Q: I have twins who are starting first grade this year, and getting them out the door for kindergarten and their summer camps was so much harder than I ever imagined. We were always forgetting backpacks or their water bottles, and after the struggle to get shoes on or grab coats, I would have to run back into the house or even drive all the way home and back to the school before getting myself to work. I can see in my head the perfect entry closet where we can keep all this together for back to school, but, no closet. Please help!
A: Back to school is an exciting and stressful time for everyone — so much more than cute outfits, supply lists, and new backpacks. Nobody wants the kids to get grumpy or cold because they forgot their backpack, lunch, or sweatshirt, or miss deadlines for permission slips.
Even very young kids can learn to take responsibility for their backpacks; it doesn’t need to be all on you. Start by letting them pick theirs out. Take them shopping, let them choose from two or three you’ve approved. Let them carry it or wear it home, and before school starts, spend some time customizing it together.
Let them decorate their magic spot in the house where their backpack will live from the moment they get home until they leave the next morning. It might not even be by the front door. The entryway, a specific cubby in your new mudroom, the bench in the kitchen or dining room -- as long as it’s along the path to the door. Plan out a vertical zone with kid-height hooks, shelves, and a bench with shoes underneath — a classic solution your kids can own. Have one such space for each child, and keep just the items they need on a daily basis such as seasonal jackets, soccer cleats, etc.
Also consider dedicating a drawer or shelf in the kitchen for water bottles, lunch kits, and special snacks. Set up one drawer per kiddo, and make sure they can reach it. If you have more than one child, choose drawers that are not stacked above one another. This will spread everyone out as they grab their stuff on rushed mornings.
Lastly, similar dedicated spaces in the refrigerator and freezer might also be helpful. Premade lunches that can be grabbed out of the freezer could be a time-saver for everyone. PB&J sandwiches freeze nicely and are the perfect backup if you didn’t manage to get to the grocery store. Good luck and let me know what you come up with!