7 Lists for a Smoother Back-to-School

August 17, 2020 Updated: August 23, 2020

“OK, kids, time to get started.” “Don’t forget to brush your teeth.” “Grab your jacket, put on your shoes, and let’s head out.” “Time to clean up.” “Did you finish your math assignment?” “What do you need for soccer practice?” “Wash your hands!”

Any parent can relate to the constant need to remind your children about what needs doing over and over. As a parent, though, if your children rely heavily on you to carry out every minute of responsibility they shoulder—every day—you are going to become tired of the sound of your own voice very quickly (and so are your kids).

A better way to allow your children to take on responsibility and learn self-sufficiency is to create a system of checklists that they consult and manage on their own. These lists can grow in their complexity as their age allows. Even the youngest of children can begin using lists with pictures on them to begin good habits.

With just a little bit of training and guidance at the beginning of the school year, lists can help everything run more smoothly.

Here are a few types of lists that may help you. I recommend inserting them into transparent dry-erase pockets so they can be used over and over.

Morning Routine

Teach each child to begin his or her day with a set routine. Such a list may include making the bed, getting dressed, hygiene practices, and perhaps a chore or two. When the list is all checked off, they can come to the breakfast table.

Nighttime Routine

Similarly, you can have a list of things that children should do before bed: perhaps bathing, brushing teeth, putting clothes in the hamper, cleaning up their room, and choosing a bedtime story might make the list. When the list is checked off, they make their way to bed and, perhaps, enjoy some reading time before Mom and Dad read aloud to them and tuck them in.

Field Trip Checklist

If you homeschool and field trips are a regular part of your life, you likely have a number of steps you take and things you gather before departing your home. Steps like washing up, packing snacks, and filling water bottles, along with gathering items such as nature journals, art supplies, clipboards, binoculars, field guides, backpacks, hats, and jackets might make that list.

Weekly Assignments

Allow your children to track their own progress in the school subjects they work on each week. The lessons of time management that can be learned from offering a little flexibility and freedom here are invaluable. They’re sure to experience the stress that follows procrastination as well as the reward of finishing early.

For example, if their math work for the week includes watching a video lesson, completing four practice worksheets, and taking a quiz, encourage them to decide for themselves when they’ll do each thing over the course of the week.

Chore Chart

Taking care of the home is a character-building concept you can incorporate into your day-to-day. Display a chart of daily responsibilities assigned to specific children and allow the kids to check off their duties as they go.

Extracurricular Checklist

If your children participate in extracurricular activities they likely need to bring specific items each time and, perhaps, wear specific things. Make your children a checklist for their specific extracurricular needs and relish never having to run down the list yourself while waiting at the door again.

Habit Tracker

If there are certain habits you’re trying to instill or habits your children are trying to establish for themselves, a habit tracker is an easy and motivating way to track progress. Set up a grid for each month, with the numbered days across the top and the list of habits along one side. When each habit is maintained on a given day, have your kids shade or mark off the box for that habit for that day. Good habits might include: play outside, eat three servings of vegetables, or do something kind for someone.

Remove nagging and put the responsibility on the shoulders of your children. The lessons learned will benefit them for a lifetime.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza