But somehow, the time between 3 and 7 p.m. every weeknight seems to zip by in a chaotic flurry of homework, extracurricular activities, work obligations and sporting events. It can seem like a monumental feat just to get from Point A to Point B. And just when you are about to buy a celebratory coffee and watch your kid’s soccer practice, you realize his cleats are still sitting next to the washer.
While we can't promise these hiccups won’t ever happen again, here are our tricks for making the after-school rush a bit easier.
A Day in the Bag1 of 8
The last thing you want to do on Sunday night is prepare for the week ahead, but it really is the best course of action. Pack a bag for each after-school activity, and label it accordingly. Don't forget to pack a snack or two in each one. If it makes sense, put all of the bags in your trunk so you won't have to worry about grabbing one every morning (or your kid grabbing the wrong one).
One is Good, but Two is Better2 of 8
A single pair of swim trunks was all your son needed when you took a trip to the beach this summer, but now that he has swim practice and is participating in a winter diving league, the one pair seems to be sopping wet all the time—whether they're just coming out of the wash, drip drying in the bathroom or on your son as he gets out of the pool.
An extra swimsuit, towel and pair of sport sandals can go a long way to making the week less stressful. Grab a second set of items during off-season sales and keep them in your car. If your kid is participating in other sports, ask the coach if they have uniforms from a previous season, or if you can buy extras to rotate through the week.
Technological Advantage3 of 8
Parents sometimes rue the day they gave their kids a cell phone, but it can be a big help for parents with busy kids. Create a family calendar and set alerts so that she knows she needs her volleyball gear in her backpack. It also doesn't hurt to send one to your partner (or yourself) as a reminder that she needs to be picked up after practice.
Base Camp4 of 8
One of the hardest things for parents of busy kids can be finding time to do the things they need to do. Locate the services and places you might need while your kid has practice and schedule appointments during that time. Get your hair cut while he perfects his fastball. Pick up your dry cleaning while she works on agility drills. Sure, you might prefer the nail tech closer to home, but the time savings is worth the sacrifice.
Multi-Task5 of 8
If Kid 1 has swim at 6 p.m. and Kid 2 has soccer at 7 p.m., bring both with you and have them use their respective downtime to get homework done. That way, when you finally make it home, there's less to worry about. Or, try to squeeze in a few laps around the soccer field to get a run in during practice.
Emergency Kit6 of 8
Bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment. Most trunk emergency kits have things you'll need in the event of a medical crisis. Pack your own, just for the active family. Sport wipes, such as Shower Pills, are great for after-practice cleanup. Trail mix makes a great healthy snack and, so long as it doesn't have chocolate, you don't have to worry about spoilage and melting. A box of dryer sheets can help the trunk smell fresh if you have sweaty clothes. A couple sheets of newspaper can be stuffed into wet shoes. And a backup set of everyday clothes is never a bad idea, either.
A few more things to put in the kit: hair elastics, comb, dry shampoo, deodorant, socks, flip flops, water bottles and electrolyte tabs such as Nuun.
A Place for Everything7 of 8
Whether you have a mudroom or a large entryway, create a spot where your kids can hang up their jacket and backpack, put their shoes away and easily grab their baseball glove. Make sure it's the first place they see when they get home and the last place they walk by when they leave. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit (though, with teens it might seem like 21 weeks) but stick to the organization and eventually it will become second nature—and you'll never spend 20 minutes looking for equipment when you need to be at practice in 10.