, you've brushed your teeth. What comes next?" If you have multiple children, some healthy competition can be helpful too!
Practice back-to-school routines and manage expectations.
Children are so aware, and change can be difficult. Talk to them about what they should expect the first week, especially if it is their first time going to school or starting at a new school. If you can, visit their school before it opens and show them around. Often you can also meet the teachers before school starts.
Start your morning routine before the school year starts. If this happens (almost!) every day, then the shift at the start of the school year isn't so bad.
Host a back-to-school playdate.
If you know who your children's classmates are, you can try to arrange a playdate with some of them so your child will see some familiar faces in the classroom. Meeting at a local park or playground and letting the kids run around with some balls and bubbles should be perfect! It doesn't have to be fancy.
Let them choose their back-to-school school supplies.
Schools usually provide a list of required supplies before the year begins. As much as possible, allow them to choose these but keep each choice to 2-3 options. For example, if they need a bento box in 10 colors, pick 3 colors and allow them to choose the one they want. Toddlers love feeling like they're in control, and if they've chosen it, they are much more likely to want and enjoy using it.
Simplify the back-to-school morning routine.
When it comes to establishing morning routines, the more you can involve your children, the better. As you can tell, we love the theme of allowing toddlers to have as much control over their decisions (as is reasonable!). They're more likely to cooperate if they feel like active participants.
Some examples of this are:
Creating two outfits for them and letting them choose the one they want.
Giving them the time and space to learn to figure out how to get dressed on their own. This might not work out every day, but the more they practice, the better they will get, which ultimately is easier for you!
Giving them two breakfast options and letting them choose. If they don't want either or ask for something else, tell them that it is not on the menu, but it can be tomorrow. Avoid the vague question "what do you want for breakfast?" which can feel overwhelming to a young child.
We also find that mornings go smoother if everyone, even you, gets dressed and ready before breakfast. The longer the pajamas stay on, the harder it is to pry them off.
Give yourself extra time. Set a departure time fifteen minutes before it needs to be, so you have some wiggle room for whatever comes your way. Being early for school is good. It will help your child start their day calmly and create a lifetime habit of being on time.
Get up before everyone else, get yourself ready, and build in some me-time for coffee. We find it helps to explicitly divide the morning tasks between you and your spouse, caregivers, or parenting partners.
Also, try to schedule an extra ten minutes into the morning routine to cuddle, talk, or read with your children. Let them know that at that moment, you don't have anywhere else to be. These few minutes might be the difference between resistance and cooperation. Plus, if your wee ones start their day feeling closely connected to you, they'll feel more confident when overcoming whatever obstacles come their way.
Do whatever you can the night before on school nights.
In our families, the more we do the night before, the easier the school mornings are. Pack lunches, fill water bottles and store them in the fridge, and make sure any extra layers that might be needed are laid out. Check the weather forecast the night before to see what you need, especially if your kids (like ours) are spending much more time at school outside these days.
We also prep the coffee maker at the same time :)
Find shoes and socks and put them beside the door with the backpacks ready to be filled with lunches.
Then most importantly, get everyone to sleep on time. Sleep is essential for ensuring children are set up as best as possible to focus, concentrate, and control their emotions. Of course, they are still little, and not robots (!), so it cannot be expected all the time, but we all know the benefits of a well-rested child.
Celebrate successes, both yours and theirs.
Acknowledge when your little ones complete tasks on their own and encourage them to stick with their routines. Say things like, "It was so helpful that you got dressed while I was getting breakfast ready." Or, "Well done brushing your teeth all by yourself!" Or, "I noticed you put on your shoes without me asking. That helps so much!" Or, "This is the first time we haven't had to rush through breakfast. It's so nice to spend this time with you!"
Then when everyone's dropped off, take a deep breath, have that cup of coffee, and enjoy a minute of peace and quiet before the next part of your day begins. Try and savor the sweet moments of them needing you because it honestly does go by so quickly.
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren