Do visions of running your children to all of their after school activities have you breaking into a cold sweat? What time was practice again? Were you supposed to bring snacks?
When school and activities start up again, I know it's sometimes overwhelming for me to keep track of everything - not only being on time and at the right place, but with the right gear, as well.
How do you keep your family on track?
I'm always looking for tips on how to manage our family schedule and our kids' activities better, but I have found that enlisting my children and my spouse in planning works best. These three activities seem to keep the chaos to a minimum at our house.
1. Create a common family calendar.
To stay organized and not overbook our activities, we have found it's most helpful to have a Family Calendar that everyone can access. While it is awesome for Mom and Dad to keep their schedules synched in Google Calendar or using Cozi.com, the kids may not be able to see it so easily and we want them to start taking responsibility for knowing when they have activities. Grab a master family calendar to keep track of each family member’s activities. With a wall calendar, hang it low enough for little kids to reach to write down their own activities. They can keep track of special classes like art or music, activities or sports, or playmates and birthday parties. Let them add stickers or smiley faces or whatever they like to remind them of important days. Just get into the habit of everybody checking the calendar daily before they go to bed, so everyone knows what’s going on the next day.
2. Keep it together.
Keep all of your kids activity stuff together in a duffle bag or backpack. Have a special duffle bag for soccer with pads, shoes, uniform and a water bottle. Keep all of this gear in the bag hanging in the coat room or garage. After you wash the uniform, throw it in the soccer duffle bag. Don’t take it upstairs and put it away in a dresser. That’s just an extra step. The ready-to-go bag will make life easier when you are late for practice and running out the door. Same for piano lessons, keep all of the books, folders, etc. in a designated backpack. It’s always ready to go when you are and keeps the clutter in the rest of the house down to a minimum. Invest in hooks for extra backpacks. It’s worth it.
3. Be flexible.
These days, everyone seems to have a jam packed schedule. Know that sometimes it won’t always be perfect. When the schedule gets messed up, have back up plans in place for quick, easy dinners or a carpool driver on speed dial. If you miss an appointment, don’t beat yourself up. If you signed up for an activity where the coach insists on holding practice during church or important family times, quit and choose another program. With after school activities, I want to expose my kids to new experiences, further their studies, or have fun. Not to create stress.
Nothing is more important than having time to spend together as a family and stressed-out, guilt-ridden parents and overbooked kids does not make for a "happy place." So, I'd love to hear from you.
How do you keep the family schedule and your kids’ activities organized?
Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.