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School Days - Top 10 Tips for Establishing a Good Routine

Teachers know that children thrive in an environment with routines, boundaries and rules. Unfortunately, parents often forget it! And yet by establishing good routines and encouraging children to help you maintain them, you have an opportunity to set a pattern and a discipline that will stay with your children for the rest of their lives. You will make school days easier and far less stressful, reduce the chances of starting your day late or dragging on forever with the homework, put an end to nagging and shouting, and have happier, more relaxed kids.

Here are 10 tips for establishing a solid, school day routine.

1. Lay the breakfast table the night before

Put everything out apart from perishables. If you keep all your breakfast things in one cupboard or one area of the kitchen this routine will be easier to establish, and older children can take it in turns to do it.

2. Put out your clothes the night before

Lay out a complete set of clothes for each child, checking them as you do it. Older children should do this themselves - you can double check when you say goodnight. Then if something is missing (or shoes need polishing) you have time to put it right. Lay your own clothes out too!

3. Brush teeth at the kitchen sink

Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste for each child in the kitchen and brush teeth at the kitchen sink immediately after breakfast. It may not be perfect for the house-proud, but if you send your child out of your sight to do a chore in the morning, you lose control. If you lose control, he may start dawdling.

4. Set up base camp

Establish a "base camp" where the children keep all their school things. You will need room for kit bags, satchels, swimming bags, sports equipment, ballet bags, library books and whatever else the kids need! Provide at least one hook per child for their coats (in our house kids must hang coats up as soon as they take them off) and a basket or box for school shoes (in our house kids must put shoes in the box as soon as they take them off too - sometimes they do!)

Another basket or box for each child can be used as a place to put anything that needs to go to school - gloves, letters to teachers, music, library books etc. Everything is in its place and ready to go out the door first thing in the morning without any fuss.

5. Make a list

Fill out a schedule of what is needed at school on each day and pin it up at "base camp". Check each morning before you walk out the door that you have the appropriate kit. You will find a school week planner to print here: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/school_week_planner.htm

6. Nail up a notice board

Keep a notice board at "base camp" so that you can pin up reminders, invitations, school menus or whatever else you need to keep tabs on.

7. Do it now!

If anything comes home from school that requires your attention, do it immediately. Fill out forms and put them straight back into the satchel. Write dates into your diary there and then, and reply the same day too. If you postpone it, you will forget it!

8. Give homework a home

Establish a place and time for doing homework and stick to it. Keep dictionaries and other necessary books nearby, as well as a spare set of pencils, rulers and other stationery you might need. Make sure that homework is put back into satchels as soon as it is completed and that satchels are returned to "base camp" straightaway. Get out a kitchen timer if kids are reluctant to start (or finish!)

9. Be prepared

If your car is running short of petrol (gas), fill it up on the way home from school in the afternoon rather than panicking the following morning! As you drive home, run a mental check on whether you have the necessary supplies for dinner, and breakfast. Nothing makes kids more miserable in the morning than an empty fridge.

10. Get ahead

Set your alarm to wake you up 10 minutes earlier than usual. You will be amazed at how much more in control that 10 minutes will make you feel. And finally, leave for school 5 minutes early. Arriving early takes away an enormous amount of stress and will put your children in the right mood for school.

Are you convinced? Start initiating some routines in your school days and you and your kids will feel the benefits very quickly. Making sure that your kids feel comfortable and in control before they get to school gives them the best possible start to a school day. And once they get used to afternoon and evening routines for homework and preparation for the day ahead, nighttimes become more peaceful too.

"We first make our habits, and then our habits make us."
--John Dryden

(c) Lindsay Small 2005

Please feel free to reprint this article in its entirety in your newsletter or on your site, as long as you leave all links in place, do not modify the content, and include our resource box as above intact. If you do use the article, please send us an email so we can take a look. Thank you.

Lindsay Small is the creator and editor of Activity Village - providing the ultimate one-stop resource for parents and teachers looking to educate and entertain their kids. Visit the website at http://www.ActivityVillage.co.uk and subscribe to the free newsletter at http://www.ActivityVillage.co.uk/free_ne wsletter.htm

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