No sooner than you wrap up one school year and start settling into a Summer schedule, the back to school ads start appearing and the preparation begins again. There is something nostalgic for all of us when the stores have their rows of school supplies, accessories, and backpacks. Even though the first day of school is a good few weeks away, a little careful planning now will get your family off to a good beginning and your plans and organization now can have an effect on the whole year. Creating a schedule actually offers you the opportunity for flexibility because without a schedule there can’t be a break from it... you just have chaos! Putting together your child’s Fall wardrobe, mealtimes during busy weeks, and the schedule for extracurricular activities needs to be part of the planning process.
Find a time you can sit down with your laptop, planner or just old fashioned pencil and paper and start to brainstorm some goals and ideas for the upcoming year. It’s hard to think when your littles are playing, so maybe carve out some time after bedtime to sit down and start planning. A schedule is the best place to start. What does Monday through Friday look like? What time does school start and end? What about transportation? Who will drop off and pick-up? After school activities? Dance? Sports? Music? Get all this down so that you can begin to create a calendar that will be accurate for most weeks. Next include any personal activities that you would like to see happen this year. Maybe Thursdays are for visiting great grandma. If so, put that on the schedule so it will be a weekly priority. There may be a playgroup you want to join or form especially if your children are not yet school age. Pick a day and get it on the calendar so you will actually make it happen. Add in holidays and if you already know travel plans, mark out these days on the calendar. Planning for “free” time is a worthy part of your schedule. These can be unscheduled slots of time where children can just play. Uninterrupted, children have a chance to explore, develop their imagination and just unplug from the crazy pace of our modern day life. It takes a lot of "slow" to "grow".
Now that you have the framework for your weekday schedule, add in some specific details. Whether in your planner or on a family calendar, put times and locations. This keeps you organized as a family if your spouse or other family member needs to jump in and help. All the right info to keep the week running is in one place. Make sure you have included birthdays for all the family members. Plans for your children’s special day can begin now to make activities extra fun and stress free for mom.
One of the things that ends up shipwrecked when your school schedule ramps up is family meals. Grab and go becomes all too easy and can become a habit. Healthy eating is so foundational in this phase of rapid growth for your children. Not only are you trying to get the proper nutrients into them, you want to create a love for a variety of foods and set the tone for healthy eating as they mature and begin to make their own food choices. This can actually be a really fun part of your planning time. The internet is full of ideas for feeding children delicious food that is colorful and fun! Search new ideas for breakfasts, lunches and dinners to add to your regular favorites. Maybe start a Pinterest board or save notes on your phone with recipe links. Look for some recipes that you can make ahead and freeze as grab-and-go happens far more often than we plan for. Muffins, mini quiches, veggie roll ups, etc. Making your own food is not only cost effective, it is more nutritious and there are no hidden ingredients. You KNOW what is in them because you made them. This of course allows you to tailor your menu to your family’s preferences and special dietary concerns. Gluten free? Plant based? Dairy free? Making your own is more time consuming so make ahead recipes that can be made in bulk and frozen can be a huge time saver. Creating a weekly staple grocery list is a time saver as well. Think about the things you pick up every time you hit the grocery store. Bananas? Yogurt? Bread? Add to that list the new staples that you would like to see incorporated into your family’s diet. Think about adding a prep day to your schedule. Maybe Sunday evenings after bedtime? Maybe get older kids involved? Prepping chopped veggies makes healthy eating a lot more realistic. School lunches can be so much more than providing a mid-day meal for your child. Some extra thought can make it super fun and is a way to have a little connection to your child while you are apart. A simple note or a picture for a non reader, tucked in will say, “I love you!” in the middle of the day. Again, the internet has all the ideas on school lunches. A great lunch box with containers can give you the boost you need to include something other than processed food in your weekly lunch lineup. Don’t overload yourself, though. It would be much better to read your child a few more books than to create a picture perfect lunch! Manufacturers today are lining up to provide you healthy lunch and snack options so take advantage. Plan a super big shopping trip the week before school starts back up and get your pantry ready for re-entry into the busy days of Fall.
Kids seem to take the sunshine of Summer and grow like wildflowers! Part of your back to school planning will certainly include their Fall wardrobe with lots of cute back to school outfits. This is a good time to do yet another closet clean out. Make a list of things they will need from basics to school clothes. Don’t forget to go ahead and plan for their holiday attire. Things get busy and then you are shopping last minute and end up settling. If you are wondering where you can buy cute back to school clothes, Cygnet Living has a darling Fall line with a classic retro twist. Most of the Fall and holiday sets are designed to coordinate with various pieces for a variety of looks. The classic children’s merino sweater is a key piece that will coordinate with various skirts, bloomers, pants and shorts that will carry you weather wise from Fall to Winter. Clothes that can be layered make transitioning from cool to colder weather a breeze. Don’t forget to try on last year’s outerwear and if it’s too small, go ahead and order a new jacket to be ready for the first cold front of Fall.
While we will miss the carefree days of Summer, we are looking forward to all the fun of Fall and Winter... our little ones with faces full of excitement, dressed in their cute first day of school outfits, building memories that will be the substance of their childhood.