School bag station - The set up that can save your mornings
First of all, our school bag station consists of Ikea, Ikea, Kmart and Ikea. Not at all expensive and looks awesome, but you do need to arm yourself with an allen key for everything Ikea. What you choose to use is totally up to you. It all depends on what suits you, your home and what budget you have to work with.
Furthermore where you put your station can also be a factor in how well it works for you. It might work better for one family to have it near the front door, door to the garage, or in one of the living areas. Ours is situated in the hallway leading from the front door. We have enough space there for the girls to easily prepare their own bags. The best thing is, if it doesn't work where you have it for whatever reason... you can move it!
This is a really important element. Your kids need somewhere specific to put their bag, uniform and bag items. They also need somewhere to put all of that wonderful 'art' they come home with.
We use an Ikea Expedit shelving unit with a box for each child. Their boxes are located at the bottom to make it as easy as possible for them to pull them out and get them back in (even if they're heavy). In these boxes, they keep their bag and school uniforms. Above the boxes, we have an empty shelf. This shelf is where they keep their water bottles, lunch bags, take home folders, and library bags (alternatively the library bags could live in their school bag box to avoid them taking the wrong one to school). The next shelf up is where they can find folders to put in the artwork they bring home in their bags. This is a neat way to keep it all until you get the time to check it all out.
The artwork folders was something I added after they mastered the rest of the set up. Some children can become overwhelmed if they have too many chores to remember at once. A discouraged child won't do what you want them to do. It needs to be a positive experience for them.
Our shoe box is from Kmart. I love it. Not only does it hold a lot of shoes, it's a nice place for them to sit when they're putting their shoes on. If your children are likely to want to wear inappropriate shoes to school other than the shoes they're meant to wear, keep their school shoes in their bag box. This will avoid any 'you've put the wrong shoes on!' dramas in the morning.
Having a little side table there is also really important. When I've finished preparing lunches, I put them on that table and let them know their lunch is ready. It means that everything that needs to go in their bag is all in the same area. It makes it quicker and easier for them to collect the items to pack their bag. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to succeed at this, and succeed without you nagging them or reminding them how to do it.
This blackboard is also from Ikea. It looks sexy and is magnetic. I've not actually used chalk on it as I purchased it to display magnets. I wanted my school bag station to look classy not childish as it's in a prominent part of my home that people see as they walk through to the living areas.
The magnets on the board is one of the customisable school bag check lists I make. It consists of 5 items to pack in the bag and smiley faces to signify when each chore has been done. My eldest daughter uses one column for packing her bag, and another for putting everything away after school. The third column is used by my 3 year old. She doesn't yet need everything that her sister does when she packs her bag, but it's good practice for her. She only needs to remember her hat and drink bottle - next year, she will need to do all of it.
If magnets aren't your thing, you could simply use a whiteboard as a check list for your kids. It all really depends on the age and competency of your children, and what will encourage them to independently pack for the day. There is one last really important thing to remember in order for this to be a success...
As a parent sometimes our every instinct is to hover, instruct, direct, and make sure things are done right. This often saves us time, patience and sanity. We all know that many children strive for control. Most of the battles we have as parents are from strong willed children that want to be the ones making the decisions. They want some form of control. Something that they manage and are in charge of. Something that makes them feel like they're more grown up and that you trust them.
If you give them the tools and strategies to do this well, explain to them how to do it, and then tell them you're going to let them do it all by themselves (and to call for you when they've finished so you can see how amazing and independent they are), they will love this as much as you do. Give them the freedom to do this and do it well, you can review it with them when they've finished to see if they've achieved everything that you wanted them to. If they haven't, figure out what obstacle is preventing them from doing it. Maybe they can't remember something and it'll take time. Maybe something is hard for them to find. Make the changes you need to make sure they can do it without assistance. If they need you to help them through it, that's fine. If they need you to watch, that's also fine. Sometimes it takes baby steps to get to independence... but trust me, with the right tools and set up it's entirely possible for them to be as brilliant as you need them to be.
There you have it!
Work out a means of organisation that works for you and your school bag station. If your family struggles to keep your school bag station organised, it won't work! Have a play around and try some things - you can always modify your area as you go.
Thanks for reading! I hope this blog helps hundreds of mums master the morning chaos. Please share with me your stories, pictures of your school bag station, and any tips you might have for other families.