Streamlining the Morning Routine (Aka: What Keeps Me Sane and On-time During the School Year)
I have mornings down pat! It wasn't always that way...in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school...boy, was I a groggy mess!
But live and learn and I'm here to tell you that budgeting your time is just as important as budgeting your money when it comes to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process!
Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!Mornings don't start in the morning, they start the night before!
Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way mornings are started off in a calm manner and there isn't any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time.
NO WARDROBE MALFUNCTIONS HERE
Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I've planned my wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he's dressed. But us girls, we take a bit more time on our style, I guess! I work with my daughter to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All she has to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get ready.
Wardrobe planning has always been something I take pride in. Every night I decide what I'm going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don't even second guess myself, I just grab and go.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness! Backpacks should be cleared out every afternoon with all paperwork, library books and homework returned to the backpack in the evening so it's ready to grab in the morning. Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door. Hairbrush, detangling spray and elastics/bows should be together (we keep ours in a bin under the bathroom sink) so it's easy to style in the morning. Jackets are on a hook next to the backpacks. Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before!
LUNCHES MADE IN BUNCHES
I buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags and store them in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks) or in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie). The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich. Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.
SET THE STAGE FOR SLEEP WITH A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE
As I've instructed my husband, a tickle-fest is not going to get our toddler in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower right before bed can help kids relax. We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don't try to skip story time!). Keeping your routine the same each night can also help sleep come quickly and have them sleeping all night in their own beds.
GET THE KIDS TO BED AT A REASONABLE TIME
According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 5:45 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 7:45 am! I will admit that a bedtime before eight o'clock isn't happening but they are going to bed at a reasonable 8:15-8:30 and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren't groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.
PUT YOURSELF TO BED AT A DECENT TIME, TOO!
I'm the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn't be started at 10:36 pm. And then I'm kicking myself in the morning when I don't want to get up! I've pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I'm feeling better, waking easily and am not "hitting the wall" at 2 o'clock each day any more.
A RESTFUL ROOM IS CONDUCIVE TO REST
A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out. I've trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it's very dark in the room then what's the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at...close your eyes and go to sleep!
Good Morning Sunshine!
AWAKING TO AN ALARM CLOCK
If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I'd used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once (unless you use the Snooze button, but I've never taught my kids what that is, they assume that the clock goes off once and that's it...tricky me!). If you don't get up you're going to be late, easy as that. If MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she'll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!
If you are a habitual snoozer, try to break yourself out of the habit. It's not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won't be tempted to crawl back in!
THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY: BREAKFAST
We never leave the house without breakfast and I'm surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don't eat breakfast in the morning. I can't imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with soy milk are a hit. Or if we are more rushed, a bowl of cereal or microwave oatmeal and a banana. I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine "to-go" and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.
On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!
FINAL BRUSHING CALL: TEETH, HAIR AND OUT THE DOOR!
I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter's hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.
We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we're in the car and on our way.
IT'S EARLY...KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Don't try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by only requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time. I've also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl...when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task. If you keep finding yourself running late, set the alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time...there's no harm in arriving early!
Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!
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