Whether you’re a school run pro with years of experience under your belt or getting ready to start school runs for the first time this September, when it comes to the crunch, getting kids up, dressed, ready and into school on time can be harder than it looks.
I remember adjusting to ferrying JD to school every morning took quite a while. We started off with crisp pressed uniforms hanging in neat rows ready for the week ahead, but by the first half term, all that had gone by the wayside and we were settled into a routine of last minute panic.
Over the years, through trial and error, talking to other mums and dads, and generally doing our best, we’ve all found a routine that (mostly) works for us.
So, here are my top five tips for easing into the school routine.
Stay smart: opt for non-iron, stain resistant uniform
Nothing says morning stress like stepping through the front door, into the sunshine, only to see that the shirt you thought was passable in the dim light of the kitchen is actually crumpled and sporting a mystery stain. Waah!
You can hugely cut down on washing and ironing time by investing in non-iron, stain-resistant shirts, blouses and dresses. They might cost a couple of pounds more, but these items will need less care, last longer and save you valuable time in the morning.
No more morning panic: check book bags the evening before
We all dread that moment when you’re just about to head out the door, only for small child to fish a crumpled note from their bag and decree, “it’s the science fair today, I’m supposed to have made a volcano.” Eek.
To make sure there are no last minute surprises, check bags right after dinner, before the kids are in bed, so you can discuss any notes and make sure you’re well prepared.
Skip the packed lunches: claim your free, healthy school meals
Making creative, healthy packed lunches every morning is fun at first, but it can become a bit of a slog. For us, school meals are a big win.
Did you know that all children in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools in England are eligible for FREE school meals? What’s more, the Children’s Food Trust has established compulsory School Food Standards that must be met by schools serving such meals, so you can feel confident your child is being encouraged to make healthy choices at lunch.
JD will go into year 3 in September, meaning his meals will no longer be free, but I think the convenience and access to healthy cooked lunches is well worth paying for if you can.
Know the drill: section off your morning routine to keep things on track
If we let our kids run the show, they’d spent 59 minutes watching TV in their PJs and 60 seconds actually getting ready for school. For us what works best is a routine we all know.
For example, 7am-7.15am is waking up, getting dressed and teeth brushing time, 7.15am-7.45am is breakfast and play time, 7.45am-8am is hair wrangling and general last minute getting ready time and at 8am, it’s shoes on to be out the door by 8.05am.
Ok, in reality it’s not so regimented, but by sectioning the morning up this way, we all know where we stand, and we avoid (most) arguments and fuss.
Share the load: split the school runs with your fellow parents
As my husband and I both work full-time, juggling all the responsibilities of work and family life can be challenging. About a year ago, we figured out that if he did the morning run and I did pick up (or vice versa) we both got a little extra space at either the start or end of the day, so everyone felt less rushed and it was easier to keep things on track.
If sharing the school run between parents isn’t possible, you might be lucky enough to have nearby grandparents you can ask to do the collections a couple of times a week.
Or you might try teaming up with two or three well-trusted mums and dads of your children’s close friends. Whether walking or driving, you can take it in turns to run a little bus service, picking up a two or three extra kids when it’s your turn, so that other days you can just wave them out the door. It might takes a few logistical adjustments (eg extra booster seats), but it’s well worth it.
So they’re my tips for easing into the school routine. If you’re a seasoned veteran of the school run, what helps you keep things running smoothly?