If your family is anything like mine, you've really let your routines go over the holidays. And that's what holidays are for anyway, right? Late night movies, sleep ins, lazy long lunches…It's so easy (and fun) to relax and let the family routines fall away, but you know the time is coming when it's all going to come back and slap you in the face.
So how can you get everyone back into the swing so they're not falling asleep on their desk on the first day back at school? We've got tips that will make the transition smooth and simple.
1. Find a spot for everything
Nothing can be tidy if the school things don't have a place to go. And in case you haven't noticed, kids don't respond well to a vague request to 'just tidy the place up a bit'. (Or is that just mine?) Screw in a row of hooks by the front door for each child to hang their school bag as soon as they walk through the door.
And add some storage cubes, with each child allocated their own cube where they can put their hat, shoes and other personal items.
This area is also a great place to hang a family calendar, where dates can be clearly marked. Or you could hang a whiteboard for messages and reminders.
When everything has a place to go, it's so much easier for your kids to know where their belongings are every day. And you can avoid the daily game of 'Where on earth is my other shoe?'.
2. Develop a daily routine for each child
Talk to your children and work with them to make a list of all the things they'll need to do each morning before school, and each afternoon after school. If they have ownership, they are much more likely to stick to it. The trick is to try to ensure everything they need to do is included, without making the list too overwhelming. And grouping similar activities together is a great way to streamline the process and ensure things go smoothly. Then print out the routines so they can easily see what they should be doing. You can use pictures for little ones that aren't able to read yet.
3. Ensure tasks are age appropriate
There's a vast difference between what a prep kid can achieve, and what an older child will be able to help with. Don't ask too much of the tinies, and don't fall into the trap of expecting too little from the older ones because that's what they've always done.
Tasks little ones can help with include: helping to put their lunch together the night before, making sure they have a clean uniform ready for the morning, handing in notes from school, putting on sunscreen each morning, making their bed, tidying their room, and making sure their dirty clothes are in the dirty clothes basket.
Older children can do all of this, of course, plus: make their own breakfast and lunch (and for their younger siblings if you're lucky), do their homework without being asked, organise their sports and music gear, pack and unpack their bag each day.
4. Ensure your child can use everything properly
It's great to have the latest whiz-bang insulated lunchbox with twelve different compartments, but if your child doesn't know how to open it, it's next to useless. Same goes for school bags that are the same size as your child and risk them falling on their back like a turtle and never being able to get up, and sunscreen that you child can't get the lid off. And if your child has shoes with shoelaces, they will need to know how to do them up (even if you tie them in a double bow each morning they're sure to come undone at some stage).
5. Start practising the routine now
You don't need to go through with the whole practice of getting into uniforms and making lunches (although you can if your kids are keen and you think it will help), but try to start adhering to your schedule the week before school starts so it won't all be a rude shock on day one. Get the kids to bed at the scheduled time, and when they wake up in the morning, get them to have breakfast, brush their teeth, and get ready for the day nice and early.
Changing the family routine can be tough – especially after six weeks or more of relaxing holidays – but the key is to stick with it. Your kids may struggle initially because there is a lot to remember, but with consistent and calm guidance from you they will get there. And the more organised you can teach them to be, the less work it is for you. Good luck!