Mom Tools for Back-To-School Organization

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I LOVE summer and all the freedom (and ice cream) it offers, but I am the first to admit…by the end of August, I am SO ready to put an end to my kids’ late nights, terrible eating, and general chaos our summers devolve in to. Routines calm me.

Yes, Shana…roll those eyes and give me a big “I want more FUN Linzi!,” but you KNOW there’s something to all of of my “madness”.

 Back-To-School Organization Tips For Smooth Kid Routines & Calm Mamas

Routines can be so helpful — especially for my kids. Toward the end of August, I, therefore, like to collect all my tools. The tools that help the transition back to routines go a little bit smoother for ALL of us (me included)…or at least tools to decrease the intensity of some of the back-to-school battles.

**Originally published in 2019 and now updated for Back-To-School Fall 2021: After a very uncertain 2020-2021 school year we are SO looking forward to ALL the routines this September. Someone get me a label maker and a pack of highlighters… I.am.ready.to.schedule!**

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

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1. PLENTY Of Kids’ Face Masks

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

This year both of the kids are going back to school five days a week (hooray, hooray!) and everyone (including my vaccinated 13-year-old) is required to wear a face mask. So…this means we need PLENTY of masks that are comfortable, effective and fit well. Masks by the front door, additional masks in their backpacks, and a stock of extra masks that will inevitably get eaten by the laundry monster. We have tried SOOOOOOOO many masks, but my kids still gravitate toward Athleta’s everyday masks. My little guy (8-years-old) wears this size and my big guy (13-year-old) wears the adult size.

2. Checklists For Routines, Homework & More

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Round Check-List Magnets

Don’t get me started on the benefits of routines. I LOVE a good routine and I LOVE a good checklist to go with it! We have quite a few checklists at the beginning of every school year and not just for homework–we have them for morning routine, afternoon routine and bedtime routine too. We use a very simple typed or handwritten list (nothing even remotely Pinterest-worthy), a magnetic surface, and these wonderful round magnets that my little guy uses to “check things off” when tasks are completed. Giving him a gentle reminder to check his routine list is SO much easier than constantly barking out tasks.

3.  A System For All The Papers…Soooo Many Papers!

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Clipboards | Bins

We HAVE to have a system for the ALL the papers that come home from school or we would absolutely drown! Instead of a bulletin board, we have six clipboards hanging on the wall. The school calendar, weekly dinner menu, important forms, and other resources that need to be easily accessed (taken on and off the wall) go on these. We also have individually labeled bins for each family member for all other papers. The 1st of every month is recycling time and the bins have to be sorted.

4. School Supplies Ordered Online

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Target.com

This is a no-brainer for us. Our big-box stores never seem to have all the stuff we need, and it drives me batty searching multiple stores. I find almost every single thing on our list at Target.com. Done.

5. A Stand-Out Backpack

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Monster Pack | Sprayground Pack | More Spraygrounds

Having backpacks that stand out makes it SO much easier to spot your kiddos quickly in the crowded pick-up line. Also obviously easier for them to spot their OWN backpack in the piles on the playground. My little guy carries the Monster pack and my big guy carries a Sprayground.

6.  Easy-To-Wash Lunch Box System

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Bentology Lunch Bag Kit

This is the dishwasher-safe lunch system we have used and loved for years. I have two full sets for each kid so I can rotate them nightly in the dishwasher. We loved this smaller Bentgo for pre-school, but I can fit larger quantities of food in the Bentology system above. When I pack hot lunches, I use this Thermos that comes with a cute little foldable spoon built in.

7. No-Leak Water Bottles

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Contigo AutoSeal Water Bottle

I am FOREVER searching for the perfect kid water bottle. My requirements are: dishwasher-friendly, lightweight, no chance of opening accidentally in their backpack, won’t flood their desk if accidentally knocked over while open….The one above is the best we’ve found that meet our requirements.

8. A Pencil Case Kids Can Actually Find

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Zipit Case | More Pencil CasesMore Storage Boxes

 I’ve learned the hard way that if they can’t find their pencil case in their backpack, they’re not going to use it and all their supplies will quickly disappear. Zipit offers a ton of cute and easy-to-spot pencil cases and storage boxes.

