I have never been a morning person. My genes just simply don’t allow for it. Yet now, as a mother of three, I find myself in the challenging position of getting the four of us organised and out the door by 8:00am each week day.
But when we realise that our mornings mentally set us up for the day, why not aim to keep them as stress-free as possible?
I found I could ease my morning struggles by employing one of my strengths: organisation. More specifically, using a triple approach that helps me with many parenting hurdles; setting a clear plan, consistency, and encouraging autonomy.
So if you’re also looking for a stress-free method to get your children out the door on time, plan ahead. Set your morning routine, maintain consistency until it becomes established, then sit back and watch the magic unfold!
1. Lay out uniforms on the end of each bed the night before. Don’t forget to include socks, and fresh underwear if they’ll need it! Older children can be encouraged to prepare their own uniform before bed. If tomorrow is a sports day or a fancy dress day, have everything ready to go the night before. And to make the routine even more slick, establish early on that your child ideally shouldn’t leave their room in the morning until they’re dressed and have made their bed.
2. Pack lunches the night before. Then store them in the fridge overnight. If your child frets over their apple turning brown, leave it whole. Any special lunch requests can be discussed early, and if a certain item has run short then the situation can be more easily, and more creatively, remedied in the evening. Older children often love to help with the packing before bedtime. Also have water bottles washed and refilled the night before, or washed and ready to be freshly filled in the morning.
3. Have school bags packed the night before. Assist younger children, but allow older children to be responsible for packing their own bags. Set up an allocated area where necessary items for the next day (such as library bags or homework) can be left ready for easy bag packing. A simple weekly schedule displayed on a nearby wall can be helpful to remind everyone which day they need to take extra items, such as sports gear or their show and tell.
4. Schedule a regular time for everyone to get up. The time you designate needs to allow enough time in the morning for everyone to get ready in a relaxed manner, taking into account things like sharing the bathroom or if you have to help with hair styling. Though beware of allowing too much time – believing you have lots of time to spare can sometimes have the opposite effect on getting everyone ready on time!
5. Only offer simple and quick breakfast options on school days. Longer and lazier breakfasts can be left for weekends and holidays, which makes them something to look forward to. On school days, keep the options fairly simple to avoid losing time on difficult decisions and tedious recipes. Older children can be encouraged to prepare their own breakfast, such as cereal or toast, which also helps build their independence.
6. Have a clear list of “must do first” jobs each morning. This list includes the essential responsibilities that everyone needs do each morning. For example, our list is: get dressed, make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, do your hair, pack your bag, and put your shoes on. Younger children respond really well to a visual picture list of each responsibility, whereas older children can either refer to a written list or simply memorise it.
7. No extra activities before all the “must do first” jobs are done. Be firm on this. Spare time is only spare time when all the essential tasks have been done first. As we get ready in the mornings, I regularly check in with the kids about which jobs they have left to do to keep them on track. Once they’ve completed all their “must do first” jobs, they can then spend any leftover time any way they choose. This is an incentive for them to get organised quickly!
8. Work towards a nominated departure time. This time needs to allow for riding, walking or driving to school, for possible traffic and parking delays, or keeping to a bus schedule. Also be mindful if wet weather may slow you down, or if you need to run any errands on the way. Be clear with everyone what time you will need to leave, especially if it differs day to day. It can be helpful, especially for younger children, to work towards that time with countdowns at 10, 5 and 2 minutes to go.