If you’re looking for school organisational tips before the summer holidays have even started, you must be either:
- A parent of a child starting school for the first time in September and keen to get things off to a good start, or
- A parent driven half insane last year by chaotic mornings filled with cries of, “Where are my shoes?!” or “Have you seen my PE kit?” and determined that next year will be different. It will. It has to.
Here are some practical suggestions for how to organise school gear. Ideally, they’ll lead to fewer muttered curses in the mornings, and will also help your children to develop good habits that will aid their developing independence.
Storage solutions for school organisation
Avoid tripping over school bags and shoes, and ensure that you never have to rummage in the dirty laundry bag for that day’s PE kit with some of these tips:
A place for everything…
Make sure each child has their own laundry basket for uniform and teach them to remind you when they only have one or two clean shirts/trousers/skirts left in their wardrobe.
Choose a place in your house where everything relating to school will be kept. It needs to be somewhere easily accessible on a daily basis - no child (or teenager) is going to go out of their way to put things away after a long day at school!
You could use a cupboard with a shelf or drawer for each child, or allocate an open-topped box each for them to put their own belongings in when they get home.
This is where they need to put their shoes, and their backpack after they’ve emptied it of that day’s books, letters and lunchbox. Emptying their backpack will ensure that any dirty PE kit will enter the washing system (run by magical fairies, of course) and be clean and ready for use before the next PE lesson.
If you don’t have the floor space for a cupboard or boxes, you could install hooks at a height your child can reach, for them to hang their coat and bag, and perhaps use an over-the-door shoe storage organiser for shoes.
If your child plays football or just plays out on a muddy/grassy field at playtime and comes home with filthy boots/shoes, having a boot tray by the front door will save your carpets. Make it part of the routine to help your child clean their boots/shoes after they’ve eaten their evening meal.
If you need extra storage space at home for school uniform and equipment, you could use a self storage unit to keep items you don’t use as often (e.g. Christmas decorations, camping gear, sports equipment, out-of-season clothing and spare bedding etc). That way, there will be more space at home for the things you use every day and plenty of room to keep everything organised and in its place.
Keep a stash of spares
School ties are notoriously easy to lose or forget. If you drive your child to school, always keep a spare tie in the boot in case they look down and realise they’re not wearing one when you arrive in the car park. Otherwise, keep a spare tie at home in case of loss, or in one of the pockets of their backpack.
Invest in some stationery storage boxes and keep a few pencils, pens, rubbers, rulers and gluesticks in there. If your child has to take a ruler to school, it will get broken at least once a term. Or just allocate a kitchen drawer and use a cutlery tray to separate the different items.
School uniforms are expensive and don't seem to last long before they're outgrown or torn to shreds in the playground.
You can recycle uniform that no longer fits - some schools have a ‘swap shop’ arrangement, or there might be a parents’ page on social media where you can offer items for sale or to give away. Check whether there are local charities that accept school uniforms for local schools.
A nice idea is to have your child’s first school jumper, blazer, PE kit and other childhood uniform (e.g. for Cubs/Brownies) made into a ‘memory bear’ or patchwork blanket.
If you need to keep uniforms that your older children have grown out of for your younger children, you could always put them in storage boxes. If you’re keeping them in the loft, make sure they’re clean and completely dry before putting them in sealed plastic boxes to prevent pests, mould or mildew creeping in.
Your child will probably bring their exercise books home at the end of each school year and it can be difficult to know what to do with them. Should you recycle them? Should you keep them, knowing you’ll probably never look at them again but also knowing how much work has gone into them? You could pop them in a self storage unit in boxes organised according to year. Alternatively, you could photograph a few pages of each book to keep a record of their handwriting at different ages.
School organisation tips for independent children
Developing good habits at an early age is important for future independence, but only if it’s done in a supportive manner. Young children need a lot of reminders and a stable routine for them to learn to get themselves ready for school.
Using lists to aid memory is a good habit for children to develop and will help them to become more independent.
Create and laminate (or cover in Sellotape) a list of what your child needs to do to get ready each day. Encourage your child to tick off with a dry wipe pen each day.
The list might look like this:
- Get dressed
- Eat breakfast
- Brush teeth
- Get dressed
- Pack bag:
- PE Kit
- Dinner money or packed lunch
- Check bag for letters*
- Put shoes in cupboard
- Get changed
- Put dirty uniform in the wash basket
- Put lunchbox by the sink
*There will always be at least one letter. It will be screwed up in the bottom of their bag and it will include vital information about the following day that requires you to acquire various items of fancy dress or obscure items of food. It’s best to find this now, rather than in the morning.
Getting your child into the habit of reading and checking off the list each morning will help them to remember their own equipment and responsibilities and gradually they’ll do this without needing to be reminded. Hopefully, by the time they finish year 7, they’ll be adept at only taking things to school they need on that day, and will bring back everything they take.
If your child regularly comes home without items of uniform, PE kit or stationery (and you’re tired of bankrolling your local uniform/stationery shop), create and laminate mini-sized lists to their bag or pencil case. These could look like:
- Pencil x 2
- Black pen x 2
- Purple pen*** x 2
- Pencil sharpener
Your child can check their lists and make sure they take everything with them when they leave the classroom or school.
** Every classroom has at least two jumpers or cardigans left in it at the end of a typical school day. Usually, they don’t have names in them. Funnily enough, the children in the class are usually quite good at identifying the owner of the jumper/cardigan if asked, and they do this by smelling the material. This is an underrated superpower that most children have up to the age of about 8. If you don’t want to rely on the smelling capabilities of your child’s classmates, add name labels to your child’s clothes. There are stickers you can buy these days, you don’t even need to sew.
*** Purple pens are required by many schools for children to mark their own work. They are nearly impossible to find in shops. Some schools are more merciful to parents and require a red or green pen instead. Your child’s school will make it clear what stationery is required.
Moving to high school?
At primary school, your child’s books will have been kept by the teacher for the never-ending marking they need to do. When your child moves to high school, they’ll be responsible for their own books. They’ve got to remember to take their books to school with them on the correct day(s), which is quite a responsibility and will take some getting used to.
Some of the little monkeys get around this by just keeping all their books in their backpack so they don’t risk getting detention for forgetting a book. Eventually, though, their backpacks will weigh more than they do, and you’ll realise this when you pick up their bag to move it out of the way and throw your back out. Organising your child’s backpack involves making sure it only contains essential equipment for that day, not everything including the kitchen sink.
Making sure your child has the right equipment
To encourage your child to organise their books so that they always remember them for the correct day, and don’t develop a stoop before they leave for university, you could invest in a 5-drawer storage tower (one per child). Each drawer needs to be large enough to store several A4 exercise books.
Label the top drawer ‘Monday’ and put a list of Monday’s lessons on the front or inside it. Label the next drawer down ‘Tuesday’ and again write a list of that day’s lessons on it or in it. Repeat until all the drawers are labelled Monday to Friday.
Every evening after school, encourage your child to decant their books from their bag into the drawer for the day they’ll next need that book.
If your child has difficulty remembering their PE kit, you could get them to put a pair of socks in the relevant days’ drawers to remind them when packing their bags. (Their entire PE kit won’t fit.)
Hopefully, with this system in place, your child’s backpack will only contain their pencil case, their daily planner and the books for that particular day. They might even have space for - gasp - a coat!
Following these tips and developing good habits as a family will hopefully mean that lost kit, misplaced uniform, missing lunchboxes and detentions or other penalties for coming to school without essential equipment will be a thing of the past!