9. Multiple Travel Mugs For Mama’s Morning Coffee

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, but also routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Contigo Luxe AutoSeal Travel Mug

An organized mama must! I have two Contigos and rotate them in the dishwasher on the same lunchbox washing schedule. I don’t leave the house in the morning without this guy.

10. Something Warm They Will Actually Wear

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Boden Hoodie Dots | Solid & Camo | Stars

These Boden sweatshirts are the best. My little guy loves to wear them (and my big guy wore them for years and years)–lightweight enough to wear in the fall, but warm enough to take them pretty far in to winter too. There’s never any argument in putting these on, so perfect for mornings when kiddos refuse to put on their actual “winter coat.”

11. Two Pairs of Sneaks To Avoid Morning Crises

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.

Nikes | Keens 

In the “beginning,” I was a one-pair-of-sneaks-per-kid kind of mom, but a couple years back I changed my ways. There were WAY too many catastrophic mornings where someone couldn’t find both shoes…even though we of course have a special place shoes are supposed to “live.” Worth the $ to me to avoid these situations, so they now get a soft sporty pair, as well as a waterproof pair that’s good for colder wetter weather.

12.  Bedtime Routine Helpers

Back-to-school means shopping for school supplies, plus routines & home organization for keeping kids on schedule & ready for class. We're on it, Mama.
Essential Oil Diffuser | Salt Lamp

Back-to-school time means back to pretty strict bedtime routines for us. Having parts of the routine that they really look forward to has helped tremendously. My boys are not big yoga or mindfulness kids, but they have REALLY taken to this essential oil diffuser and picking out their own scents each night, as well as the routine of turning on their salt lamps to start winding down and setting a different mood for bedtime.

What other tricks do you guys have for making the transition back to school a little smoother?

-Linzi

13 COMMENTS

  1. Love this! No eye rolls at all. I bought those magnets because even if my boys don’t use them to check off their lists at least looking at them will make my brain happy!

  2. When we got my kids their first devices (Nintendo DS, my kids are old) we tied it to a treat after homework and reading was done. Even on weekends or vacations “did you do 20 minutes of reading?” (I remember 20 minutes being promoted by their school at the time). They never complained, because they grew up doing it that way. And luckily they don’t get car sick, so on road trips we would get a few reading breaks in after rest stop/meal breaks.

    It probably goes without saying, but when my kids were young, their rooms were a no electronics at night zone. Phones, Nintendo DS, ‘slept’ in the kitchen. No TV in room, if they had taken the laptop during the day, it left at night. They lasted pretty long without complaint, until mid way through high school, when we began letting them have their phones in their room on weekends, then vacations, then summer, then full time. Still no TV in anyone’s room, but as college students they have their laptops and my daughter has a Switch. PS4 in the basement.

    • Thanks for bringing this up, Susie. We had a certain set of family guidelines regarding screen time that seemed to work great, but then Covid hit and we “adjusted” (gave up) on those guidelines BIG TIME! Now that this September might be a bit more “normal”, I want to go back to the same pre-covid expectations, but so much has changed with their use of technology. We don’t start school until the very end of August, so I’m taking these next few weeks to figure out our plan. Thanks for the reminder that it helps to think this through as well as part of routines.

    • Haha! I was embarrassed to even publish a photo of THAT checklist. I mean you can find MUCH MUCH MUCH more creative and interesting and thorough ones on Pinterest! BUT…I realize that I personally won’t ever implement anything at all if I try to make everything Pinterest-worthy and others may be in my situation as well. The latest checklist that has been really helpful has been a “Cleaning Your Room” checklist for my 8-year-old. He gets overwhelmed when his room is a disaster, so I made a checklist (with the magnet system, of course) with everything broken down… like “Put dirty clothes in hamper, Put pillows on bed, Put away stuffed animals, Put away legos, Put away big toys, Put away small toys, Put away extra things on dresser”. It helps him to focus on one thing at a time rather than the huge daunting task of cleaning his WHOLE room. The other list that was SUPER helpful a few years ago was a homework checklist. My older son had a ton of homework for the first time in many different subjects. We had a checklist (with magnets) for each subject (he moved the magnet over when he was finished with his homework for that subject) and then “check-out” as the last task on the checklist. He did everything on his own until this point and then would “check out” with his dad or I in order to go over everything he completed as an accountability system before moving the last magnet over. It worked extremely well. Nothing complicated or fancy, but my kids have gotten really used to this type of system, so we can implement it with anything which is really useful. Hope that helps, Birdie.

