Remember the good old days, when getting out the door was as easy as grabbing your purse and keys, sliding shoes on, opening the door and leaving?
Now that you have children, mornings are jam-packed with tasks that are all potential speed bumps.
It’s well established that children do best when they know what to expect. This means creating routines and consistency is essential to a properly functioning household.
Now that school is back in session, it’s the perfect time to dust off all the rules and routines we had happily tucked away in the deepest corners of our minds for summer.
Here are 7 tips — plus a few helpful items — to get your kids to school/daycare on time.
1. Prep the Night Before
In other words, cover all your bases (or as many as possible) the night before, so you have less to worry about in the trenches of hectic school mornings.
Lay out clothes for the next morning (involve your kiddos if they like to choose their outfits), set the table for breakfast after clearing off dinner, pack up lunch boxes and snacks… You can even pick out clothing for the entire week ahead (see below for product recommendations). Anything you can prep the night before will free up brain space and help avoid crises and meltdowns at crunchtime.
Check out our school lunch planner to go the extra mile.
2. Add in Me-Time in the Mornings
Always give yourself more time than you think you need, even if it means giving up those last 30 minutes of sleep.
I personally like to wake up before my kids so that I can wake myself up and get ready in peace. In turn, it then allows me to fully focus on getting my children dressed, fed and ready for the day, which really helps our overall morning flow.
This usually comes with the need to discipline myself: I go to bed earlier to wake up earlier. No more hitting that snooze button.
3. Set up All the Timers
“15 minutes ’til we have to get out the door to catch the bus…
5 minutes… [phone timer goes off]. Time to put our shoes on and go!”
All hail timers!
Especially if you have kiddos who cannot yet read time, timers help everyone (grownups and little ones alike) stay mindful of the exact time a task needs to be fully accomplished.
In our house, we use timers specifically to get dressed and to get a sense of when we need to get out the door, especially when we work with the MTA/bus schedule. I usually use my phone, but I also love the visual/analog countdown timers that are more intuitive for children: they feature a colored disc that slowly disappears to let them know time passes. See the list below for our favorite time-saving devices.
If visuals don’t work, consider making a morning playlist with upbeat, motivating songs that your children are familiar with. The music cues and song changes can guide them through the different tasks they have to accomplish throughout the morning. For example, when they hear “Here Comes the Sun,” it’s time to get dressed.
4. Gamify the Morning
More specifically, make it a race.
I have never seen my children get dressed as quickly as when I tell them they need to have all their clothes on by the time I am done brushing my teeth.
The power of play is really a thing of wonders!
5. Reward them with “Free Time”
Nothing motivates my children to get ready like the reward of “free time,” where they get carte blanche in the activities they get to do before we head out.
During free time, my boys are allowed to play whatever they want, as long as they are dressed and ready to go. They sometimes choose TV (we only allow educational shows, like Story Bots or Sesame Street), but more often than not, they opt for free play (with legos or stuffed animals), drawing or reading (video games are off limits). The timer comes back out for “free time” so they know they only have a specific amount of time before having to put their shoes on, grab their backpacks and get out the door.
*Be careful, here… there are kids who will wake up extra early so they can hurry and get ready for school so they have extra time to watch iPad, for example. Some of them will get up earlier and earlier…. and that’s not what we’re going for.
6. Use Checklists
A simple checklist can do wonders for a smooth morning (or anytime!) routine. In our home, we use a whiteboard that can easily be updated as needed, and I set it outside my kids’ bedrooms so it’s the first thing they see when they open their doors in the morning.
Since my kids are older, I wrote out their morning checklist (i.e. brush your teeth; get dressed for school; put your jammies in the hamper; turn off your bedroom light; etc.) but if your children don’t yet know how to read, you can draw or print out pictures of each task as well.
We’re also big fans of the visual morning charts that use velcro tabs. Once your child is done with a task, they simply flip the tab up, and voila! If you feel in the mood for a little DIY project, you can make your own here.
7. Keep Breakfast Simple
Mornings are not the time to reinvent yourself as a chef. Keep your little ones’ breakfasts as easy as possible: peanut butter and banana toasts, minute oatmeal, toaster waffles (multigrain), avocado toasts, yogurt and granola are some of our favorite options to nourish our kiddos while staying on track.
Our Favorite Items to Keep Mornings Moving
Hatch Rest ~ $70
This ok-to-wake clock has been amazing to help get my children out of bed without too much fussing. Once they see that the light turns yellow and hear the birds chipping, they know it’s time to emerge and get ready for the day.
Visual Timer Clock ~ $ Varies
These visual timers feature colored discs to let your kiddos easily know how much more time they have to complete a task. If your children still don’t recognize their numbers, you can opt for versions that feature animals instead of numbers or that color code each time.
Kizik Sneakers ~ $69
With their hands-free design, Kizik sneakers are the easiest shoes to slide on — no laces or velcro to mess around with. Seriously, the transition out the door has never been easier. My kids have been wearing them every day for a year, and they’re still as good as new!
Wall Hooks ~ $ varies
Make your entryway kid and school friendly. We use magnetic hooks to secure our kids’ backpacks on our door so it’s easy for them to grab them as we head out for the day. Similarly (and not pictured here), we have coat hangers at their level so they can be as independent as possible on their way out.
Dry Erase Whiteboard ~ $6
Use a dry erase whiteboard like this one to jot down your kids’ morning checklist. It’s magnetic so you can put it on your fridge, or simply set it somewhere they’ll see it when they wake up.
Chore Charts ~ $17
These reusable to-do lists feature a sliding check box. Once your kids are done with a task, they can slide it to reveal the checkmark and feel super accomplished (I know it’d bring me a lot of joy…).
Weekly Clothes Organizer ~ $35
Get all the outfits ready the Sunday before the school-week with this handy hanging organizer.
That’s it! Let us know your favorite tips, tricks and items for getting out the door on time each morning — leave us a comment below.
Cheers! ~ Charlene