If you struggle with your kids’ school morning routine, you’re not alone. It’s not easy getting everyone dressed, presentable, fed, and out the door with appropriately-packed bags every morning – especially not without nagging, whining, or a sense of impending doom. But having a smooth morning helps set everyone up for a successful day, so here are a few ideas to help you get on your way to a stress-free morning routine.
At the end of the post, I’ll share the tool that helps my second-grader and kindergartener to get everything done, often with time to spare, in the mornings.
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Time-Saving Tips for the School Morning Routine
Does it feel like there just too much to get done in the amount of time you have during a school morning? That awful sense of being overwhelmed, rushed, and lost in a sea of demands on your attention can cause such a stressful start to the day. These ideas will help reclaim some of your time so that you can feel less hurried to complete all your tasks.
Set out clothes the night before
Eliminate the time it takes during the morning routine to fight with your child about what to wear or stare bleary-eyed into the closet trying to select an outfit in the morning. Choose your child’s clothes the night before, as part of the bedtime routine. Have your child make the choice independently, from the closet or from a couple of selections you present. Then hopefully when morning comes, he or she will feel a sense of ownership over the outfit and be less reluctant to actually get dressed.
Here is an awesome clothing organizer from Amazon you can hang right in your kid’s closet. If you’re really on the ball, you can plan the whole week ahead of time.
If you’re responsible for driving your kids to school or getting them to the bus stop, see if you can find another parent to carpool with. A friend graciously drives my two school-aged kids to school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and we take her daughter with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The days you are not driving, maybe you’ll save yourself from dragging younger kids out of the house or gain a few extra minutes for whatever you need — getting yourself ready for work or savoring your morning coffee, for example.
Set the timer on the morning coffee
If coffee wakes you up or comforts you, make sure it’s ready first thing in the morning. Set the timer on the coffee pot so it starts brewing shortly before you need to get up. Maybe the smell will waft into your bedroom and give you that little extra nudge you need to get out from under your warm covers. Plus, you won’t have to take the time to brew it in the morning on top of everything else you have to do.
Self-care tip: When your morning coffee is ready, pour it directly a stainless steel Thermos travel mug. It stays hot all day long. I am a stay-at-home mom now, and nonetheless, I rarely use ceramic mugs. No mom deserves cold, microwaved, or forgotten coffee.
Prep lunches the night before
If you or your kids are packing lunch, save time in the school morning routine by prepping lunch the night before. You may not be a person who likes sandwiches that have been refrigerated overnight, but you could certainly pop some blueberries or baby carrots into the Bento Box. Just getting those little things out of the way when you have more leisure time in the evening will take some stress out of the school morning routine. At least plan out what you’ll pack, so that you do not have to think that out in the morning when you are stretched for time. By the way, my daughter buys lunch at school almost every day, and I am thankful for it!
Skip washing your hair
I have to admit – washing my hair in the morning is a part of my day I would only give up begrudgingly. But it does take a good chunk of time to wash it and dry it, and I don’t even really style my hair! So, if you are looking for ways to save time in the morning, try taking your shower the night before or (if you will be home) later in the day. Another alternative is to take a quick shower but not worry about washing your hair. According to my hair stylist, it’s not great for your hair to wash it every day anyway. Lots of women swear by dry shampoo as an alternative to daily hair-washing! This dry shampoo comes highly recommended if you are interested in trying some out.
Get your kids up earlier with these fun ideas
If your kids are difficult to get up in the morning and stay in bed until the last minute, you have even less time to get them ready. If the answer is not simply (or not so simply) an earlier bedtime, here are some fun ways to encourage them out of bed:
- Find something exciting about the day to remind them of when they open their eyes. Maybe it’s a new kind of cereal, like No Guilt Mom suggests for the first day of school, or maybe it’s something fun that is happening at school that day. It could even be as simple as seeing a favorite friend!
- Add some fun and play into the morning routine. Maybe they have a contest to see who gets ready the fastest or you listen to a book together at breakfast. You can get get a free audiobook when you sign up for an Amazon Audible subscription. Find a book you all love and listen little by little each morning.
- Edward Shepard offers some great ideas in this article, including using music to get them motivated. You can sing a wakeup song (if they like that sort of thing) or play fun music through the house as everyone gets ready. Try Amazon Music free for 30 days! We love listening to soundtracks on Amazon Music.
Making it Easier to Feed Kids Breakfast
One of your major school morning routine challenges might be getting your kids to eat breakfast. This may be because there isn’t enough time to cook and sit down to eat together. Or, it could be because your kids are not hungry for breakfast and refuse to eat. Here are some ideas to make sure getting some food down your kids’ hatch is part of your morning routine.
