Save Time on School Mornings With These Simple Tips
If your school mornings generally start off with arguments about getting a shower, whether homework is done or not and where your kid put their backpack, welcome to parenthood.
The parental morning routine has long been the butt of jokes on TV shows and movies, but it ceases to be a laughing matter when your kids start getting tardy slips and grades start slipping.
So, how do you turn the stress of the school-morning routine into a well-oiled machine that your kids will thank you for later in life?
We spoke with several experts in the matter, including professional organizers, psychologists and parents, to find out how they successfully fixed their morning hustle.
Here are 14 tips that experts say will help eliminate the school-morning stress.
Create a Weekly Menu
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and were greeted by a massive menu with countless options? At first this seems like a great problem to have, but you soon find yourself struggling between several items. The same can happen when your kids get ready for school.
According to Charlene DeLoach of Charlene Chronicles, creating a limited menu can make mornings far easier. And this doesn’t just apply to breakfast, lunch and dinner. She also says to have your kids choose seven outfits on a Sunday and set them to the side. Now, instead of 20 options to choose from, they only have seven.
Not only does this speed up the process, but the ability to choose their clothes gives your kid a feeling of accomplishment, even if you helped assemble the seven options.
Crush the 'Sock Monster'
We all know who the sock monster is. He’s that ghastly beast who hides in the laundry room and feeds on the stink of dirty socks. But he’ll never steal a single white sock that can mate with any other white sock. Nope, it’s always just a single super-colorful sock, leaving its mate to sit alone in your sock drawer for all eternity.
Well, eliminate the possibility of the lost mate by buying nothing but the same white socks with no distinguishing marks, according to Mary Jo Monroe at reSPACEd.
With every sock matching the others, you can foil the sock monster’s evil plot of leaving all socks single and help eliminate the time you waste searching for the mate to your daughter’s favorite tie-dyed sock.
Ending the Day the Right Way
The key to success in your morning routine starts hours before that time ever comes. In fact, it starts from the moment your kiddos come home from school the day before.
Your goal is to get as much of your morning routine completed as you can the night before.
According to Raffi Bilek at the Baltimore Therapy Center, “This can include setting out the next day's clothes, packing the non-perishable snacks and lunches, setting the table for breakfast, and anything else you can think of that will take the load off the morning schedule.”
While you still need to execute on your plans, which will come next, getting the plan started the night before gives you a head start on all those tedious tasks that your coffee-fueled self may not be up for.
Everything has Its Place
Nancy Haworth, professional organizer and owner of On Task Organizing, LLC, says that having a place for everything is another key to morning success. She suggests creating drop zones for every item your kid will need in the morning, including hooks for backpacks and coats, a place for their umbrella, and cubbies or drawers for their permission slips and school work.
Before going to bed, she suggests reviewing these boxes to ensure all the paperwork is in its place and signed, if needed.
Trish Wilkinson of The Brain Stages seconds this notion, but also suggests letting your kid choose the best spots for their items. This will help the process stick a little better.
Put a picture on each cubby or drawer so the kids know who's is whose, says Lorrie Holm of Impact Organizing LLC.
Make sure everyone understands the system — don’t just set is up and expect your kids to know what to do. And with kids, this will likely take multiple explanations before they completely catch on.
Dinnertime Is Meal-Prep Time
Preparing and cooking food is likely one of the biggest strains on the morning routine, but you can easily eliminate part of that by shifting that responsibility to the evening.
Instead of putting together the family’s breakfast and lunches in the morning, get as much of this put together as you can the night before.
Every evening, Haworth makes sure to “set out breakfast dishes, make sandwiches, and have any other lunch items together on a fridge shelf and ready to be packed in the morning.”
This helps take the guesswork out of what’s for breakfast or what to pack for lunch. You can just cook, pack and head out the door.
Get Ready for the Next Day
If it takes too long to get your kids’ clothes ready in the morning, you can have outfits ready to go the night prior or at the beginning of the week.
Label seven small plastic tubs or gallon-sized zipper bags “Monday” through “Friday,” according to Kristine Maloney, assistant vice president of TVP Communications and mother of two children, and put one full outfit in each bin at the end of the previous week.
