3 Back-to-School Hacks

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My boys are going to be in second and first grade this year, and I’m setting up a few helpful resources to encourage them to be responsible and in charge of their stuff! Read the three simple “hacks” below!

Print out a “menu” to help guide the kids in making their lunches.

I have not been consistent with making the boys’ lunch the night before a school day but I’m determined to do better this year. And I want their help! This year both boys will be attending the same school (you may remember that we homeschooled Luke for his kindergarten year, which was the best decision) so we will be a little bit busier in the evenings with managing any projects or things they need to do when they get home at the end of the day. I’m really aiming for lunches to be made and almost completely assembled the evening before school and this “menu” I printed out is an effort to help guide their selections. We keep meals pretty simple around here, in general, and the same is true for school lunch. My kids are happy eating repeated meals, and for lunchtime that keeps it really simple!

Store socks right by their shoes.

I’ve shared this hack a few times over the years, but I wanted to share it again because it instantly solved an ongoing problem in our family. I would always store the boys’ socks in their bedroom dressers but found myself repeatedly asking them to go back upstairs to get socks before we ran out the door somewhere. We typically run around the house barefoot because we have hardwood floors throughout, including the stairs, and I don’t want anyone to slip. So I started storing my kids’ socks down in the “shoe closet”, which is essentially our mudroom, and it may be my best “system” set up in motherhood. I’ve never had to ask the boys to run back upstairs when we’re trying to leave because everything is ready to go right in the mudroom!

Encourage personal responsibility with a “home from school” checklist.

I typed this out and printed it a few times to place in strategic locations for the boys to notice for their “home from school” transition time. They will each have a computer that needs to be charged every single night, and they also will have lunchboxes and cups that need to be washed (we use reusable lunchbox things as much as possible!). So this list will help them get into the practice of taking care of their school day things when they get home. I imagine having to talk through this routine several times at the beginning of the year and decided a checklist would be a better way to encourage the boys to be responsible for their own things. Whenever we travel, I print out a little checklist of things to pack and they both genuinely like following the guide to pack their own things. I’m sure that it makes them feel mature and responsible, and I’m always happy to encourage those feelings in them!

A few other helpful things: 

Machine washable and dishwasher safe labels for cups, lunch boxes, jackets, etc.

I’ve used these Bento boxes for years for my kids. The boys are requiring bigger lunches these days, but I still have these to use for Emily!

I used Canva to create the printables that I hung in our house. It’s such an easy way to create visually interesting printables!

My boys have to wear uniforms to their schools but if they didn’t, I would still generally follow this plan for buying new clothes for them.

Cheers fellow caregivers and parents, we made it! 

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Amy says · 08.19.21

Love these ideas! Do you have a close up for the menu you have for your boys?

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Kandie says · 08.19.21

If you go to her stories she shows a close up and talks about it more there 🙂

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Michele says · 08.19.21

I feel like if I put a dresser with my whole family’s socks by the door downstairs, it would honestly bring about world peace.

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Kate says · 08.19.21

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t store some of mine down there too, lol!

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Jill B says · 08.19.21

Great ideas! I’ve always tried to keep several pairs of my kids’ socks down by their shoes in the mudroom as well. You’re right – inevitably you’re trying to get out the door and they don’t have socks on.

I have always struggled with racing to make lunches in the morning. I really need to try to implement getting them made the night before. That would really be a huge time saver in the morning.

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Starfish says · 08.19.21

How exactly did you print the large menu? Kinkos?

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Kate says · 08.19.21

Staples! Just sent the pdf in via the internet and picked it up!

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Kay Loftin says · 08.19.21

You are so organized! I enjoy getting your tips, and you’re always so put together! You may have on shorts and a tank, but the accessories and makeup/hair are perfect!

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Kate says · 08.19.21

So many things function better if I’m organized, so I try really hard to set up systems that work for us!

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Sandra says · 08.19.21

My kids are grown now, but they would have loved the Lunch Menu options. Genius and allows them to have some control of what they want. Get the kids involved young with unpacking their backpacks too, great habits to foster.

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Kate says · 08.19.21

Thanks Sandra!

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Nance says · 08.19.21

I’m a 33 year old woman and I’m using this. 😁 This would for sure help with going out to lunch every day!

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Soraya says · 08.19.21

But doesn’t remembering to get their own socks from upstairs also fall under ‘personal responsibility’?

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Kate says · 08.19.21

It could, for sure, but it’s more of a safety issue for us as well. I don’t want them wearing socks upstairs and slipping down the wood stairs.
More than that, it’s convenience.

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Sheri Pride says · 08.19.21

Yes! I taught my kids (3 of them♥️) to make their lunches around 2nd grade and let me tell you, best thing ever! Then sometimes I would just surprise them and make it for them. The older they get, they have preferences, and they could do a little bit of choosing themselves. Oh, and I did the sock thing too!

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Rebecca says · 08.19.21

I no longer have littles at home, but I’m definitely doing the lunch menu for my teenage boys! Fantastic idea! We recently started prepping as much of lunch as possible the night before…mainly the non-perishable items and that’s been a big help in our morning rush.

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Kate says · 08.19.21

Yes, even getting the non-perishables in the boxes makes you feel like you’re miles ahead of the game.

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Allison says · 08.19.21

We’re moving soon from a ranch to a 2 story, and I’m already planning to create a space for the socks by the shoes! (Thanks to this advice I head from you forever ago)

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Trisha Moller says · 08.19.21

Hi Kate! Helpful tip (stolen from teachers) = Print out checklist and slip into clear plastic sleeve (like for 3 ring binders). Then give each kid a dry erase marker to actually check off the list. We are color coded in our house 🙂 so each of my boys gets their own colored marker and they know when I’ve checked their work too (if needed). OR have a list “checked” (or written or whatever) and erase as the task is complete. (I even found dry erase markers with erasers on tips so it’s all in one.). Cheap and easy way to make a reusable list!

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Trisha Moller says · 08.19.21

PS I too discovered the sock/shoe connection years ago! Best idea ever!!!

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Kate says · 08.19.21

Great idea! Thank you!

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Jessie says · 08.19.21

You should encourage healthier eating habits. All of those items are carbs, carbs, and more carbs. They are going to have blood sugar problems, excess weight, carb cravings, etc. You are the mom and you largely control the health of your family. Would you be interested in healthy eating tips?

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Kate says · 08.19.21

If you want to send those, you are more than welcome to. Connect @ thesmallthingsblog . com is the best form of contact. You’re welcome to comment here with them as well, if you desire.

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Lorin says · 08.19.21

🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄

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Mackenzie Staiger says · 08.19.21

You do you Jessie.

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Erin says · 08.19.21

Ummm…these are genius! I love, love, love the lunch menu. Gonna use that one for sure…even with my big ol’ ninth grader. #timeflies😩 Thanks for these! Happy new school year!

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Renee says · 08.19.21

I’ve been using your sock tip for a few years! Game changer! Do you think you will consider homeschooling Emily for kindergarten since you enjoyed it with Luke so much?

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Lorin says · 08.19.21

Love the menu idea! So neat!

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Hilary says · 08.20.21

Yessss I learned the shoe/sock thing from you! We have ours in our drop zone by the door, and it makes it so much easier.

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Julia says · 08.20.21

Would you be able to share the (genius!) menu? I didn’t get to your story quick enough to see the sample

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Jen says · 08.23.21

I would love to see a close up of the menu too…this mama needs order around here!

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Jennifer Stymiest says · 08.23.21

Socks by the door = genius!! Definitely going to do that!

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Jessica Witty says · 10.02.21

Can you post a photo of your home from school checklist?

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