Serve Non-Breakfast Food
Maybe your kids just do not like eggs or cereal. There is no hard and fast rule that says what your kids need to eat for breakfast. It’s just important to get something healthy in their bodies to give them energy and help them to concentrate at school. “Breakfast doesn’t have to mean breakfast food,” Angela Lemond, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told the Washington Post in this article. So, if your kids would be happier eating leftovers or some fruit and a cheese stick, that’s better than going hungry.
Meal Plan your Breakfasts
Eliminate the time it takes to choose breakfast in the morning or to prepare something different for each person. Sit down at the beginning of the week and plan out what will be on the breakfast menu each day that week. You can include your children in the process and get their input, or serve the same thing on the same day each week so they know to expect, say, Tuesday toast and eggs.
Have Some Healthy Grab-and-Go Breakfast Options Handy
If you run out of time for breakfast, there may be mornings when you need to eat on the go. Make up a batch of freezer egg sandwiches or healthy whole grain muffins over the weekend. Smoothies or breakfast shakes are other perfect options for eating breakfast on the go.
Make Breakfast a Family Experience
Sitting down together at the breakfast table gives you an opportunity to connect with your kids and models the behavior you expect from them. It can also encourage your children to create healthy relationships with food and develop positive body image, according to a recent study published in Social Work in Public Health.
What to Do If Your Child is Not Hungry in the Morning
If you have trouble getting your child to eat anything for breakfast, Dr. Steve Silvestro suggests giving your child some water when he or she wakes up to dilute stomach acid and turn on hunger cues. In addition, dietician Natalia Stasenko suggests trying for an earlier dinnertime the evening before and waking your kids up a half-hour before they need to eat. Perhaps you could allow your child to accomplish other parts of the school morning routine before eating breakfast, to give her a chance for her GI system to “wake up.”
Game-Changer: Kids’ Morning Checklist
Our kids’ morning checklist has been an invaluable intervention in our school morning routine. The second-grader and kindergartener know that in the morning, they need to “do their list.” They get out a dry erase marker and check items off if they go. We are always able to refer to the list if they seem to be wandering off-course in the morning, or just to check in and see how many tasks are left to complete before they can get out the door. This keeps them involved and also helps my husband and I feel like we have a handle on everything that needs to happen getting two to three kids off to school in the morning.
I have put together a free printable checklist for you that you can print and use at home, which you will be able to download at the bottom of this post. It is colorful, helpful, and highly customizable to slide right into your family’s morning routine!
How to Use the Kids’ Morning Checklist
It’s simple to use the morning checklist. Here are some easy steps to follow:
- Print a copy of the morning checklist.
- Put the checklist into a sheet protector or laminate it.
- Use a dry erase marker to write in your personalized items. Some items may stay on permanently while others might get erased and new ones added depending on your needs.
- In the mornings, have your children check items off as they accomplish them. The items do not need to be completed in order! There is also space for them to circle the weather outside so that they can wear a hat, apply sunscreen, or bring an umbrella as needed.
- At the end of each day, wipe the checklist clean to use again.
Here are some additional ways to successfully implement the checklist in your home:
- If you have more than one child, print a checklist off for each. Write their names on the checklists so that each child can follow along with his or her list during the day.
- Take some time each evening or first thing in the morning to consult planning documents like your child’s classroom newsletter, the school calendar, or your planner to add in special things for that day. For example, your child might need to return a library book one day or bring in a school project. You can add these to the list for the day.
- Use the “Notes” section to record special things that are happening that day. For example, perhaps your carpool partner can’t drive that day, or the kids are getting out an hour early for teacher development.
- Encourage the kids to make use of the checklist by reminding them the sooner they finish checking off all the items, the more free time they will have before they have to leave for school. My son is very motivated by the prospect of extra time to play before school. Try to limit all screentime or toys before the checklist is complete.
What to Add to the Kids’ Morning Checklist
I have included a few staples that I imagined would be permanently on anyone’s list: getting dressed, using the bathroom, putting on shoes, and eating breakfast. There are also many blank spaces for you to write in your own items.
Consider the following checklist items:
- Brush teeth
- Wash face
- Comb hair
- Make bed
- Eat breakfast
- Pack snack
- Pack lunch or check school lunch schedule
- Check school lunch balance
- Get dressed for the weather
- Choose appropriate outerwear
- Library book
- Permission slip
- Take-home reading
- Change of clothes
- School communication folder
Ready to have your free printable school morning checklist sent to you?
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