5 Back-to-School Hacks for Middle School Parents

By Danny Bradbury
Back-to-school hacks: A multi-ethnic group of three middle school students walking and conversing outside the school building, carrying backpacks. The three boys are back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing protective face masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The two shorter ones are brothers, mixed race Asian and Caucasian, 11 and 12 years old.

As you plan your back to school shopping, it’s time to think creatively about how the items on your school supplies list can help organize your child. Here are some back-to-school hacks that can save middle school parents the one thing that every parent seems to lack: time.

Master packed lunches.

Let’s start with the thing that takes valuable time to pack: easy lunches for kids. As your child reaches middle school age, you can teach them how to pack lunches themselves. An assembly line lunch with all the components laid out in a row will teach them the basics. Segmented Bento-style lunch bags for kids make it easy to remember different lunch components such as protein, greens, drinks and snacks. Try to mix it up by including a snack station with lots of healthy foods for them to choose from.

Leave clutter at the door.

Life (and the average middle school backpack) gets more complex at this age. You can avoid the clutter by allocating proper space for everything at the front door. Try to use bins of different sizes to keep footwear and sports kits organized, with hooks for coats and backpacks. Make a rule that everything has to be left at the door aside from homework.

Depending on space, you can create a caddy or workstation for that homework, which stores all study materials in one place. Include space for pens, calculator, glue, highlighters, notebooks, and binders. Include at least one large cubby for oversized, object-based projects. All homework goes directly to and from the backpack, which is at the door. If this seems a little regimented, don’t worry; you’ll thank us when your tween doesn’t need to ask you where they left that collection of carefully-glued leaves for their science class.

Add a little color.

Middle-schoolers must cope with more responsibility at an age where their capacity to organize is still developing. Luckily, kids are visual, and love color. You can take advantage of this by using it to organize them.

Color-coded analog clocks can remind your children what they’re doing before and after school. Chore lists could have a different color for each child. The homework caddy could have a color-coded binder for each subject. Help them organize their homework to-do list using colored stickers or highlighters.

Go, go, Pomodoro.

So much for color-coding the homework. Now they have to it. To avoid distraction, you can use the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Your child is to do nothing but work for that period. At the end, they get a five-minute break and a reward (perhaps a healthy snack). Repeat until their studies are done for the day.

Make a survival kit.

In middle school, unexpected things will come up. A survival kit that stays in your child’s backpack at all times will help them weather all incidents, both small and serious. Try to include chapstick, hand sanitizer, a filled water pouch; a flashlight and whistle; protein-based snacks (nuts are great); wipes; sanitary pads; and a small first-aid kit.

Reprinted with permission from Office Depot OfficeMax. Office Depot has been helping students and schools succeed for more than 30 years. It’s more than our job. It’s our passion. As a proud National Sponsor of the PTA, our goal is to help make this year—and every year—a success.

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