The school run survival

26 ways to make it go like a breeze (and save your time and sanity)

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It’s five days a week, for most of the year, and you always have to be on standby. Here’s how to make it run so smoothly you’re not wishing it away...

1 Set your alarm clock for 15 minutes earlier each morning to get a head start, as there’s nothing worse than rushing.

2 Get your own clothes laid out the night before, particularly if you’re going straight to work after the school run. 

3 Be first to get dressed so you’re not chasing everyone around in your dressing gown.

4 To encourage younger kids to get ready for school, draw three clocks on paper plates and stick to the wall next to the proper kitchen clock. As a visual reminder for little ones, draw the times of: 1. The time we wake up, 2. The time we are dressed and have eaten and 3. The time must be out the door.

 5 You can bake some quick nutritious breakfasts the night before to save time, like quiche with bacon, tomatoes and lots of eggs which is a quick filler, and baked porridge with cinnamon, honey, dried fruit and milk which can be reheated quickly in the microwave.

 6 Lids invariably go missing. Keep plastic beakers with their corresponding lid in a separate storage container in your cupboard, which is easily accessed by the children.

 7 Make sure breakfasts are easily accessed so that the kids can help themselves. Keep juice and milk on low shelves in the fridge, decant milk into smaller jugs the night before to avoid little ones having spillages and decant cereals into tubs with easy pour lids to avoid cardboard chaos.

 8 Discourage TV and screens in the morning – they slow children up considerably, particularly when eating breakfast. Encourage breakfasts at the table, not the sofa, as it’s quicker.

 9 Don’t just stock up on bread, wraps and muffins, actually make sandwiches and freeze them in advance. Some fillings are more freezable than others so avoid freezing egg and salads. Sliced meats, poultry and salmon are all good.

 10 Work out in advance your budget for bus fares and school lunches and other small items. Put the money in separate brown envelopes, lined up for the week on the windowsill with your children's names and the day, and they are ready to go.

 11 Place schoolbags and any gym bags/trainers in the car the night before. All you need to remember now is lunch. 

12 Always buy the same type of school socks for boys and girls – then you can always make sure you can make a pair.

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13 Keep baskets or hooks in the hall area for children’s coats, hats, gloves, glasses and your car keys and sunglasses.

14 When getting change in a shop, always ask for two Euro coins and five Euro notes, so there’s always enough to dispense to the children for fares and school savings.

15 Encourage your child to take off and hang up his or her uniform immediately after school. Put a laundry basket in each child’s room, so all their laundry is in the one place and you’re not looking under beds for stray socks and pants.

16 Allocate a separate drawer for underpants, vests and socks, so they’re always ready to go in the morning to avoid the hunt in the laundry room basket.

17 Keep the salad tubs from supermarkets (just wash, rinse, dry and store) as they come in very handy for chopped fruit and veg in your child’s lunch box for last minute lunches.

18 Spilt yogurt can destroy the interior of a lunch bag. Use plastic tubs with clip on lids to minimise mess potential.

19 Buy a multipack of plastic cutlery in the Euro store and use these in school lunches instead of your own kitchen cutlery. They can also be washed and reused so, no waste. At the weekend, wrap a set in a napkin and then they’re ready to pop into lunch boxes every morning for salads.

20 Hang a drawstring bag on the back of the bathroom door containing brush, comb, bobbins, clips and gogos for last minute no-nonsense hairstyles.

21 Sign homework journals and write notes the night before. Keep a pad and envelopes just for this purpose in a special place.

22 Keep a stash of emergency supplies in the car – hairbrush and grips, loose change for school saving day, pen and paper, muesli bars for those manic mornings that there’s no time for breakfast, and a small bags of treats for Treat Friday, for those days you simply forgot.

23 Put a couple of GAA gum shields in your child’s school bag and spares in the car. These are always required, so have a few on the go.

24 Keep a large umbrella and spare raincoats in the car boot for those lunch time pick-ups when it’s absolutely lashing.

25 Make sure older children at secondary have a spare house key, or know where you’ve hidden one outside, as well as how to turn off your house alarm, for those days when there’s an unexpected delay and you’re not there to greet them.

26 Car pool with friends at least once a week so you all get to enjoy a break from the school run.

Catherine Devane