Ilana here from Mommy Shorts, stopping in to share some good ol’ parenting tips! I’m a working mom living in NYC with two daughters named Mazzy and Harlow. Mazzy is in 3rd grade and Harlow is in kindergarten, so let’s just say our after school schedule has intensified in the past few years. I’ve heard many parents say that once their kids reach a certain age, they pretty much become carpool drivers and snack suppliers, responsible only for driving their kids to one after-school activity from the next and making sure they are fed along the way. In NYC, we do most of our carpooling by foot or public transportation, but the concept is pretty much the same. Kids need to get where they need to go on time, everybody must have the right clothes and equipment and no one wants to go hungry. Today, I’m teaming up with Entenmann’s Little Bites® to share some after-school advice, acquired through plenty of trial and error.

Here are six tips on how to manage the chaos of after-school activities:

1. Prepare like a pro. Start with hanging a schedule on the front door. If your kids can’t read yet, add some pictures. This way, everyone knows what is happening that day and can be held responsible for packing the right clothes and gear. I try to make sure all after-school gear is packed in their backpacks the night before. Hip-hop on Thursday afternoon? The leotard and jazz shoes go in Harlow’s backpack on Wednesday night. Girl Scouts on Monday? Mazzy needs to make sure her sash is packed Sunday night. You don’t want to run around looking for things when you are pressed to head out the door. We also prep by putting to-go snacks in their backpacks the night before, like almonds, crackers, and Entenmann’s Little Bites®. This way, if I forget to put snacks in my purse, they’ve still got plenty of options.

2. BRING SNACKS!!!! The absolute worst thing in the world to my kids is a parent showing up at pick-up without any snacks… and not just any snacks. My kids want to be surprised and delighted. When Mazzy and Harlow were smaller, I used to get away with giving them the same standbys — cut-up veggies, pretzels, almonds. But as they have gotten older, they want new and exciting things. “That’s it?” they will often moan when presented with the same old selection. I try to mix things up so that sometimes they get a baggie of cut veggies or a piece of fruit and sometimes they get a snack that I know is guaranteed a big smile, like Entenmann’s Little Bites® Muffins. My girls love the different varieties, especially the Entenmann’s Little Bites® Party Cake and the Chocolate Chip Muffins. I love that they contain 0 grams of trans-fat or high fructose corn syrup and come in a portion-controlled mess-free pouch.

3. Don’t over-schedule. It’s tempting to keep your kids busy every day after school, but I find that too many activities is a waste of money and time. We leave a few days open to plan impromptu playdates, mother-daughter dates and time so they can just come home and veg out on the couch. I think those days are their favorite.

4. Make a plan for when homework will get done. If Mazzy does her homework too late in the day, that’s usually a nightmare for everyone. We recently sat down with her to create a plan for when she can get her homework done between activities so that she’s free later on to play and hang out with the family. It doesn’t work every day, but now she knows she’s got enough time to do her math between school and acting class on Mondays and on Wednesdays, after comic book class at school, she can go straight to study group. It’s made our evenings so much easier!

5. Get help when you can. Sometimes it seems impossible to seamlessly coordinate everything without help. Our sitter, Ruth, helps us out with pick-ups in the afternoon. My husband and I will often alternate who picks up the kids from where, depending on who is busier at work. We’ve also coordinated with other parents to put our kids in the same after-school activities so that they can commute together (or whatever you want to call carpools in the city). And we’ve enlisted my mother to help out on certain afternoons. There is usually a running text chain between my husband and I and whoever else is involved during the day — coordinating playdates, confirming start times and notifying everyone of any last minute changes.

6. Turn your commute into quality time with your kids. I know trekking your kids to and from their various activities might seem like a pain in the neck more than anything else, but I really try to take advantage of this time with them. Walking ten blocks with your kid (or sitting next to them in the car) really is a great opportunity to chat one on one with your child about their day. If I’m taking a few kids along with me, I love seeing a brief window into their social world. And of course, surprising them with Entenmann’s Little Bites® Muffins as an afternoon snack can really make you feel like a hero.

On a personal level, I have a fond place in my heart for Entenmann’s® from when I was little. My mother was very particular about what she fed us, but Entenmann’s® Chocolate Chip Cookies and Banana Loaf Cake were snacks she knew would make us light up. I remember running into the kitchen whenever she would get back from the supermarket, looking through the bags, hoping to find their signature blue and white box. It gives me great pleasure to bring that same excitement to my kids with Entenmann’s Little Bites®… even if we are usually eating on the go.