Getting organised: a guide for first time school parents

Starting school is a challenge for parents too.
Starting school is a challenge for parents too. Photo: Getty

This year I will face my biggest parenting challenge to date – my eldest daughter starts school, thus forcing me to adopt the one thing I have so far resisted – a routine. Scarier than that … it is a routine that requires me to stop winging it and get myself organised.

In this new world of organisation I will be preparing lunch boxes, ironing uniforms (eek – where is the ironing board?) and crucially, getting us all out the door on time. 

So how does an extremely busy and disorganised parent like me make the transition to being a super organised and on top of it parent?

Start with a list

I don't know about you, but I always feel a lot more in control when I have a thorough list to follow.

I made a list of all the logistical things that I need to arrange before school starts. This included things like purchasing school uniform, shoes and lunch boxes.

Your school will also have specific requirements, for example our school has asked that each student bring a box of tissues and some glue sticks for the classroom pool.

Get a whiteboard or family planner

Create a mission control of family organisation with a planning system (a wall chart, whiteboard or calendar). Use your preferred system to keep track of term dates, after school activities, play dates as well as appointments and anything else that your entire household need to be across.

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Routine! Routine! Routine!

A big adjustment for me in my new role as a school parent will be establishing a good routine so that our mornings are as stress free as possible.

"Organised school mornings actually start the night before, so the first thing to do is establish a good evening routine for both you and your child," says Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids

Your new night-time routine will include activities like preparing lunch boxes, setting the table for breakfast and making a to-do list for the following day. Nicole suggests that you set aside 30-40 minutes to create an "organised base" for your morning. "This means that you have less to do in the morning and can have more time to focus on the kids," she explains.

Set your kids up for independence

Some of the morning time stress can be reduced if each member of your household takes responsibility for themselves. While small children might need some assistance and encouragement there is no reason why they can't be responsible for brushing their own teeth and hair, dressing themselves and packing their school bag.

Nicole suggests creating a chart for your child/children that has visual prompts to remind them of the things they need to do. This can be done with drawings, pictures cut out from a magazine or even photographs of your children doing the tasks.

"The chart allows you to use a tool to redirect the child if they become side-tracked, 'where are you up to on the chart?' is something you can ask, instead of telling them what to do," Nicole explains.

Get up 15 minutes earlier

Nicole also notes that it is easy to underestimate how long it can take to get ready for school. Her advice is to get up 15 minutes earlier than usual, particularly in the first week of term when everyone is getting used to the new routine. "This can give you time to get yourself ready too!" says Nicole.

Tips from the pros

Finally, in my quest to turn over a new leaf and become an organised mum, I turned to those that have already been there. Here are some words of wisdom from experienced parents:

  • Pack an extra hat in your kid's school bag. If they lose their hat you don't want them to miss out on outdoor activities because of the 'no hat/no play' rule.
  • Have plenty of change at home for fundraisers that require a gold coin donation. 
  • Make sure that your child can open their lunch box. It's a good idea to have a couple of practice packed lunches at the park or even in your backyard.
  • It is a good idea to let your child/children 'break in' their new school shoes in the weeks leading up to the start of school. It also gives them a chance to practice putting them on.
  • Label everything, even shoes and socks. You can order stick on or iron on labels or alternately just use a permanent marker.