For many families with kids in preschool, kindergarten and early elementary, back-to-school time is exciting: New friends and new learning experiences abound. But it can also be overwhelming and exhausting, especially for parents. Cue Minnetonka mom Happi Olson, host of The Happi House and vice president of marketing for Creative Kidstuff, a local toy and gear shop. Olson shares her tips for back-to-school food prep and supplies.
Olson encourages families to use the weekend to prepare lunches for the following week. She explains that foods like pretzels, crackers, almonds, baby carrots and raisins can be pre-packaged and put in a lunch bin in the cupboard or fridge, so kids can assemble their own lunches each morning. Each kid takes her lunch box or bag and stops at the stations to add her items.
What else can make school mornings a little crazy? Finding the perfect outfit. While parents should provide some guidelines for little ones (for example, always pack tennis shoes and dress for the weather), Olson suggests having kids pick out their outfits for the week ahead of time. Create a stack of Monday-through-Friday outfits, down to socks and underwear. “It’s really all about making mornings easier, because that’s when things get dicey,” Olson says. A little preparation on Sunday afternoon goes a long way.
The Homework Hustle
Olson recommends making a homework bin at home, and stocking it with all the items required for successful homework completion. The bin that Olson made for her family has an easy-to-carry handle, so the kids can move it to their preferred workspace.
Olson also recommends putting a few developmental toys in the bin, especially for active kids who need help focusing. To keep little hands busy, Olson recommends a Fidget, some “thinking putty” or another manipulative toy. “Because kids are so energetic, if they’re able to do something really simple and use their physical energy, their minds are often more focused,” she explains.
Olson also emphasizes the importance of having open conversations with your child about scheduling after-school activities. “Talk through the plan and let kids take control of their day,” Olson says. This is a great way to help kids avoid an over-scheduled week, without making them feel like you’re dictating all of their activities.
Another helpful organizational tool is an in-and-out-bin system, easily crafted with two desktop paper organizers. Kids should put things in the ‘in’ bin for parents: permission slips, notes from teachers, and anything else you need to see. Use the ‘out’ bin for anything that needs to go back to school: signed forms or completed homework assignments. Kids should check the ‘out’ bin every night and put everything in their backpack.
To help moms and dads stay organized, Olson’s trick for time management is really no trick at all: Google Calendar. When both parents can digitally access the same calendar, they can see what’s on deck for the week and watch for any scheduling conflicts. Digital calendars can be shared and accessed on most devices (phones, tablets, etc.), so you might consider letting older kids in middle or high school see what’s being planned and weigh in on their extracurricular activities, too.
Cover photo: 1. Sensory Twistz, $19.99; 2. Tangle Jr. Textured Puzzle, $4.95; 3. Alex creamy crayons, 100-piece set, $12; 4. Boogie Board LCD writing tablet, $34.99; 5. Wacky Trails chain toy, $3.99