Years of a.m. chaos have caused me to think long and hard about how I can make the 45 minutes between the kids waking up and all of us leaving the house as stress-free as possible. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Read on for nine simple tips to help get everyone up, dressed, fed and out the door in record time.
Wake Up (a Little) Earlier1 of 10
First, as the morning team captain, you need to be at the top of your game. So, skip the usual 10-minute snooze and treat yourself to a fresh cup of coffee and some 'me time' instead. I use mine to get a jump on list-making, read the day's headlines or just sip and stare blissfully into space before the rest of the family gets up.
Simplify Breakfast2 of 10
Weekends are for pancakes and waffles, but busy mornings require easy fuel that can be whipped up in a flash. I encourage the kids to make quick breakfast decisions, because there isn't much time in the morning for standing in front of an open refrigerator hemming and hawing over their options. A list of go-to quick breakfast recipes really comes in handy, and I always have grab-and-go options like yogurt cups and granola bars on hand, as well.
Lay Out Clothes the Night Before3 of 10
My kids love coming downstairs in clothing appropriate for the exact opposite of the day's weather forecast and activity plan. Sure, I want them to have the freedom to pick their own outfits, but I don't have the time for several wardrobe changes each morning. Giving them a little direction the night before and verifying their choices saves everyone time and frustration. When I'm really on my game, I'll have them pick out a week's worth of school clothes at a time.
Streamline Lunches4 of 10
Baskets of lunch items in both the refrigerator and pantry make it easy to pack lunches buffet-style. Grab a packet of nuts or crackers from one basket, then a cheese stick or yogurt from the other. Pair them with a piece of fruit and a sandwich prepped the night before, and lunch is made.
Provide a Checklist5 of 10
Take the time to list exactly what your children are responsible for in the morning, and if necessary, include timeframes. Place the list in a highly-visible spot, so that everyone can stay on track. Ours includes:
• Get Dressed (don't forget shoes)
• Eat Breakfast
• Pack Lunch
• Brush Teeth and Hair
• Pack Backpack (don't forget homework)
Keep Important Items by the Door6 of 10
If one of my kids needs to take something to school on a particular day, I place that item in front of the door the night before. This way, we can't leave the house without tripping over it. Backpacks, outerwear and keys are all kept by the door, too.
Offer Incentives7 of 10
My kids know there's no screens, books or toys in the morning until they're completely ready for school. If they're on task and have extra time, they can play until it's time to leave. True, they don't often end up with many spare minutes for fun in the morning, but it's a nice reward when we're running early for a change.
Give it a Beat8 of 10
Music can do wonders for mood and motivation. Get the kids to help put together an a.m. playlist, then turn it on and turn it up when they're having a sluggish morning. We tend to lean heavily on this strategy on Mondays. Not to mention, it can also be used as a clever reward for readiness, by letting the kid who is ready first pick the music for next time.
In Case of Emergency9 of 10
Finally, no matter how well we prep and plan for smoother mornings, emergency situations will occur. Whether the alarm didn't go off or someone forgot an early-morning practice, there will be times when you have to get out the door in a big hurry. That's when your Lateness Survival Kit comes in, customized with the essentials your kids need to get ready on the run. Ours includes a small hair brush, gentle cleansing wipes, ponytail holders, granola bars and disposable mini-toothbrushes, all safely stashed in a special bag in the car.