school mornings:
10 tips for taming the madness

Backpack, school books and alarm clock isolated.

The mornings go by so fast on school days. It's easy for kids to forget important things.

But the morning routine doesn't have to be so crazy busy.

There are things you can do to tame school morning madness. 

By doing as much as possible the night before, and keeping school mornings tightly structured, you can make missed buses and carpools, and forgotten homework, a thing of the past.

These 10 tips for warding off the madness of school mornings can help ensure everyone gets out the door on time.

1.  Make the Most of the Night Before

Simplify school mornings by doing as many things as you can to get the kids ready for school the night before. I know nights are busy, and you're tired, but mornings are crazy, too.

2.  Bathe the Night Before

Give kids baths or have them shower the night before. This way, you'll eliminate morning gridlock in the bathroom as everyone is getting ready for school.

3.  Lay Out School Clothes

Lay out school clothes the night before, including shoes, socks, and hair bands. This is especially important if your kids don't wear school uniforms.

For my little one, I package each day's outfit (underwear and all) in a resealable plastic bag. His morning routine consists of pulling out the bag and get dressed.

4.  Pack Backpacks 

Get the kids to assemble everything they need the night before: pack up backpacks and station them near the door, assemble lunches, gather up stuff for after-school activities (swimsuits, cleats, etc.).

If there's a lot of stuff, you can even load the car the night before. With the kids' help, of course.

5.  Go Over Pickup Arrangements

Go over tomorrow's pickup arrangements and after-school activities. Make sure there are no rips or tears and that everything (including gym clothes and soccer jerseys) is clean.

6.  Make Morning To-Go Lists for Each Child

 I create Out-the-Door Checklists for each child and go through them once each morning. They may change from day to day, depending on your kids' schedules.

 I type one up on the computer for each day of the week, then amend them when activities change. Here's what's on mine:

Do you have?

_____  Books

_____  Assignments

_____  Backpack

_____  Signed papers

_____  Lunch

_____  Gym clothes

_____  Extracurricular equipment (swimsuit for swim team, piano books, riding clothes, track shoes, dance outfits)

_____  A way home?

7.  Set Alarm Clocks or Phones

Make sure kids set their alarm clocks or phones. It encourages them to be responsible for their own schedules. 

8.  The Morning Routine

In the morning, do the following: 

  • Make sure everyone gets up on time.
  • Get kids to make their beds and get dressed before breakfast.
  • Set a timer to go off 10 minutes before out-the-door time to give kids a chance to brush their teeth and grab their lunches from the fridge.
  • Minimize school morning distractions: no TV, last-minute homework, or cramming for tests. 

9.   Make Mornings Easier With No-Choice Breakfasts

Make school mornings easier with 'no-choice' breakfasts.

If it's Monday, we're having cereal.

If it's Tuesday, we're having yogurt.

There's no time in the morning routine for short-order cooks on school days.

Have the kids set the table for breakfast the night before.

Put out boxes of cereal, bowls, and spoons. Put out vitamins and medications.

10.  Institute A School Morning Stragglers Rule

Consider this school mornings rule: If the kids miss the bus or the carpool, they're at your mercy.

If you're heading out in 10 minutes, they'll only be a little late. If you're 45 minutes from departing, well, they'll have a lot of makeup work for that unexcused (and you'll need to make that clear to the office when they arrive) tardy. 

Trust me: This worked like a charm for my older son, a notoriously slow mover in the morning.

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