- Keep your hand-me-downs handy and well-organized. While the picture above is admittedly not pretty, it accurately captures my basement bins of hand-me-downs. They line the shelves, ranging from 3T to Size 6 and organized by season. There's even an "overflow" bin filled with coats, boots and mittens. The bins have been filled by various sources... our own hand-me-downs from Liam that will one day fit the triplets, the slightly worn garb of neighbors and friends and even a few new items picked up at bargain basement prices... which leads me to the next tip...
- Buy in advance, on sale and online. Since most of my kids' clothes come from those basement bins, it is a special treat to buy something new. And, since I work full-time (and even if I didn't, couldn't stomach a trip to the mall with five tykes in tow!), most of the shopping we do is online. While it pains me to get those backpack catalogs in July, I've started to pay attention to them. They offer pre-season sale prices, free shipping and a great selection. And, if you can afford it, now is a great time to stock up on summer gear for next year... just be sure to store it neatly so you can find it when Memorial Day 2012 rolls around.
- Give your kids a choice. I'm constantly amazed at the strong opinions of our little "Lyons Cubs" and have learned the hard way that some battles just aren't worth the fight. If someone wants to wear rain boots on a sunny day, fine. If someone is now boycotting pink, that's fine too; it's just not worth it to start each day arguing about what to wear. One way to avoid the morning mayhem is to involve your kids in any back-to-school shopping you may do. Let them pick out one special outfit or a few new basics. In our house, this process includes a stack of the aforementioned catalogs and a marker. They mark up what they want (often the entire catalog or recently with Ciara, anything that is turquoise!) and then we decide together what they will get. Making the process collaborative and inclusive goes a long way toward eliminating those early morning battles.
- Don't forget the shoes. This is my weakness. I just can't keep up with how quickly their feet grow and am often surprised to find they only have Crocs in November or boots in May. Shoes are especially challenging since it's critical to get the sizing right and this can be tough to do from home as I navigate my online options. That said, I've come across few tools to ensure the perfect fit right from the comfort of my couch. For those of you with an ipad, check out the nifty new Pitter-Pad app; for those of you without (like me!), check out the Lands End Fit Chart. Your kids will be glad you did.
- Think snow. Now. While we can't predict the weather, one certainty is that your little ones will want to frolic in those first falling flakes and when they do, they will need a warm coat, snow pants, boots, a hat and gloves. Now is the time to stock up on these items -- we tend to get ours on sale, from a second hand shop or, fortunately, from friends who have kindly helped us fill those hand-me-down bins!
It's hard to believe that summer is waning and fall is almost upon us but hopefully with these tips in-hand, you'll have a seamless transition while enjoying the best of both seasons.