Every morning, your kid slides out the bag or tub and their clothes are already matched and ready to go for the day. This virtually eliminates the time-draining what-to-wear question.
Holm of Impact Organizing also advises you want to also make sure you and your child verify all their paperwork and homework is completed and in their backpack for the next day.
Check In Right Before You Check Out
Holm suggests using bedtime as talk time. She says to use this time just before going to sleep to speak to your kid about their upcoming day.
Talk about any concerns they may have or deadlines that are looming. Write these down in a notebook or store them on your phone so you can address everything in the coming days and weeks. Make sure to do this in a non-critical way, Holm stresses.
With this covered, you and your child should be able to sleep more soundly and wake up ready to tackle the day.
Know the Weather
Weather can change, of course, so it's best to keep on your toes about the ever-changing forecast.
Check the weather report the night before school to know what to expect, and make adjustments as needed. If rain is in the forecast, set out an umbrella the night before. If the predicted high just dropped from 80 degrees to 60, swap out those shorts for pants.
This will ensure your kiddo goes to school prepared for the elements, and it eliminates the panic in the morning when you discover the meteorologist was wrong all week.
You’re Never Late When You’re Early
This one’s a little tricky, but it may be a requirement for kids who aren’t quite morning people. According to Barbara Mascareno-Shaw, mother and teacher, setting your kid’s clock ahead about 10 minutes is a great way to consistently get the morning routine started on time.
I also suggest doing this covertly so little Johnny has no idea he’s actually waking up 10 minutes earlier than he needs. You may also want to consider doing the same to all the clocks around the house, so there are no suspicions raised should he notice the clocks in the house are different than the one in his room.
Eventually, this earlier time should become second nature, and you can slowly move the clocks back to their normal time.
And who knows, maybe you’ll even benefit from the clock trick too.
Morning Routine Checklist
Sometimes the hardest part of parenting is getting kids to remember what they need to do. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell my 7-year-old son to hang up his towel and put his laundry in the laundry room after he takes a shower.
Having a morning checklist, says Nicole Johnson of Baby Sleep Site, may be the solution.
Set up a white board checklist that your kid can use to check off their responsibilities each day. Among those will be the morning rituals. This not only gives the kid a visual aid to help them know what they need to do, but checking off those tasks will give them a feeling of achievement too.
What’s more, this is an intrinsic motivator, so the drive to check off every item on the list never diminishes.
The Morning Routine Is No Game, Unless It Is
I don’t know a kid who doesn’t love games, and sometimes turning a routine into a game is the best way to get a kid to do it regularly.
Briana Marie of Major League Mommy and a mother of two daughters says "gamifying" the morning routine can speed things up. She sets a timer for 10 minutes and has her child complete her morning checklist before it goes off.
Depending on your kid’s personality, you may choose to incentivize this game or not. I generally suggest no incentives, as that creates a reward system, which will, over time, lose its effectiveness.
Gadgets are great distractors for kids. Need to get a little work done around the house? Just plop your kid down in front of the TV or tablet and enjoy several free hours to catch up on house work or other things on your to-do list.
But there is a time and place for this, and, Trish Wilkinson of Brain Stages says, mornings are not the right time.
Instead, she suggests making mornings a gadget-free time, as electronics not only distract them, but “they make kids' brains produce the slower, dreamy theta waves rather than the faster, alert beta waves children need for thinking and focusing at school.”
Setting the Mood
Music does interesting things to the human mind. It can make us happy, sad, energetic, thoughtful, calm and more. But did you know it can also help make your morning routine easier? According to Wilkinson, it can.
She suggests playing upbeat music to liven the house in the morning. She says, “happy music helps people wake up and feel positive,” and that should help get the morning rocking.
Lyrics may become a distraction, though. If that’s the case, just switch to an upbeat instrumental instead.
Exercise in Patience
The final piece to the morning puzzle is exercising patience. Every kid is slightly different than the other, so they all may not respond well to the same attempts to streamline the morning routine.
Don’t give up if there is no positive response to one of these suggestions. Instead, move on and try another one. Eventually, with patience and experimentation, you'll find the routine that works best for your family.
And don’t be shocked if one routine works well for one of your kids but a different one works better for the other. This may be stressful in the beginning, but once your kids becomes acclimated to the system, it should become second nature.