It’s Back to School season, and these clever organization tips, hacks and ideas for kids will help you save time and money by simplifying your morning and afternoon routines. From how to organize your school supplies to neat backpack storage, read on for tips on making this the best school year ever!
Every year the back-to-school season sneaks up on me, and I can’t believe summer is almost over. It feels like just yesterday we had then entire summer ahead of us, with dreams of lazy days and river tubing and hikes and reading in bed all morning long. Now we’re bracing for the sound of that morning alarm and the rush of getting everyone out the door on time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as both a (former) teacher and (current) parent, it’s that sticking to simple daily organizing systems and routines saves time, money, and stress… like avoiding the situation when you have .2 seconds to get the kiddos out the door and *someone* is missing a shoe and *someone else* can’t find their water bottle. 😉
#1: Use Freezable Lunchboxes
Got this tip from a smart mama at an end-of-year volunteer luncheon last year! Instead of dealing with ice packs all year long, get freezable lunch boxes. These lunchboxes have the ice packs built in so you simply freeze the entire thing and pack ’em up in the AM. The epitome of simplifying!
#2: Set up a Drop Zone
Every day, my kids know exactly where to hang their backpacks, drop their shoes, and put their lunchboxes. It doesn’t need to be fancy!!! Your drop zone can be as simple as a hook for a backpack and basket or boot tray for shoes. I’m going to add additional hooks here for jackets, but this system has worked beautifully for us on a small wall in our tiny mudroom/laundry room area. No more scrambling to find shoes in the morning.
#3: Set Up a SIMPLE Command Center
I know Pinterest abounds with ideas for Command Centers, but don’t get sucked in to making it fancy or flashy. That can be confusing for kids, especially ones who need help with focus. This simple Command Center is on a wall in my daughter’s room. She’s extremely schedule oriented, so we have a large wall calendar, pretty clock, a pocket for pencils, and I laminated her schedule because she likes to know exactly what’s coming up each day. Other ideas are to add a morning schedule, sports schedule, or chore chart– but don’t add more than you really need!
#4: Have a System for Eliminating Clutter
Living in a two-story home with an open-concept first floor layout has it’s challenges when it comes to clutter and other detritus that makes it’s way from other parts of the house. We’ve wrangled it in by having ‘stair baskets’ labeled by name. These are actually just square trash baskets from Target that fit perfectly on our stairs with labels I created on PicMonkey and laminated with the my new laminator that I’m geeking out over because I’m an office supply nerd. All day long, we put things we find that need to go upstairs into the baskets, and when we head up to bed everyone grabs their basket and unloads it upstairs. It works brilliantly to reduce clutter downstairs and corral everything that needs to be relocated.
#5: Create a Homework Station
You can use a portable caddy to store homework supplies, or a rolling cart, or incorporate it into your decor like I did– but one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to have everything that’s needed for homework in one neat, simple spot. This sets up the routine of finding and returning supplies to the same spot each day so you save time by not having to hunt down sharpened pencils or rulers. In our current homework station, we have:
- electric pencil sharpener
- colored pencils
- paper tray with lined and unlined paper
- stapler, ruler, and tape
- extra erasers– this is a must for when the ones on the end of the pencil don’t work!
- diffuser with oils (currently Peppermint for focus and Citrus Fresh for mood boosting)
#6: Use Trifold Project Boards as Dividers
Do you have more than one kiddo trying to do homework at the same time? Using trifold presentation boards that you can find at any office supply store as dividers has been a gamechanger when it comes to eliminating distractions! You can even add items to the boards to assist with work, such as a hundreds board or a multiplication chart. I keep it undecorated for this guy to eliminate distractions and help him focus, but my daughter’s has a few homework helpers glued onto it to guide her as she works. They love how it makes them feel like they have their own ‘zone’ in a shared space.
#7: Use the Paper From Last Year’s Notebooks.
Do you still have used notebooks hanging around from the end of last school year? I don’t know about you, but my kids come home at the end of the year and some of their notebooks only have a few pages used, such a sin to toss all that perfectly good paper! I take a few minutes and carefully tear out the sheets from the old notebooks and use them for the next school year’s homework paper. Wooden letter trays keep everything neat and tidy. Saves money AND trees for just a few minutes of work.
#8: Set up a Snack Station
Help kids find healthy snacks by setting up a snack station in the fridge. I used a divided refrigerator organizing bin and labeled it with the words ‘Snack Station’, and then filled it up with healthier grab-and-go snacks such as yogurt, string cheese, washed grapes, packs of carrots, etc. This also helps when the kids pack their lunches so they make better choices when it comes to snacking and streamlines the lunch packing process.
#9: Use Waterproof Labels
The beginning of the year means labeling errrrrrrything which can be tedius. I pre-fill a bunch of waterproof, washable labels and slap them on everything from water bottles to lunch boxes to jackets and hats to notebooks and binders. It’s not only a timesaver but saves money because stuff is returned instead of ending up in the lost and found.
#10: Have Detangling Spray Handy
Listen, I wish we had time to lovingly sit at my daughter’s sink and do her hair together every morning, but more than likely this task is happening in the kitchen as we get ready for school. Plus, I use this DIY critter-repelling healthy hair detangling spray every morning not only on her hair but also the backpacks, so it’s handy to have it close at hand. I keep all these supplies in a small basket in our pantry and it helps reduce clutter and makes it easy to style-and-go!
#11: Have a System for Packing Lunches
We’ve been using the same food storage for our lunchboxes for years– we have the flat version of these LunchBlox, but they make a ‘tall’ variety as well. We bought TWO sets per child, so that if one didn’t get washed the night before or they accidentally lost a piece we’d have backup. This works beautifully, and in all those years haven’t had to buy an additional set! Helpful tip: keep the lids in a separate container, and your kitchen cabinets will stay tidy and lids will be a cinch to find.
#12: Pack Lunches the Night Before
If your child takes lunch from home, you know how tedious it can be to pack everything up… especially trying to come up with various ideas on the fly so they don’t pack PB&J every. single. day. Our mornings are so much more relaxed when we pack the lunches the night before. A great time to do this is when they first come home and are unpacking after school, or when you’re putting dinner together since everything is usually out anyways– for example, I’ll chop up extra veggies and fruit while I cook, and they can pack it up into the food containers along with a sandwich or wrap. Then in the morning, they’ll pop the containers into their frozen lunch boxes, grab a snack from the snack station, and go. No more crazy rush (or lunch prep cleanup!) in the AM.
I hope these tips help get the school year on track right from the start. Now, to enjoy those last few lazy days of summer! When does school start in your neck of the woods?
Got some great back-to-school tips, hacks and ideas? Share ’em in the comments! And PIN THIS POST so you don’t forget these tips when you need them most!