This is a guest post by Kirsty Russell from My Home Truths
With a few more weeks of holidays before us you possibly don’t want to start thinking about the inevitable return to school just yet.
Or maybe, after a few weeks with your darlings, you do?
Either way, now is the perfect time to start getting ready for the return of routine and normality. And while it may seem like a lot of work when all you want to do is continue to enjoy the holidays, remember it doesn’t have to be all on you.
The aim should be to help your kids to better organise themselves for the year ahead.
How to help your kids better organise themselves for school
There are so many advantages to developing these skills from an early age:
- Encouraging self-help skills increases independence (which means less work for you)
- Practicing self-organisation can help with the development of executive functioning skills (the ability to plan and organise your time and schedule)
- Learning new skills and dealing with the inevitable failures builds resilience and perseverance
- Providing the opportunity to take control of tasks teaches responsibility and accountability.
It really is a no brainer to encourage your kids to take on some responsibility from an early age. A little bit of hard work now will really pay off throughout the year.
Now if you are a perfectionist/control freak/non delegator like me, you may find this hard to do, especially in the beginning. I know I still struggle to let go of the reins and allow the kids learn for themselves.
But the following strategies will help you and your kids over those first hurdles and set you all up for an organised and productive school year.
Make sure you have a place for everything
Kat has posted before about setting up an area to keep school bags tidy and it really is the linchpin of getting your kids ready to take on the responsibility of self-organisation.
At my place I’ve set up, what Pinterest likes to call, a command centre. It’s in our entry hallway and has been set up from a 16 cube storage unit we sourced from Bunnings as well as a magnetic whiteboard. Our command centre consists of:
- A row for school bags, keeping them off the ground and out of harms way.
- 2 rows of fabric drawers to store (and hide away) hats, shoes, sunscreen, insect repellent and other miscellaneous items. These colourful drawers are also from Bunnings.
- A row to display much-loved items and to hold our adult storage needs (like keys, loose change, etc.)
- A magnetic whiteboard with a simple weekly calendar for the family. This also displays notes from school when the kids unpack their bags each afternoon and a copy of our daily routine.
If you have a dedicated place for everything in your command centre, it will be much easier to show your kids where items belong and what is expected of them in the morning and afternoon.
Develop a workable daily routine with your kids
After ensuring there is a place for everything the next step is to make sure your kids know what is expected of them each day. A simple daily routine can do wonders to make the flurry of school mornings less manic.
Here’s an example of our current routine. It’s simple but the kids know what is expected of them as we have worked through it together. It features visuals, for my youngest, who can’t read just yet, and specific instructions for my older kids. Kat creates some great personalised routine charts.
To be effective, any routine needs to be workable and manageable. Think through your normal morning, afternoon and evening routines and try to streamline them to make things flow easier. But don’t make changes that are not going to work for your family.
My tip – get your kids involved and work through it with them to make sure it’s definitely going to work for everyone.
Remember to practice and run through the routine, ideally before school goes back. That way there should be no surprises on that first day. Moreover, you’ll be less tempted to just give in and do everything again because it saves you time (believe me, I’ve been there, too many times to count!)
Identify age appropriate tasks for your kids to complete
This year I have a 5 year old entering Kindergarten (my baby!) and my two older children entering Years 5 and 6 in primary school. Obviously given their age difference there will be different expectations on the age appropriate tasks they will be asked to complete in order to be better organised for the school day.
For my youngest, we will be setting the following tasks:
- Packing and unpacking her school bag (putting notes on the magnetic whiteboard and lunch box in the kitchen)
- Setting out her clothes each evening for the next morning
- Keeping her room tidy (the big challenge for 2016!)
- Having a go at making her bed
- Helping to put her lunch together (during preschool she loved helping me get her lunch ready)
In addition to the above tasks, my two older kids, aged 10 & 11, will be expected to:
- Organise any extra things they need to take to school as required (library books, recorder, school bank book, sports gear)
- Show initiative with their homework (it’s built into the daily routine just to be sure!)
- Make their own lunches
- Make their own breakfasts
- Independently shower (one prefers a morning shower and the other an afternoon one)
Remember your kids are going to need help initially and may struggle to complete tasks to your expectations. Encourage them and praise their efforts. Do not “re-do” their attempts. With practice they will improve – and with practice you will improve at letting go too.
Ensure your kids are able to use and access their belongings
I must confess I’ve learned this lesson the hard way over the years.
There was the year when the school bag for my then 3 year old was barely bigger than the insulated lunch box purchased to go in it (in the end a new school bag had to be purchased). And another year when my newly minted Kindergarten Miss could hardly carry her backpack because of its gigantic size (another big fail requiring yet another additional purchase!)
You need to keep in mind the practicality of backpacks and lunch boxes when purchasing them. The same goes for the sunscreen, insect repellent and other self-care items that will head with them to school. If they cannot independently open and use these items there is no use in sending them – they will not get used.
Take your kids with you when doing your back to school shop and let them try things out. Make sure school bags can be carried comfortably when fully packed. Ensure all parts of lunch boxes and drink bottles can be accessed by little fingers. Watch them open and apply sunscreen & insect repellent (my tip: roll ons are ideal for school).
Back home, encourage them to have a few practice runs at packing and unpacking their lunch box and school bag. This will be valuable practice for the year ahead and will also show you where there may be issues in future.
Don’t give up – have faith in yourself and in your kids
It can be hard to introduce change into the family, particularly changes in responsibility and routine. The first few weeks will not be easy – trust me on that. You will be tempted to give in and just do it all yourself – I know I have.
But if you persevere and work through the rough patches, the rewards are many. Your kids will learn responsibility, independence and resilience. They will develop self-organisation and self-help skills.
And you will learn that you don’t have to do it all on your own.
To keep you on the right track, keep these in mind:
- Practice makes perfect – keep on practicing these skills until they are automatic. Pull back on certain tasks or Introduce tasks step by step if it all seems too hard for you or for your kids.
- Adjust your expectations – it’s going to take time to bed the new routine down and it’s not going to be perfect from the word go. Make your peace with that and know that’s okay.
- Stay accountable – enlist a partner, friend or family member you can bounce ideas off, check in with and vent to. You need to stay strong and committed to making this work. An accountability partner will help you do just that.
- Talk things through – review the new routine with your kids every few weeks. Check in with them. Identify any problems and tweak things as needed. Show that you are listening to them and that their opinions and thoughts matter too.
Using these strategies will go a long way to helping your kids learn to help themselves and to better organise themselves for school.
Do you have more tips to share?
I’d love to hear your tips for helping your kids become more organised too.
Kirsty Russell is a mother of three, two of whom have special needs. A writer by day and blogger by night, she is surprisingly unorganised considering everything she has on her plate. Each Monday she hosts the I Must Confess linkup over at My Home Truths where she makes a weekly confession and asks others to do the same. She also blogs about special needs parenting, being a pug mum and finding her feet now she is working from home. You can find her trying to avoid the housework on these platforms: