The first day of school is quickly approaching for our Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA braces and Invisalign patients. With three kids of my own, I know just how frantic things can be once September rolls around. Balancing your own schedule along with getting the kids to school on time, activities, meals and appointments is a challenge. However, along the way, the team here at Richard Chan Orthodontics has learned quite a few helpful back-to-school life hacks for busy moms and dads. Here are 10 tricks to help ensure things run smoothly when the first bell rings and throughout the school year:
1. Stock Up on School Supplies Early
This is one of our tried and true back-to-school hacks. Waiting until the teacher gives your kiddo a list of the supplies they need for the year can mean squeezing frantic shopping trips into an already busy schedule. Many schools, like Mill Creek Elementary School, post school supply lists in advance. Check out the district website or make your own list of the basics to get the bulk of your back-to-school shopping out of the way ahead of time. This way, you’ll only have to pick up a few things later. Not only will gathering supplies early help you stay organized and save time, you’ll also save money by being able to take advantage of all of the back-to-school sales. There are tons of school bundles that contain all of the essentials at a discount. You can purchase them online without having to brave the stores.
2. Schedule Fall Appointments in Advance
Make fall doctors’ appointments now so you can plan around them and get a time that works best for you. It’s easy to forget about a well visit at the pediatrician or a check-up at your orthodontist when you have a ton of things going on. We offer early and late appointments so that our Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek, WA braces and Invisalign patients can come in for check-ups before or after school. Schedule your child or teen’s next visit in advance and put it in your calendar to keep your schedule and their treatment on track.
3. Practice Your Morning Routine
This back-to-school hack is geared more towards parents of young children. Little ones tend to thrive on routine and when they deviate too much, it can lead to meltdowns. Establish a set morning routine that you’ll use throughout the school year. To get kids acclimated, have them wake up at the time they’ll need to for school starting in August. If they’ve gotten used to a later summer bedtime, making bed time a little earlier each night until they’re back in the groove can be helpful too. Run through the routine for at least a few days before school starts. You can even try a printable routine chart to give them clear visual cues.
4. Put Together a Go-Bag for After-school Activities
We stumbled upon one of our favorite back-to-school life hacks for busy moms and dads on Scary Mommy. The blogger suggests creating a “go-bag” with everything you need for your kid’s after-school activities and keeping it in the car or by the door. If your child is playing soccer or has piano practice in the afternoon, put items like snacks, water, equipment and a change of clothes in the bag. If younger siblings are joining you, be sure to include stuff to keep them entertained too.
5. Find a Calendar Tool that Works for You
No list of back-to-school organization tips would be complete without a mention of an organized family calendar. If you don’t put all of your appointments and activities somewhere visible, you run the risk of missing things or overscheduling. Sharing the calendar with everyone in the family ensures you’re all on the same page and you can quickly pull up what you have planned for a day before adding something new. I’m a fan of a high-tech approach and synching the family calendar using an app or an electronic tool like Google Calendar. However, you can also go old school with a wall calendar. Find a system that truly suits your needs. Back-to-school hacks are only effective if you’ll actually use them.
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6. Create a Command Center
Carve out a little nook and designate it as the family command center. If you’re short on space, go vertical and use a wall. Make this the area where all of the important stuff goes. You can add a dry erase board or a chalkboard with the schedule for the week. Have separate clips, baskets or bins for each family member or organize them into categories like bills, permission slips, homework, school lunch menus, invitations, etc. Whenever a piece of paper comes into the house, put it in its proper home in the command center.
7. Make a Homework Station
Homework stations are all the rage in the world of life hacks for moms and dads and for good reason, they’re amazing for organization and they help eliminate excuses for not completing assignments. Find a quiet area of the house, whether it’s in your child’s bedroom or a corner of the living room, just for homework. Put a small desk with comfortable seating and, depending on your child’s age, a computer or laptop for your kids to work at. You might also want to include baskets or clipboards on the wall to organize their papers. Set up a caddy with everything they need for assignments, including pencils, pens, a calculator and paper.
8. Embrace Meal Prep Ideas for School Lunches
Meal prep saves so much time! You can have lunch ready to go every day without any guesswork or early morning effort. There are endless meal prep ideas for school lunches out there but they really all boil down to setting aside time, typically on a Sunday, to make lunches for the entire week. Prepare all of the components you can using ingredients that will stay fresh for a week, stick them in containers and grab them as needed.
Looking for some inspiration for fast lunches for kids with braces? Keep a few different mix-and-match things like yogurt, applesauce, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, bars and other braces-friendly snacks in bins in your fridge and pantry. On Sunday, cut up fresh fruit or veggies (e.g., cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, oranges, zucchini, strawberries) and put them into small food storage containers. For the main meal, go with a nutritious option like brown rice with stir-fried chicken and vegetables, quiche, sandwiches on soft bread, mac and cheese or pasta. Make a large batch of the lunch entrée and divvy it up into a week’s worth of servings. In the morning, have your child choose a mix-and-match snack, a container of fresh fruit or veggies and their main meal. Throw in a drink and voila: super fast lunches for kids with braces. You don’t only have to use meal prep ideas for school lunches either. You can also apply them to breakfast to really streamline your morning routine.
9. Pick Out Outfits for School the Week Before
While teenagers are fine to throw on clothes in the morning without being late for school, every parent knows just how time consuming getting younger kids out of the door can be. Choose their outfits (or have them choose their outfits) for the week and fold the complete outfits into separate piles with one for each day. Make sure each outfit has everything from their shirt down to their socks. Your little one won’t feel rushed in the morning, you can avoid some tantrums and since everything they need is on-hand, they can dress themselves, which gives them a sense of accomplishment to start the day off right.
10. Don’t Forget About the Power of Positive Reinforcement
You can use all of the back-to-school organization tips in the world but still end up with confusion and clutter if the kids aren’t on board. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in encouraging children to stay on task and stick to the routine. Try things like setting a homework timer for a specified, age-appropriate period of time and when it buzzes, have your child take a break and do something enjoyable. Sticker charts can be a great idea for kids in kindergarten or elementary school. As they complete each daily task or step in their morning or evening routine, they put a sticker in that area of the chart. At the end of the week, if they accumulate a certain number of stickers, they get a reward. It could be something like choosing the movie for family movie night or a trip to the park.
I hope these back-to-school life hacks for busy moms and dads help you breeze through the school year. If you’re considering adding Bothell, Monroe or Mill Creek braces or Invisalign treatment to the mix, book a free consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics. We make the teeth-straightening process fun and convenient so that giving your child a healthy, beautiful smile will fit your schedule.