It's 3pm and school is out--the time of day that strikes fear into the hearts of moms and dads. Sure, we're super excited to pick up our children and hear about their wonderful days at school, but in 3, 2, 1... we're off to soccer, ballet, scouts, you name it! Dinner must be cooked, homework completed and doesn't someone have a special project due tomorrow?! Add in the infamous So Cal traffic it's easy to see why 3pm 'til bedtime are some of the most challenging hours for busy families. Sometimes there's just no getting around the go, go, go, but we have a few tips to make it a little less stressful for parents and kids.
Create a home command center (see pic). Getting organized can be next to impossible, but once you have a good system in place life becomes easier. You'll need a place for kid stuff--back packs, lunchboxes, Friday folders, etc.--and a place for adult clutter--keys, cell phones, receipts, etc. Add a family calendar, a bulletin board and a white board to keep track of schedules and reminders. For some inspiration, check out the back-to-school command centers at frugalistasdeals.
Plan for the craziness. You know the routine, so outsmart Murphy and prepare for the worse. Problem: The kids are hungry, thirsty and tired after school but you have to run or you'll miss dance lessons. Solution: Pack healthy snacks and water bottles along for the ride and tuck favorite toys or books in the seat back pockets to entertain the kids. Problem: You're getting home late every day this week and dread the question, "What's for supper?" Prep and freeze meals on Sunday and rely on the slow cooker!
Take advantage of public spaces.
Libraries and parks are great stop-overs for families on the go. You can check emails or answer voice mails while your children play or start on homework. You may even be able to schedule a play date for little ones in between errands or appointments.
Prep fun activities in advance. (This great idea is borrowed from buggy and buddy) So you know it's going to be a super busy afternoon and you may not be 100% excited when you're kids say, "Let's paint!". Set out activities in advance so that when they return from school they find art materials or a puzzle, and you won't have them reverting to TV or worse yet arguing as you prepare dinner.
Enlist help. Carpooling can be a huge help when your schedules align with a friend or neighbor. It's also reasonable to expect your children to pitch in. Older kids can be responsible for packing their own lunches and snacks and making sure they have everything they need prepped and ready to go. Children of all ages can help in keeping the car clean, tidying up living spaces and setting the table for dinner.