Sarah Lyons, contributing writer

Many families’ weeks are full of practices, lessons, meetings, and activities, sometimes leaving what seems to be an unavoidable sense of chaos in the evenings. Feeding the kids a healthy dinner, keeping your schedule organized, and getting homework done become challenging when you have multiple kids in multiple activities. How can families enjoy a full schedule while calming the evening chaos?

Family Calendar

Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date family calendar is key to managing a busy schedule and staying organized. For many families, if an event or activity isn’t on the calendar, it will likely be forgotten or double booked. Some families may find a paper calendar works best, but others may prefer to use a calendar app to access the calendar on their phone while on the go.

“My phone is set with reminders for every recurring event. ‘Get ready for ballet,’ ‘leave for ballet,’ ‘ballet dismissed’ … I’d be a mess without it.” Amy Cameron, mom of three, said.

Prep the Night Before

School mornings can be hectic. Particularly when your family also has a busy evening of after-school activities. To avoid stress in the evening and reduce the risk of forgetting something, lay everything out in advance.

“I work ahead whenever possible,” mother Kara Thomas, said. “I put all the equipment together the night before, so I’m not doing the scramble when I get home from work.”

It might also be helpful to pack a separate bag for each activity so the kids can grab the bag for that activity on the way out the door. This method can also double as storage for equipment, shoes, and sports gear.

Find Dinner Solutions

“Crockpot meals are the only way for dinners when one kid needs to eat at 4 p.m. and another at 9 p.m.” another mother, Angela Leever, said. “This saves us during busy game and practice nights. I also prepared ready-to-assemble meals like a big salad or burrito with all the components ready.”

Angela also suggests having quick, filling snacks such as yogurt, Uncrustable sandwiches, and pre-cut fruit on hand for busy nights.

Stephanie Loux, a mom of three with a spouse who often travels for work, said, “Having heavier snacks before activities, if dinner will be late that night, has been super helpful this year.”

Amy suggests planning meals for the week on Sunday night while taking the calendar into consideration. “We’re all home at different times on Mondays, so that’s our crockpot night,” she said.

Use Creative Solutions

Even with careful preparation and planning, you simply can’t be in two places at once. Try to come up with creative solutions that can help you manage a busy night. Stephanie suggests carpooling with friends, having an older child help cook dinner, setting reminders on Alexa or your phone, eliminating screens until tasks are done, and meal planning.

“Depending on the day, homework is done right after school before they can do anything else or in the car on the way to a game,” Stephanie said.

Two-parent households can try a divide-and-conquer approach to split up the activities. Some parents may also hire a babysitter who can drive or use the help of a teen sibling to manage rides.

Extracurricular activities have many benefits, and they are fun to participate in. However, when you find yourself with so many activities that your child (or yourself ) has become overstimulated and stressed, it may be time to consider cutting back on something. Every family is different and enjoys a different activity level. You may find that your family thrives on keeping busy. Either way, careful planning and preparation, and some creative solutions may be just what you need to calm the chaos.