Let’s be honest, is there any time of your driving life more stressful than the school run? You could be driving through a hurricane, surrounded by stampeding wild animals and it would still be less stressful than trying to get children to the school gate by half-past eight. With schools getting ever more vigilant about timekeeping, no parent wants to be given a stern talking too or – god forbid – a strongly worded letter reminding them of the importance of their children being at their desks on time.
Getting packed lunches ready, making sure that your little ones have everything they need for the day, ensuring that last night’s homework was completed, getting them fed, dressed, in the car, buckled in and ready to face the day can feel like a daily marathon rather than a simple task. There are plenty of tips and tricks that can be used to get through the hectic daily chaos of the school run – some start at home, some when you’re out on the road, but the main thing is that the more you reduce stress on the school run, the better you’re set up for the rest of the day. Here’s our top 5 tips on how to make your school run a little easier.
1) Plan Ahead
It seems like an almost stupidly simple tip but planning ahead can take so much stress out of the school run. Take the time to do a practice run to the school before the real thing. Think about where the traffic is going to be backing up, and where the most prized parking spots are. The more you plan, the more chance you have of things going smoothly when you do the real thing.
Kids have to take a lot of stuff with them to school these days, and those bags are better off being packed the night before and put by the door ready to grab on the way out in the morning. Packed lunches are better being made the night before, put in the fridge and placed into bags as the kids are having their breakfast, rather than trying to do it all first thing in the morning while you’re trying to do a hundred other things. Having a plan in place to streamline your way to the school gates is one of the best ways to ensure a stress-free, easy school run.
2) Don’t Be Afraid To Allow Screen Time
Kids love their screens. Let’s be honest about this, if they could be glued to their screens twenty-four hours a day, they probably would be. There’s a lot of talk on parenting advice sites about limiting kids screen usage and how it can affect them, and you know what? Plenty of that advice that is valid and useful. You don’t want your kids distracted when they’re meant to be doing their homework or at the dinner table, and that’s a perfect time to put your foot down and get them to put the tablet or phone down.
However, screen time can be very useful during the school run, when the last thing you need is to be distracted. A 2012 survey showed that there were over 800 accidents involving children within five hundred yards of the school gates every month, and there is no reason to believe that number has diminished. Letting your kids use their tablets in the car keeps them occupied while you negotiate the traffic, which takes away one of the little distractions from the trip.
3) Avoid The School Gates
This one might seem a bit counter-intuitive, considering the school gates are your ultimate destination, but after one or two attempts to get close to them, you’ll be able to see where we’re coming from. The problem with the school gates is that everyone wants to get as close to them as possible – and unless you get there three hours before the school is due to open, you’re probably not going to manage that. What will most likely happen instead is that you’ll be stuck in a queue half a mile long before getting to the gate and not being able to find a place to park.
A better option, if you plan ahead, is to find a quieter spot a couple of minutes’ walk from the gates. It goes against all logic to park up and walk, especially when you’re against the clock, but a couple of minutes walking to and from the gates will save more time than trying to get to the front door, and it’s certainly safer than trying to get your children out of the car at the gates at a speed that would put a Formula One pitstop to shame.
4) Keep Calm And Carry On
The school run is stressful at the best of times, and that’s when things go right. You can be perfectly on time, with not a single item forgotten and all children fed, dressed, and behaving well, and still feel like you’ve gone three rounds with Tyson Fury by the time you leave for home or work.
It’s important to remember that no matter what the frustrations are of the trip, you need to keep calm. Make a driving playlist or find a particular radio show that you want to listen to. Studies have shown that music affects both your mood and driving style, so find the audio that will help you keep zen until you’ve dropped the kids off. Then feel free to scream into a pillow for three hours.
5) The Right Car Is Important
This should go without saying, but having the right car for the school run is super important when it comes to being stress-free and safe on the school run. Every car has its ups and downs, but there are certainly some that aren’t suitable. There’s a reason you don’t see many Porsche 911s dropping kids off at the gates.
UK government guidance says that a child should be in a car seat until they’re twelve years old, or until they reach a height of 135cm, and this means that you'll want a car with back seats big enough to accommodate at least one, and possibly more car seats in order to meet the rules. Some cars that might seem practical turn out to be less so – the VW beetle, for example, can only fit one car seat in its rear, whereas a crossover like the Kia Sportage can fit two with ease.
Finding the right car for you and your family is one of the most important things you can do – not just for the school run, but for the rest of your family life as well. Visit our car leasing page to find the perfect car for your next school run.