When you have kids, September, even more than January, feels like the time for a fresh start. The arrival of a new school year brings with it the chance to do better, especially when it comes to juggling all the moving parts that make up our lives.
I have a bit of a history of starting the school year with a huge burst of energy and then slowly fizzling out by Halloween. This year we have a lot on the go and it’s my responsibility to keep us rolling.
So I’m making some ‘back-to-school’ resolutions that I hope will keep me honest and the whole family on track:
- Build on the momentum of our current physical activities. Continue with karate, swimming and find a nearby, affordable gymnastics program for both kids.
- Come up with a daily routine that fits everything in. This means time for homework and reading, practicing instruments, outdoor play, household responsibilities, hanging with friends and downtime.
- Walk with friends a few times a week to keep my own physical activity levels up. A good friend of mine and I were doing this last year and it was a great way to catch up and get exercise.
- Be better at organizing playdates. I’m such a bad planner and I feel like my kids are lucky to get one playdate a week, while it seems other kids are marching off holding the hand of a different child every day.
- Do a load of laundry every night. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the refrain ‘I don’t have any clean underwear,’ I’d be writing this list under a palm tree while someone else folds our delicates.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare…the night before. This includes homework, library books, gym clothes, signed forms in backpacks and by the door.
- Keep easy-to-grab snacks stocked in the pantry and in the fridge. This way the kids can be in charge of packing their own school snacks. Preparing food takes a lot of my time and energy, and I’d rather spend a bit more time stocking up once a week so I can delegate this daily responsibility.
- Plan meals. In the past, I have looked at the clock at 5 pm on too many school days and realized I had no clue what was for dinner.
- Try something new. I might finally try tennis. There is a court right behind our house, and even though I like listening to other people play, maybe it’s time for me to get one of those cute little tennis skirts and join the party. There’s also an art class that looks interesting; I might give that a whirl.
- Make my 5-year-old walk. I’m not pushing or pulling that kid around unless we are going somewhere really far. Resolved.
- Get off the hamster wheel and play with my kids. Like all of us, I can get caught up in the never-ending list of to-dos. This is the last year that I will have a child at home in the afternoons and I want to spend that time playing with him.
- Be on time! When you live a five minute walk from school is there really an excuse for arriving late, sweaty and dishevelled?
Wish me luck. If I’m still doing half of these by December I’ll consider myself successful. I’ll keep you posted.
And let me know if I’m on the right track by sharing your strategies for a smooth, healthy and active school year.
Sara Smeaton is a self-proclaimed non-sporty mom to her 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. While working in advertising, as an interactive project manager, she avoided all company bowling outings and baseball games. Since having her kids, Sara continues to work as a freelancer and consultant; she is enjoying this new adventure writing for Active for Life.
Active for Life
is the place where parents go for their kids' health and success. We believe that teaching kids to run, jump and throw is as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. Make a difference in the happiness and confidence of your children by ensuring they are physically literate. Find activities, expert advice and inspirational tips at Active for Life
It takes just two weeks to form a new habit (or break a bad one), so why not make a commitment to implement a greener routine that can save money, make a lasting impact on the environment and positively affect the health of your family.
So here’s my challenge to you—commit to making four small and simple changes which can be incorporated into your family’s daily routine that will make a lasting impact on the environment and the health of everyone involved. Greener doesn’t have to cost you more time or money, so get your family involved. Empower them to be a part of the change with these four easy steps and make sustainable living the new ‘normal’ in your home.
Step 1: The Litterless Lunch
As a mom, when I recognized the impact of prepared, packaged and processed foods on our bodies and the environment, I knew that I had to make a change. By swapping out disposable packaging for reusable lunch carriers and avoiding prepared foods, you’ll be saving money, the environment and improving the health of your child. Here’s how:
- Reusable lunch carrier
– The SnackTAXI is a great option in place of the plastic or paper bags often used to carry lunches.
- Reusable containers – Stainless steel, glass or an alternative wrap like the Wrap-N-Mat can be used in place of plastic wrap or foil.
- Stainless steel or glass drink bottle – Opt for stainless steel, glass or my favourite—the Otterbottle—instead of single-use cans or juice boxes.
Step 2: Watch How You Wash
Keep in mind that while you are making an investment in a healthy and more sustainable lunch, it’s important to investigate what you are using to wash and keep your lunch containers clean. Many dish and laundry soaps contain petrochemicals (derived directly from oil). So wherever possible, look to wash your lunch bags and containers with plant-derived, non-toxic dish soap. I make sure the following on are my shopping list:
- A natural dish soap – Plant-derived dish soap like Free & Clear Natural Dish Liquid can effectively clean the grease, grime and dirt left in your child’s stainless steel and glass containers while making sure there’s no dangerous residue left to contaminate lunch.
- Natural all-purpose spray – I’m constantly cleaning my countertops of sticky fingerprints but want to make sure those same counters are safe to place food on, so I opt for a plant-based cleaner like Free & Clear All Purpose Kitchen Spray which lets me do both.
- A plant-based concentrated laundry detergent – At the end of the week when it comes time to wash lunch bags, cloth napkins and the kid’s clothes, I choose a highly concentrated detergent like Seventh Generation’s 4X formula which let’s me get more loads per bottle and is safe to use on my family.
Step 3: Choose a Fun, Fit and Sustainable Route to School
Getting to school has an enormous impact on our environment as well as our health. With an estimated 1.6 million children in Canada (26% per cent of children) considered overweight or obese, it’s a wonder more parents don’t look at making healthy transportation options a part of their daily lives. Here’s a few ways to work health, cost and environmentally-friendly options into your getting to school routine:
- Start a walking school bus with children or families in the area. Walking is the greenest way to travel and does the least damage to the environment. Find ways to either walk with or ensure your children join forces with other families who travel the same path to school.
- Make the investment in two and four wheeled methods of transportation such as a bike, new scooter or skateboard to make the trip to school fun and fit.
- Create a carpool. Find out which days work best for the drivers, and create a schedule and a system for notifying other members of the pool if someone isn’t riding on a particular day.
Step 4: Rebrand Responsibility
It’s important to engage your kids in the school preparation and planning process to help set them up for success. This means that kids must be involved in organizing their snacks and lunches for the week, they should help clean and select their clothing and should also be in charge of creating their weekly schedules (including chores, sports practices, music lessons, etc). Most importantly though, they need to understand why it is important that they choose environmentally-friendly products.
After having many conversations with my own children about the environment and what it means to do our part, I recognized that a big part of teaching stewardship is ingraining responsibility into the fabric of your household.
Overall, it’s never too late to set a new standard of what you and your family can do to help care for the environment.
Award-winning broadcaster and bestselling author Gillian Deacon is one of Canada’s best-known environmental writers. She is the author of the national bestsellers There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Bodycare and How to Avoid Them
and Green For Life
, a guide to making sustainable living ‘the new normal’. Find out more about Gillian at gilldeacon.ca