Today I welcome talented blogger and recently published author, Nicole Avery of Planning with Kids, to talk to us about her new book and her top tips for being organised at home as a family.
Be sure to read on for details of an exciting opportunity to ask Nicole your very own questions and the chance to win a copy of Planning With Kids.
Tell us a little about the book and what you hope readers will take away from it
While you will find the Planning With Kids book in the parenting section of most book stores, it isn’t your standard parenting type of book. The book shows you how you can get organized and leave more time for parenting and hanging out with the kids.
Throughout the book I share what has worked for our family, but I don’t set this example up as the only or “right” way to go about it. I would love for readers to finish the book and implement some level of planning with their own touch, around the constants of family life (eating, sleeping, cleaning etc) so when the unpredictable elements come along as they do, like sick kids, fighting, tantrums, they are then in a much better place to b able to cope with it.
I have included many resources that readers of the book can access from the blog to help make their life a little bit easier, I hope they give them a try and see what a difference it can make to their family harmony.
Why do you feel organisation is so important to family life?
For me, once disorganization starts to creep into our family (and there still are moments when it does!) a number of things start to happen:
- My stress levels rise – I find clutter stressful and my patience becomes shorter.
- The kids follow my lead – as the primary carer in our house I find the kids revolve around my mood. If I am a little stressed and snappy, there seems to be a direct correlation between this and the amount of squabbling amongst the kids.
- Everything takes longer – if I fall behind in folding the washing for example, I end up wasting so much time hunting for footy socks or school tights etc.
If I take the time to get organized, being proactive in how things will run, it makes a huge difference to the level of happiness in the house. For example, taking the time to do some preparation the night before is by far the best thing I can do to make school mornings run more smoothly.
If there is one thing I know about young children it is that just when you think you have them sorted, they go and mix things up again! How do you incorporate flexibility when it comes to managing a child’s individual needs at that particular moment in time within an organised household routine or structure which is designed to suit the whole family?
Routines and structures need to be fluid and a work in progress. I can always tell when we are out of sync with the routines we are trying to follow and what the kids’ needs are. This usually represents itself in the younger ones in the form of difficult behaviour, tantrums and unwillingness to co-operate.
A classic example of this is when toddlers transition from two sleeps to one and then from one to none. When it comes to sleep time the toddler might start to run the other way and getting him into the room is a battle. When this becomes the norm (not the exception) I need to reassess what we are doing and make changes that will suit his needs.
I have found making a change to sleeping times or other activities is much easier to do if the toddler still has familiarity with what the rest of his day holds. He still has some routine to hold on to, for example he might go to sleep a bit later, but he still has his story and song first, which are his cues for winding down.
I once joked goodheartedly on Twitter that you must ‘dream in spreadsheets.’ Do you use any organisational tools to help you keep on top of things when it comes to keeping your family of 7 organised?
Last Christmas my husband actually gave me a mug with “I love Spreadsheets” written on it. It was recycled from his work Kris Kringle but it was still pretty apt, as I do use spreadsheets quite a lot.
For example we use Google Docs as a key source of storing data for the family. For Phil and I this means things like tracking our daily expenditure and our family and friends address book, both of which are spreadsheets. For the school age kids, this means using Google Docs for writing up assignments. Then there is no issues over which computer each child needs to use as they can access their homework from any computer.
A key tool for my husband and I to know where we are going to be is using electronic calendar appointments. If I have a meeting at school, kinder or hairdresser etc, I will send him an electronic calendar invite (I use gmail calendar he uses Outlook but the two work fine together) so it gets into his online diary. No excuses not to be home in time then!
I find for the kids visuals work best. We have a couple of charts for them to refer to:
(1) Weekly timetables – for the school aged kids this really helps to have the kids being responsible for themselves. They can see for example it is Tuesday and so they must take their library book back to school.
(2) Kids morning jobs chart – Having a chart which outlines what they need to do in the morning before they go to school means I don’t have to nag so much! It doesn’t automatically mean they do it all every day, but I can refer them back to the chart so they can see what they need to do.
What would be the #1 thing you would encourage parents to do to help them get more organised as a family?
Menu plan. Food is such a big part of family life and menu planning can have a positive impact on so many areas like:
- Happy kids – hungry kids are generally grumpy kids. Knowing what you are going to cook for them in advance means you are more likely to have it ready to eat a time before they get “past it”.
- Happy mum – less stress at the hectic time of the day from having to think about what to cook, less running around with fewer trips to the shops.
- Happy meal time – if you can get through cooking the meal without too much stress, then you are in a much better position to be able to actually sit down together and enjoy the meal as a family.
- Happy budget – it is much easier to stick to the family budget if you plan what you eat, incorporating specials, regular trips to markets to buy cheaper fruit and veg and there is less wastage.
And menu planning is an activity you can get the whole family (those who have speech!) involved with too. My kids help me create out monthly menu plan, all choosing four meals each they want to have on the menu over the month.
Thanks for having my on Childhood 101 Christie, it has been a long time favourite blog of mine and always a source of inspiration for activities I can do with my little ones.
If you would like to ask Nicole a question about getting more organised at home with your own family, why not join Nicole and I for a Facebook chat over on the Childhood 101 Facebook page next Tuesday, 24th May from 7-8pm Perth, Western Australia time/9-10pm EST (here is a time convertor tool for my overseas readers). One lucky chat participant will have the chance to win a copy of Planning With Kids by Nicole Avery.