Winter break is over, and for some of us, it was a lot longer than usual. (My kids are just going back to school now, after three full weeks off.) In the downtime, our routines got out of whack: bedtimes and wake-ups shifted later, a lot of meals were eaten in front of holiday movies instead of at the table, and the kids generally spent a lot of time in their pajamas.
Honestly, that was fine: They needed the break, and juggling our own work without even the structure of their remote school days stretched us extra thin, so we let a lot of things go. But it’s a new “back to school” season now, and it’s time to get back in the swing of things. And if your school schedule is in flux—say, your kids are shifting from remote to hybrid, or from in-person back to remote—then adjusting your routines is even more important.
A couple years ago, we put together 5 Ninja Parent Tips to Make the School Day Routine Easier. These are still good tips, but we thought the list needed a refresh for the current historical moment. So here you go: 5 Ninja Parent Tips to Make the School Day Routine Easier...Pandemic Edition:
1) Set up a family calendar. It’s great for grown-ups to have important dates and events in their digital calendars, but a big, on-paper calendar—placed somewhere everyone can see it—is key for keeping the kids in the loop. At a minimum, the family calendar should include their current weekly school schedule (e.g. what days are remote vs. in-person if you’re in a hybrid situation; when the kids have any in-person classes requiring special gear, like music or gym), as well as their daily schedules for remote learning. (Pro tip from our early learning experts: If you have little ones in the house, include visual elements on your calendar to help them follow the schedule, like a sandwich next to “lunch” or a computer next to “remote learning time”).
2) Prep everything the night before. Especially if you’re just getting back to some in-person learning days, save yourself the morning headaches by having the next day’s backpacks and lunches ready to go before bedtime. “Prep everything” also includes laying out clothes (we like to plan outfits a week at a time!), making sure everyone has a clean mask ready to go, checking that homework is where it needs to be, and even setting out non-perishable breakfast options.
3) Make a device dock. This is related to #2, but for the remote learning crowd. Set up a common area to keep everyone’s devices organized. They can charge there overnight, and you’ll avoid the morning “my Chromebook is dead and I have English class right now” shuffle.
4) Remember the ABCs of good zzz’s. Okay, it sounds cheesy, but sleep is really important. The National Sleep Foundation tells us kids ages 5-12 should get around 10-11 hours of sleep per night (teens need about 9 hours). If you’re anything like us and bedtime has crept later during the time off, start moving it back by 15-minute increments until everyone is in bed in time for a solid night’s rest. If you’ve been doing a lot of movie nights, now’s the time to cut back on screen time before bed, at least in the hour before it’s time to sleep, since blue light can affect their biological rhythms. Check out a few more tips on healthy sleep habits for kids here.
5) Talk about what’s coming next. Particularly with hybrid learning schedules, it can be tough for kids (um, and caregivers!) to bounce back and forth between in-person and remote learning. Minimize the constant transitioning by spending a few minutes at dinner talking about what’s coming up the next day. This will help make sure you’re not forgetting anything, but it’ll also ease the mental adjustments required to shift between being at home and having to get out the door in the morning.
For more tricks to make your days less messy, check out our parent hacks.
“It’s a new “back to school” season now, and it’s time to get back in the swing of things.”
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