Are you ready for it? Are you ready for the onslaught of papers and art projects, summer camp choices, planning for road-trips, and all those trips to the pool? It’s hard to believe, but the end of another school year is almost upon us, and taking a few steps to be prepared can make a huge difference in how smoothly those dog-days progress (and how many times you hear “I’m bored!”). Here are a few ideas to get you ready:
1. As much as you can before school’s out, fill in the entire summer calendar. Around our house, we plan for camps, doctor and dentist appointments, vacations and special visits in advance so that we make the most of the summer down time. Not that we fill up every single day, but it helps kids to know when they are leaving to see the grandparents vs. when they go to gymnastics camp (be sure to request any immunization/medical records you might need for summer camp or sports). Make a list with your kids of activities they can choose from on the open days – play with friends, build a fort, run around in the sprinklers – and keep it next to the calendar. Of course, be sure to mark the first day of school for next year.
2. Make a plan for the school “stuff”. All of a sudden, the backpacks come home full to bursting with everything the teachers are clearing out of their rooms (they don’t like the clutter, either). Everything from graded papers, coloring sheets, workbooks and unused supplies comes back to your house. My kids have returned with such varied treasures as 20 unopened packages of glue sticks, a year’s worth of schoolroom magazines, and 7 extra pairs of scissors (“But Mom, no one else wanted them!”). In this case, the best defense is a good offense – dump everything out as soon as it comes home. Go through papers with the kids and decide what’s precious vs. what’s recyclable. Suggest taking pictures of, or scanning special graded work or artwork for safekeeping. Extra workbooks can be used to review subjects over the summer (yup, I’m one of those moms), and extra supplies that you won’t use can be donated to organizations that collect for the next school year.
3. Wash out the backpacks and lunch boxes. Check the labels first, but most backpacks and zippered lunchboxes can be machine-washed – or at least scrubbed by hand with fine washable detergent. On that last day of school, check all of the extra pockets and compartments for the extra change, interesting rocks and sticks, and broken crayons. Pre-treat the stains and wash according to directions. Turn them inside out and put them out in the sun to dry. For an extra boost, spritz a little essential oil on old newspapers and stuff the backpack with them for summer storage. When school starts they’ll smell wonderful (at least for the first day).
4. Put their summer stuff all together in a “drop zone”. Are you tired of everyone scrambling and digging around for all of the things you need just to get out the door? Purchase mesh drawstring bags in different colors for each child, and load them with the flip flops or water shoes, goggles, pool toys, sunscreen and hats that are needed each time you head outside or to the pool. Put everything in the coat closet (or mudroom, or hooks by the back door) at a height they can easily reach. Keep a stash of clean towels close by to grab on the way out. When things come home wet, the bags can be left outside to dry before coming in to their spots.
5. Stock up on summer reading. Nothing says summer like settling under a big tree with a great book (and maybe some lemonade). Get a copy of the summer reading list from your kids’ school, or if they don’t provide one, check with the librarian on the best books for their reading levels. Most libraries also have great reading lists on their websites. E-books and audio books are great for rainy days, and those long car rides, too. Calendar regular library visits to keep the supply up, and so you don’t have overdue fines to deal with.
The transition to a summer routine doesn’t have to be hectic or nerve wracking…all you need is a little preparation and planning. Take some time today to try one or two of these suggestions, and get everyone in the family ready for some stress-free, warm weather adventures.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?