Summer vacation has come to a close. The kids are back in school, but is your family ready to take on the school year? This time of the year, I tend to hear from parents looking to bring organizational calm to their kid’s rooms. From tots to teens, settling back down after months of summer fun can be a challenge, and parents want to know how to start. Here are my expert tips on strategies you can take to set up your kids–and your household–for a successful school year.
#1 Pack Summer Away–Fast
It’s fun to share summer memories as kids head back to school. But kids who cling to summer memories in their rooms can struggle as they start anew. Give it a week or two, but when school starts getting serious it’s time to clear out summer memories and lay down a mental roadmap for the year ahead.
Go through closets, desktops and backpacks from summer camp, and any other cabinets or drawers where your kid’s stuff is stashed. Collect up bathing suits, beach toys and birthday party goodie bags, and outgrown clothing from the last school year.
If your kids are crafty, or sentimental, this is a great time to work with them to make memory books, photo albums, or to prep clothes for give-away. Then place the summer memories in a special place in their room so they can enjoy it as decor. And if they aren’t attached to their stuff, go ahead and tuck, toss or donate. More stuff will soon be coming in, so embrace the clean slate.
#2. Create a Cubby Space or Drop Zone
A must have for any school-age household is a drop zone or cubby space, nearby the front door. This is a spot where kids can deposit the things they constantly take in and out of your home.
The furniture doesn’t need to be complicated–a simple table or bench will do (cube shelving is also great as it encourages small hands to drop things into targeted spots). The goal is to curb that chaotic time when you are getting your kids in and out of the home. And, to keep unnecessary items from trailing into your house, and onto bedroom beds and floors.
Drop zones help to make the connection between home and school feel more seamless. Whether it’s an open cubby for toddlers, or a closed locker for teens, empower kids by helping them to see that home life matches school, and vice versa–in both locations they have a personal place to anchor their things. If hall space is limited, a drop zone can go inside your child’s room as well.
#3. Designate a Quiet Workspace
Back to school means kids will soon be bringing home books, papers, projects, and, of course, homework. Support your child by creating a designated quiet workspace for them to get things done.
Choose a private location away from distractions like the TV or the kitchen or family room. You don’t need a large space–a small table in their room, a corner of the living area, or a cozy chair in a quiet nook are great spaces to start. What’s important is that your child likes the workspace, feels comfortable, and is fully able to focus on tasks.
A workspace is like a home, it needs to feel right. So work with your child to identify the perfect location. And don’t worry about decking it out with a fancy computer, or a host of office supplies. What’s most important is a clean surface, a good chair and ample lighting. Kids need help keeping focus these days, so kick it old style and give your child a dedicated space with as few distractions as possible.
#4. Prep Backpacks and Bookbags–Inside and Out
The backpack is a travel device, it’s for getting things from Point A to Point B. This means, it’s best to remove all those loose papers, games, gadgets and other knickknacks that gather up from week to week in your child’s bag.
Once school starts, sit with your child and go through their backpack. Get into the habit once a week of clearing out whatever falls to the bottom. Clean it if it is dirty and prep it for the upcoming week. The goal is for your child to begin to sort through their backpack themselves as part of their weekly ‘getting ready for school’ routine.
As for the outside? Feel free to bring on the bling! It’s fun for kids to decorate their backpacks. It brings out their individuality and helps them–and you–to more easily locate their bag in a crowd. Just stay mindful, when the outside gets dirty, or becomes so deeply adorned it’s like a party on a bag, it’s time to cut back. Remember, a backpack is a travel device: keep it focused on its task, and your child will stay focused too.
#5. Find a Quiet Space–Get Yourself Ready, Too
Let’s face it, in order to support children, parents need to ground themselves too. So, throw yourself a lifeline this year and model good behavior. Seek out and create a parent-only quiet space. Create a nerve center or command central in your home, a place where you can clear your brain for two seconds at the start and end of each day.
Bring something calming or cheerful to that spot to help you ground, like a favorite picture, a friendly decorative item, or something spiritual to help you breathe deeply and get physically and mentally prepared for your days. Don’t be afraid to show the spot to your kids, but make sure to tell them it’s a grown-up zone only. They can leave you a note there, but anything larger than a note-from-teacher needs to go elsewhere–this space is for you.
#6. Check In With Your Kids–Keep Them Involved Each Step of The Way
All this sounds great, but what if yours kids aren’t on board? The trick to getting kids involved is to include them each step of the way. From clearing summer memories to selecting the spot for their private workspace, empower them by making them part of the solution.
Once the school year starts, hold a family meeting every few weeks to check-in with their schedules, school work, and anything they might wish to share. Ask them what else they’d like to see in their workspace. Have them set goals, and let them know what your goals are too.
If you’re having trouble getting everyone on board, create an incentive to keep up. Add an allowance jar or plan a family activity for when they’ve reached a goal–it’s up to you. Nothing motivates a child more than a trip to Disney, or a trip to Space Camp, right? So choose your good-job reward, and get to it. What’s important is to take time as a family to plan, set, and track goals together. Harness Kid Power in your home this year and you just might this school year the best yet!
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Photo Credits: Unsplash, Kaboompics, Picjumbo, Sarah Sharp, Caroline Hernandez