It’s that time of year again where the anticipation of back to school is buzzing in the air. But while the countdown is probably exciting for your youngster, it can be stressful for you. New schedules, new routines and a new list of “must-haves” all come with a new school year.

To help save you time, money and sanity, we’ve compiled the best back-to-school hacks for parents from real moms on Instagram. These easy DIY tricks will help keep you and your child’s life in order over what’s sure to be a hectic upcoming school year.

1. Plot out your whole year on a single page.

When September rolls around, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the rapid influx of dates and deadlines. Creating a year-at-a-glance calendar is an easy life hack that lays out your child’s entire school year on a sheet of paper (or perhaps a piece of neon cardstock!). You’ll be able to see all of your essential dates at once, which means you can skip flipping through your phone or calendar for the big things. You can even use markers to colour-code your sheet so you can scan for holidays or parent-teacher conferences quickly.

2. Stack bins of outfits to save time.

School mornings can easily become a blur of dressing, washing, eating and gathering. Seriously, trying to get everyone out the door on time should be an Olympic event. But by labelling the drawers of a closet organizer with the days of the week and planning out your kids’ clothing in advance, you will save precious minutes each morning. You may even get a moment to enjoy your coffee…maybe.

3. Write a stash of loving lunchtime notes.

Sandwiches and granola bars are always better with a side of love from mom—but keeping up with lunchbox notes is hard when life gets busy. So whenever inspiration strikes, whether you’re getting ready for bed or watching the kids run through the sprinkler, jot it down and store it in a small file folder. This way, you’ll have a reserve of notes to pop in your kiddo’s lunch bag whenever you’re stretched for time.

4. Create an online shopping tracker.

Online shopping is a safe and efficient way of checking off all your back-to-school items. This DIY life hack is great for keeping track of what you’ve ordered and from where, so you can stay on top of your purchases and arrivals. It also keeps a record of your spending in one place, which is super helpful for sticking to a budget.

5. Build a lunchbox station.

This super-easy school hack will keep your kitchen from becoming your kid’s dumping ground. Simply affix a label stating “Lunchboxes Go Here” to a plastic storage bin and leave it on the countertop. Having a designated space for your little learner’s lunch bag will help keep the house organized and avoid last-minute scrambling when rushing out the door each morning. (Plus, we have more ideas for getting your kids to help with tidying and chores.)

6. Use blocks to teach contractions.

Turn learning into a game with this fun back-to-school hack for parents to help with homework. It’s super simple and only requires building blocks and Sharpies! Contractions can be tricky for kids, but breaking them down into their literal pieces (e.g. does + not = doesn’t) on building blocks makes them easier to understand. Help your budding word wizard to match the big blocks with their two little blocks, and then use the units for future reference when working on homework together.

7. Print out a lunch-packing guide.

Have an older kid that’s ready for more independence this school year? Work together to develop a lunch-packing guide that breaks down each meal and gives them different options for their main dish (leftover chicken dinner, anyone?), fruits and vegetables, snacks and drinks. Then let them pick what they want, gather it all together and voilà—one less thing on your to-do list!

8. Tape all your marker lids together.

Just like socks separated in the dryer, markers always seem to lose their lids. A quick fix? Use a piece of duct tape to attach all of the tops. This school hack makes it easy for young artists to put their tools back neatly after working on their latest art project or Bristol board creation. It also helps keep markers from drying out, letting the creativity continue to flow freely without avoidable repurchases.

9. Craft a DIY homework station.

A designated homework station with all the necessary school supplies is a great way to motivate your junior genius to get down to business. A clean and organized area will keep their minds calm and, since they’ll have all their supplies at their fingertips, they won’t have any excuse to quit before the work is done. It’s simple to build, too! Just gather all their supplies into a plastic bin or a desktop organizer and set it up on a desk or dining table.

10. Restructure your pantry for easy lunch packing and after-school snacking.

Save yourself food-prep time by using plastic bins and baskets to organize your pantry goods. By keeping all snacks in a designated area, your youngster can grab and go with ease, saving you from having to answer the question, “Mom, do we have any snacks?” for the hundredth time.

Back-to-School Essentials

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