  3. I love the simple checklist! Not everything needs to be Pinteresting! Years ago I saw a blogger post something even simpler she used to get her kids out the door. It had two categories: IN and ON, as in IN the backpack (lunch, folder) and ON the body (coat etc). I’m doing something similar for my older daughter who starts first grade (after a year of homeschool) on Thursday! Eek!

  4. Thx for the great ideas. Would be interested in seeing a pic/ more details on the setup with the clipboards and paper bins. My oldest went to kindergarten last year and we almost drowned in all the papers!

    • Sorry it’s taken me a bit to reply. It’s partly b/c we’re at the shore with my family, but mostly b/c I haven’t quite figured out my exact clipboard/bin system for this school year. I LOVE the clipboards and bins, but I do change up how we use them based on what we need and haven’t found the perfect “forever system”.

      You can see how I have the clipboards hung on the wall here : https://themomedit.com/daily-kid-routine-work-from-home-school-social-distancing-schedule/. We obviously used them very differently during those first few months of “lock-down” last spring.

      This fall, I will likely have one clipboard that is the weekly dinner menu (we’re talking “eggs your way”, Trader Joe’s Indian chickpeas in a bag, and order pizza night….LOW expectations to start with…ALWAYS!). One clipboard will have the school calendar printed out. And the other 4 clipboards will be assigned to each person in the family.

      For the kids’ clipboards, the paper on the front will likely have the kids’ after-school schedule written out and then behind that will be the papers they need as resources. For example, my little guy used to have the alphabet handwriting instruction graphic sheet on his and he would pull it down when he was writing and forgot how to do a letter. Now…it will likely be those papers that get sent home the first day of school with all sorts of information about the expectations for class, homework, etc that we refer back to often.

      My husband’s will have work stuff that comes in the mail that needs his immediate attention (licensing letters, etc) and anything else I need him to look at soon. Occasionally, I’ll put my “honey-do” list up there on his..but then he’s more likely to ignore the clipboard system totally, so that doesn’t work so well.

      Mine will likely be used for things the kids need me to look at or sign immediately. And then behind that I often put other things that need my immediate attention.

      For the clear bins, we currently have 6. The ones we have labeled with each of our names are papers we don’t need immediate access to (those go on our clipboards), but are papers we need to look at within the next month… or personal papers we want to keep. At the beginning of each month, we go through and recycle anything we can let go of. For example, kids bring work home from school or random drawings they desperately want to keep …we keep it for that month in their bin and then they’re usually ready to let go. The bins in general are often used for papers I don’t want to deal with in the moment (not bills, though…those are separate)…knowing I’ll go through them at the beginning of the next month. The other 2 bins are labeled “bills” and “important save”. Within both of those bins, I have folders to organize them. Financial papers, healthcare paperwork, etc.

      Just wrote this up quickly without any editing, so let me know if anything doesn’t make sense…run-on sentences sometimes make sense in my mind, but not in writing. 🙂

  5. This is so me. I’ve got a box of “back to school” art supplieshidden in my closet ready to unpack in the week before school to make the switch exciting. (Our school provides supplies so we just stock up for homework and projects at home.). I love the clear file folders and magnets! I have also ordered like 8 pairs of shoes between my 2 kids! Indoor gym shoes, regular sneakers, formal shoes, rainboots… nothing but their sandals fit anymore so it’s a full shoe reset. We also let a lot of routine rules go over the summer (and during the pandemic homeschool time) and a big house tidy up and reduction in screentime will also be part of the back-to-school thing. Our favourite lunchboxes are lunchbots. We’ve had them for 8 years now and same for our klean kanteen water bottles. Roll on September!

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