As the school year starts, we're here to help with 14 days of tips for organizing your family's school year routine. TODAY's Willie Geist and guest cohost Jane Krakowski (both parents to young kids) welcomed Meredith Sinclair of MeredithPlays.com, who demonstrated some fun ways to get your kids back into a healthy, well-managed routine.
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1. Create "week at a glance" calendars from old photo frames
You can pick up plain wooden frames at pretty much any craft store, but you've probably got some old photo frames lying around somewhere, too. Spray-paint the frames white (paint would work fine on a lighter-colored frame, too), then Mod Podge the letters onto them. Never Mod Podged before? Well, think of this as your lucky excuse — it's really fun and fairly intuitive. After that, use some wrapping paper or construction paper to keep things colorful within the frame, then top with the layer of plexiglass that comes with the frame, on which you can easily use a dry-erase marker.When you're done and everything's dry and ready to go, consider putting all the daily frames (Monday, Tuesday, etc.) together in a fun orientation so that you can view the entire week at a glance. Many chain craft stores sell groupings of frames as well as individual ones, and that might be the easiest route to take.
2. Craft "month at a glance" calendars using simple paint cards
Pantone-hoarders, this one's for you. And believe it or not, it costs less than 20 dollars to make. Paint swatches are generally free from home improvement stores, and the only other things you'll need are a frame and some wrapping paper. Dole out dry-erase markers to your kids in colors of their choosing (as Sinclair notes, "color-coding saves lives!") and let them take some ownership for their weekly schedule.
3. Make a visual, interactive chore board
Visual cues are important for kids — and while this board is meant more for older toddlers, it could be used by even those who are too young to read. Print out icons of things they might need to do every day or just once a week and affix to magnets. Then, using a framed or unframed dry-erase board, allow them to manipulate the print-outs and choose when they do the chores, which means...no more nag-fest. The only catch? Whether they do one chore a day or cram them all in on Sunday morning, they've got to get the chores done by the end of the week.
4. Keep it simple with "get ready" sticks
This is it: the real-life bucket list you've been waiting for. Each child gets their own color of paint stick (as Krakowski noted to Sinclair, "You really have contacts at a paint store"), and every morning, they're asked to take the sticks out of the jar as they accomplish that respective task. Again, no nagging required. When the jar is empty, your family is ready to go to school.
5. Go digital
Wunderlist.com has a free app that allows you as a parent to set up an agenda that will sync with your kid's device, allowing you to have some guidance as they plan their routine. You can organize and share to-do lists of any kind (think: groceries, household chores, and more).Follow TODAY Parents' 14-day calendar for a tip a day on getting the new school year off to a healthy, happy start.