What's a typical morning in your house like during the school year? Is it easy and orderly, or chaotic and rushed? No one wants to live a chaotic life, but without the right tools and preparation, it's easy to fall into that pattern. Before you end up being the mommy-monster every morning, we have some awesome advice to make your mornings easier and more controlled.
The good news about school days is that you pretty much know what to expect: the kids will need to be clean, clothed and fed, they will need something for lunch or a snack and they will need their bookbag packed and ready to go. Since so much of school life falls into this easy pattern, you can start the preparation the night before and really get a head start on the day.
Tip #1: Select clothes the evening before. Whether your child is 4 or 14, getting dressed in the morning can be a huge struggle. Kids can take forever to pick out an outfit and even longer to select one that meets your standards. Circumvent this issue by having your kids pick out their clothes the night before. They can take as long as they want to select their outfit, and if it needs laundering or ironing, you have plenty of time to make it happen.
Laying out clothing cuts the getting ready time down for moms like Heather Cueva. "Getting her clothes picked out the night before was key for us in keeping the mornings running smoothly. Then when morning comes I will wake her up with a little back rub and she knows to go to the bathroom and I will get her toothbrush ready on the way back to my room so I can finish getting ready," says Heather.
Tip #2: Bathe the night before. No one wants their child to head off to school with greasy hair or leftover stench from a busy game of tag the night before. But when you leave things to the last minute, the bath can be one of the items that gets cut in haste. Instead, make bathtime part of your evening routing. That way, junior is all fresh and clean for school and you don't have to worry about looking like the worst mother ever for forgetting to wash off your child.
Tip #3: Plan for lunch the night before. You know that your child is going to need to eat at school, whether it's a snack for preschool or a lunch for junior high. Instead of leaving this to the last minute (and risking forgetting something!), plan the lunch or snack the night before. In some cases you may even choose to pack your child's lunch or snack at the same time (although that doesn't work with all foods).
Alise Kreditor says that this helped her a lot when her kids were young. "Although I'd actually make it in the morning to ensure freshness, I had a small box of "menu" items and they could choose the night before what they wanted for lunch by leaving the card out in the kitchen. That way there would be no surprises and hopefully all lunches were eaten," says Alise.
Tip #4: Check homework and pack the backpack before bedtime. Speaking of forgetting things. If you want to ensure that your child is truly on top of their ever-important schoolwork, then make sure to check their homework and have them pack their backpack before putting them down for bedtime. You'll be clued in on what they are up to, and they won't forget anything.
Professional organizer Sue Anderson (SimplifiedLivingSolutions.com) says this is something that she has employed in her own home. "Set up a time each evening to go through bookbags, review and sign everything and then place them by the door. We usually did this after dinner & washing dishes each evening. Be sure to merge any new or changed activities to your calendar immediately," says Sue.
Tip #5: Stick to the bedtime routine. By using a routine each night, kids will not only get used to going to bed, but they will be less resistant, since they know what to expect and bedtime won't come as a surprise.
Heather is a proponent of the bedtime routine, which she says helps her daughter get more sleep. "We also try to keep bedtime around the same time every night and keep the bedtime routine consistant (brush teeth, bath, pjs, chat time, story, and bed) so we make sure she is getting plenty of sleep at night," Heather says.
Each school morning, if you've prepped using the tips above the night before, can be a breeze. You just need to stay focused on the task at hand. Forget email or the morning news, just get the kids up, ready and out the door. Sound hard? It doesn't have to be.
Tip #6: Create a wake-up routine. You have a bedtime routine, so why not create a wakeup routine too? Similar to how kids resist less when they know what's coming, a wake-up routine will get them up easier since they understand the process.
Tip #7: Have breakfast thought out and make it easy to prepare. No matter how many times it's said, this is a message that begs repeating: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Ensure that you send your kids off fed and ready but planning ahead for easy and quick breakfasts.
Susan Wilson, who will be featured in an upcoming issue of Real Simple, has devised a great way to avoid discussion and arguments at breakfast. "We run breakfast like a restaurant. Named after my kitchen theme of chickens, it's called The Chicken Coop Café and we are open for 30 minutes every morning," says Susan. "We set the menu quarterly but there is only the special of the day offered. Monday is cereal, bagels, fresh fruit and breakfast protein shakes. Tuesday is Vanilla waffles, plain or chocolate chip, with bananas and pork sausage. Wednesday is either egg burrito or poached eggs, etc. I refer to my children as the non-paying regulars and we have a menu posted with the daily specials and a reminder to save the bread items for the birds."
Tip #8: Use teamwork. Ultimately, you can't get your children off to school on time without their help, so enlist them in the process. Set up clear morning responsibilities and home them accountable for their share of the work, whether it's getting cleaned up and dressed or something more complicated.
You know what they say about the best laid plans. Unexpected things come up all the time, so be prepared to handle them at a moment's notice.
Tip #9: Build extra time into your morning. Face it, things seldom go perfectly. Anything from a missing shoe to a temper tandrum can throw the whole morning off, if you let it. Don't! Instead, be prepared for the extra moments by adding extra time into your morning. First, figure out how much time you need to get the kids out the door under the best of circumstances, then add in an additional 15 minutes. This extra time will keep you from getting stressed out if things go awry in the am.
From the professional organizers perspective, this time is key for success. "This extra time allows the children to wake up and prepare for school in a more relaxed way which ultimately will send them out of the door more prepared to learn & face the day. This also is an added cushion in case little Suzie spills Kool-Aid on her school outfit and you need to quickly change her or Billy suddenly remembers there is one more paper he needs help with," says Sue.
Things won't run smoothly if you wait until the last minute to start your school year routine. Many, many moms told us that getting ready for good school mornings should start a few weeks before school begins. "To get my kids ready for the earlier bedtimes, about a month before the first day of school we make bedtime incrementally earlier each week until we are at a reasonable bedtime again. To make sure the kids are ready for bed, about an hour before bedtime we take them to the park or wrestle with them until everyone is exhausted," says Sabrina Sumsion of Spotlight Publicity (spotlightpublicity.com).
Sabrina says that the pre-bedtime tiring out has a great fringe benefit too: fantastic memories are made.
Tell us: What is your best tip for getting kids out the door in the mornings? Comment below!
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