Though it’s still summer, it’s not too early to prepare for getting back into the back-to-school routine. Here are some top tips from local experts, along with a collection of apps to get -- and keep -- things organized.
Getting out of the house on time
Cindy Goldrich of PTS Coaching in Roslyn Heights, which provides education and support for parents of children dealing with ADHD and executive function challenges, recommends that parents and kids write down the biggest challenges of getting out in the morning, the concrete steps that need to be taken to overcome those challenges and what can be done in advance.
If breakfast in the morning is a hassle because children are picky eaters, create a menu on a door tag and ask them choose what they want to eat the night before, like hotels do, suggests Goldrich, who owns the business.
Discuss in advance with your child who’s responsible for waking them and how many reminders is reasonable. Have kids responsible for tracking time -- with support from their parents.
“Even if the kid is younger, they can have an alarm,” Goldrich says. “They should get used to the idea of looking at a clock.”
Getting schedules organized
To keep schedules in sync, use a dry erase board with schedules in a different color for each child or a family calendar with different colors, suggests Cynthia Braun, a professional organizer who works with families through her company, Organize Your Life in Lake Grove.
Parents also should have activities stored in their phones or organizers, but older kids can have their own calendar on a bulletin board in their room.
“You have to teach the kids to be more responsible,” Braun says. “If there’s a conflicting event, let your kid make the decision.”
If bedtime has been pushed later in the summer, try getting back to a normal routine about two weeks before school starts, recommends Huntington-based sleep consultant Kristy Sileo, founder of Blissful Bedtimes. “Over the summer, people tend to let bedtime creep later and later because of barbecues and family events,” Sileo says. “About two weeks out, you want to get back to normal.”
Kids in kindergarten and first grade can go back to their regular bedtimes right away, while older kids can get back more incrementally.
“Kids love routine,” Sileo says. “When you get back into what is normal, they really benefit from that.”
Picking out clothes
Betty Day, the owner of North Shore Closets, a custom storage company based in Deer Park, says children’s closets should have lower rods that they can reach, with higher rods that parents can access to hold more formal clothing.
Parents can lay out outfits together with their kids the night before school and put the clothes on a valet rod or separate hanger.
Goldrich of PTS Coaching recommends a door tag – similar to the one she recommends using to choose breakfast the next day – that parents fill out with the weather forecast and the next day’s activities so it’s easier to pick out the proper clothing.
Alison Levison, who worked for many years as registered dietician at schools and hospitals, recommends packing lunches with small finger foods for snacks for young children, such as crackers and hummus. Snacks such as celery and carrot sticks can be packed with low-fat dressings and cut-up fruit can be served with yogurt dips, or puree fruit and put it in plain yogurt.
“They’re more likely to eat the fruit than when it’s plain,” Levison says.
Look for sugar-free flavored waters.
Levison recommends that children participate in putting together lunches.
“They’re more likely to eat it if they make it themselves,” Levison says. “The more input they have, the better chance of them eating it.”
Designating a workspace
Before the school year begins, take time to establish a dedicated homework area for your child, says Amanda Moore of Long Beach interior design firm Wolf & Wing.
“If it must be at the multi-functional dining room table, then create a rolling cart full of homework necessities that can be rolled up to the dining table and then back into a closet when not in use,” Moore says. “If your child has a desk anywhere in the house, make sure it is clean, stocked and ready for the school year at least several days in advance.”
Braun of Organize Your Life recommends that homework be done at a desk in the child’s room with bins for supplies. They also shouldn’t have toys in their room, instead storing them in a den, basement or designated play area.
Storing classwork and art
Katharine Posillico McGowan, who owns Huntington-based Katharine Jessica Interior Design, says that while refrigerators are popular spots for storing art, they can often get cluttered. She recommends a pin-up panel for the wall or a clothes line with metal clips.
Custom cork boards are also popular and can be a great way to match décor.
“You can get a cork board in any color,” Posillico McGowan says. “If the kitchen is gray and navy, you can have a navy cork board.”
While the temptation is there to save every drawing and collage your kids make, it's vital to keep purging all the artwork that comes through your door, says Moore of Wolf & Wing.
“Some of our clients like to get their children involved in this editing process by creating a ‘gallery’ where the work they are most proud of, chosen by them, is displayed for a week or so," she says. "Then it is replaced by new favorites, again chosen by the child.”
For storing everything not on display, Moore recommends having one extra-large clear bin for each child, cardboard tubes for every grade level through the end of elementary school, the same number of flat archival photo boxes, a flat file that can double as a coffee table in a playroom or basement, a vintage suitcase or a dedicated dresser drawer or under-bed box.
Dealing with electronics
If over the summer you had a “no rules” philosophy when it comes to screen time, Adele Testani Tongish, the administrator of the Half Hollow Hills Parents and Educators for Digitally Balanced Kids Facebook group, recommends making sure to start easing back the screen time limits a few weeks before school starts.
“Getting kids on an overall more regular schedule as summer ends will help with the transition,” she says. “Incorporate some learning time, consistent sleep and wake times as well as screen time rules.”
For homework routines, Jo-Ann Annunziato of Massapequa-based Long Island Tutoring Service recommends creating a space free of distractions.
“Homework should be done at consistent times, but don’t be too rigid,” Annunziato says. “Allow for some decompression time after school if necessary. Many kids benefit tremendously from this, particularly students with special needs. Allow for short breaks as necessary.”
Annunziato advises parents not to hover while their children are working.
“Gentle reminders to stay on track are fine while they work,” she says. “If they are struggling, though, don’t let them become overwhelmed. Help them break down tasks and set small goals to be completed one at a time.”
Don’t be afraid to seek outside help for a child who is really struggling.
“Talk to the teacher or an education professional,” Annunziato says. “Seeking out help can make homework time and general school work so much easier.”
Apps to help
Cozi Family Organizer: This app organizes activities and events as well as recipes and shopping lists.
Lala Lunchbox: Suggestions for school lunches.
ArtKive: Send a box of your kids’ artwork and have it turned into a keepsake book that’s also accessible on your devices.
Here Comes the Bus: Participating school districts share the location of their buses so parents and kids know when it will arrive.
MyHomework: Students can track assignments, projects and tests and receive due date reminders.