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TODAY Parenting Team: Easy ways to keep your kids fed, organized and stylin'

This time of year can be as intense for parents as for kids as everyone struggles to get ready for school. These tips will make it easier.
/ Source: TODAY

Ah, back-to-school time: the battle to wake up, the hunt for the right clothes and supplies, the race to the yellow bus. The frenzy!

This time of year can be as intense for parents as it is for kids.

But no worries: The TODAY Parenting Team is here to help you with the best back-to-school sanity savers.


In the quest to find cute and quick looks for kids, TODAY Parenting Team contributor Audrey McClelland and stylist Josue Perez, who both work with TODAY sponsor Johnson's, came up with three great hair styles that anyone can do.

[Johnson's is a sponsor of TODAY]

Read more: Back to School Hair Do's and Don'ts

Hopscotch Twist

  • Brush the hair all the way back using a tail comb. Move the tail of the comb in a zigzag pattern ending at the back of the head creating two parts
  • Grab two pieces of hair from the right side and twist hair back. As you are twisting the hair back, bring along the other remaining hair until you reach the back of the head and secure with a hair tie and repeat the same technique on the left side
  • Finish by adding two bows one on each side

Top of the Class

  • Apply leave-in conditioner to control frizz before creating a 3-inch wide section along the top of the head and divide it into three strands
  • Like a regular braid, take the right strand and cross it over the middle strand. Next, take the left strand and cross it over the middle strand. Now that you have the foundation of your braid, begin adding more hair with each cross over the middle stand
  • Continue until you have reached the back of the head and secure the end with a hair tie

The Faux-Hawk

  • Apply leave-in conditioner to add extra body to the hair
  • Use fingers to comb hair all the way and forward into a faux hawk
  • Finish with combing the sides and back with either your hands or a gentle brush.


Little changes to your nighttime and morning routine can make all the difference. TODAY Parenting Team contributor Jen Hatmaker, author of “For the Love,” said a good morning is all about the pregame:

Read more: Back to School: How to Not Completely Lose Your Crap

The night before:

  • Folder check: What needs to be signed? Is all the homework complete? Get all the folders in the backpack.
  • Backpack prep: What else does each child need tomorrow? Everything goes into the backpack, which is placed by the door so the kids only have to “grab and go” in the morning.
  • Clothes prep: Lay out each child’s clothes on their bedroom floor, all the way down to socks, shoes and underwear.
  • Schedule: Think forward to tomorrow: Who has to go early or stay late for practice or extra tutoring? Keep track of activities on a dry erase board so everything goes smoothly.


  • Get a head start: Get kids up 15 minutes early. This saves the morning and keeps everyone from rushing around.
  • No electronics allowed: That means no phones. “Instagram is more interesting than mom and dad, but we’re going to have a conversation,” Hatmaker said. “We’re trying to set up the most pleasant day.”
  • Spread the love: The Hatmaker family makes it a priority to start the day with happiness: they play music and eat breakfast together.

After school:

  • Do the homework immediately: “Homework at 8:30 p.m. is like the end of the world,” Hatmaker said. Pushing it to before bedtime leads to breakdowns and late nights, which leads to chaotic mornings. Do homework right after school.

Healthy lunches

A healthy lunchbox should contain fruits, vegetables, a main item, plus a treat and a drink, said TODAY Parenting Team contributor Laura Fuentes. Assembling everything with limited time can be a challenge, so Fuentes had these tips for families:

Read more: 5 School Lunch Hacks for Healthy Lunches

Fruit: Pre-cut apple slices that won’t go brown

Keep pre-cut apple slices in a container with a 50/50 lemonade + water solution.

Check out an example.

Veggies: Pre-made veggie cups

No one wants to wash and chop veggies early in the morning. This is why these pre-made veggie cups with your favorite dip or dressing work so well!

Start with sliced vegetables, like green & red peppers, celery and carrots. Spoon hummus or dressing in the bottom of a container and stack the veggies on top. Cover the container with a lid.

Check out an example.

Main Item: Freezer sandwiches

Make an entire loaf of ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, freeze on a baking sheet and transfer them to a freezer bag. In the morning, they are ready to be placed inside the lunchbox and they are ready for lunch!

Check out an example.

Nutritious treat: Premade smoothies

Busy moms and dads don't have time to whip up a fresh batch of smoothies in the morning but with this simple hack they can be packed in the lunch box.

Make the smoothie ahead of time, freeze in a freezer jar, and place in the lunchbox in the morning. The smoothie serves as a nutritious snack (it's slushy by lunch) and as an ice pack.

Check out an example.

Read more from Laura, Jen, Audrey and our other TODAY Parenting Team contributors... and find out how you can become a contributor yourself!