It's hard to believe it's that time already: back to school. The shoes need to be polished; uniforms bought, then there's the books, copies and pencils - and the troops to be assembled. There's no doubting that it's a hectic time. With a rather long to-do list reminding you to organise school runs, after-school activities (and the rest!), you know you don't want any stress setting in. The good news is that a little simple pre-preparation now will ensure smooth sailing before the first day of school bell tolls.
 
Here are five key things you can do to stay ahead:
 
Create a family calendar   
 
Stay on track as a family by posting a calendar in an area it can't be missed, such as the kitchen, that lists each family member's appointments, activities, events, due dates, test dates - anything important that must not be forgotten. You'll have a better idea of how to manage your time on any given day and will be able to plan around that schedule. It also means nothing big that needs to be tended to will come as a surprise.    
 
 
 
 
Start a sleep schedule as early as possible
 
This could be one battle to brace yourself for, seeing as their sleeping patterns may have been varied during the summer months, but getting them into a fresh sleeping routine as early as you can will really make a difference.  About a week before the first day of school, children should begin a bedtime and wake-up schedule that mirrors their impending weekday/school-going routine. You want them feeling fresh and revived and ensuring they get the sleep they need will make the days smoother for everyone.
 
Set after-school rules now
 
Before school starts, sit down as a family and map out the after-school rules, including when and where homework will be done, the amount of time that's allowed for watching those iPads and playing games; and how many extracurricular activities – such as sports and swimming – can be juggled and realistically done.
 
 
 
Meal planning and preparation will be a huge help
 
You know that old saying? Being prepared really is half the battle. Having as much meal preparation done as possible means getting out of the house quicker come the morning. You can set the breakfast table ahead of time, prepare lunches (sandwiches, a selection of fruit and so on) and pop them in the fridge the night before. Then, when they get home, there's no reason you can't have a freezer full of tasty food to take some pressure off dinner time.
 
Get a handle on back-to-school anxiety
 
Your little ones will naturally be a bit nervous as the first day of school looms, so there are things you can do to help with this. Get them excited and involved in the buying of school supplies, do a test on the school run - drive or walk them to their new school so they know what to expect - and maybe arrange a play date with any potential friends you know will be in the same class as your own. These little things will make a big difference.        
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