There’s a reason many of us dread Monday mornings: the mad rush. In the absence of a good morning routine, helping your child get ready for school looks a lot like, well, chaos. Hollering down the hallway trying to wake your kids up (for the third time). The last-minute frantic search for the little shoes that have inexplicably gone missing. And hustling everyone out the door in a cyclone of stress, bookbags, and mental checklists so you can get to school before the final bell rings.
You know what, though? Mondays — and all the other weekday mornings — don’t have to be like this. When you create a school routine that works for your family, getting out the door in the morning starts to feel less like an epic battle and more like any other part of your daily schedule.
Of course, this kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll take time for everyone to adapt to a new morning routine for school. But once things start to fall into place, you’ll wonder how you ever made it out the door in the mornings before. Try these eight steps to kickstart your morning school routine.
Do Your Homework
That’s right, Mama; you have a little homework to do, too. Here’s the thing, though — it’s the kind of homework that’ll make your life a lot easier. Check weather reports to see if you need to bring an umbrella. Glance at your kids’ school calendars to remind yourself about any special events that might require extra attention (like sending sporting equipment for a game, etc.). So, yes, technically your “morning routine” starts the night before.
Get a Headstart
While you’re at it, go ahead the night before and get as much ready as possible. Anything that can be done in advance, just carve out a few minutes here or there as you go about your evening routine and knock ‘em out. Lay out clothes for you and the kids or, ideally, have the kids lay out their own. Have everyone round up everything that needs to go in their backpacks. Make sure any devices anyone will need the next day — phones, laptops, tablets — are docked at the charging station.
You can also shave valuable time off of your morning routine by taking baths or showers the night before. Bonus? Doing so 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime is relaxing, which is ideal for the evening.
Be a Meal Planner
Listen, no one is saying you have to be one of those perfect Pinterest moms who has everything pre-cooked, pre-packed, and perfectly portioned. Even just having a general idea of what you’re going to have for breakfast and lunch during the week can make a huge difference in your morning routine. To avoid any of the “but I don’t want this” drama, you can let your kids help you make your meal plan simply by asking them what they want (within reason). And since moms today do have the benefit of Pinterest (#blessed), you can find a few favorite make-ahead meals to serve as your go-to’s.
A stocked pantry and some go-to favorites in the fridge can help you pull together meals in no time. And if you’re a CrockPot or Instant Pot fan, well, then the sky’s the limit. For some inspiration, we’ve pulled together CrockPot recipes for kids, Instant Pot recipes, pasta favorites children don’t tire of, and even healthy lunch ideas.
If your kids are a little bit older and can handle their way around a kitchen safely, have them participate in their meal planning beyond just making a list for you. Your daughter would love a cheese quesadilla for lunch tomorrow with a side of raspberries for dessert? Great, have her make it ahead of time and pack it for lunch the night before. This obviously is easier said than done when we’re talking about tweens and teens, but if you can get your kids to do it, you are teaching them independence and responsibility.
This requires a bit of mom magic: anticipating issues before they arise. Does your 10-year-old get wrapped up in the TV and forget to do the essentials like brushing their teeth and combing their hair? Make a no-tech-at-the-morning-table rule. Will a fight over who gets to sit in a certain seat surely set you back 10 minutes? Put the kids on a rotating seat schedule. Moms know their kids’ triggers. Put a little thought into your kids’ so that you aren’t fighting the same time-eating battles every morning.
While this seems so logical that it doesn’t seem like a necessary step, let’s be real — kids are often not logical beings. This means you need to spell out exactly what you expect from them if you want to avoid the added frustration of having to repeat yourself 7 million times. Although, in full disclosure, you’ll probably still have to repeat yourself at least 1 million. But, progress!
Repeat after me, Mama: I can not do it all. Because even if you can manage to make the entire morning move forward on your own, you shouldn’t have to. And having your kids take responsibility in age-appropriate ways is good for them. As they get older and more capable, you can tinker with their morning routine to-do list, but the point is they should always play an active role. Just don’t try to cram in life lessons the morning-of. Carve out time on weekends to teach your little ones the things you want them to do during weekday mornings.
Speaking of Delegating
What is your partner doing each day to make your morning easier? Even if your spouse is out the door before the rest of the family wakes, that doesn’t mean they’re exempt from being helpful. Can they clean the snow off your car? Turn the dryer back on? Maybe even start your coffee or tea? Those things (especially the snow) add up to a lot of help! Even encouraging your partner to give the kids a kiss good-bye in the morning can help make your mornings run smoother – Then they become the first alarm clock that gets your kiddos stirring. And if, for some reason, mornings are a no-go for your partner? Ask them to help at night. If they can lead the evening routine of toothbrushing and story time, that gives you a chance to finish packing lunches, signing permission slips or laying out tomorrow’s clothes. Make. Them. Help.
Have a Visual Guide
Kids are very visual and tactile by nature. To that end, creating a morning routine chart can be a super-helpful tool (much like a chore chart). There are tons of free printable templates on Pinterest, or you spend a little change and get one on Etsy or another online marketplace. You can even make your own, if you’re crafty.
In general, though, they should have a quick rundown of your morning routine flow: wake up, use the bathroom, wash face, make the bed, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, comb hair, get school bag, etc.
Stick to It
Think of your morning routine like you would working out. When you’re a little out of shape, even stepping foot in the gym can seem daunting. But the more you do it, the more normal it feels. You develop muscle memory, so it feels easier. Before you know it, working out is a habit. It’s part of your daily schedule.
A morning routine is only a routine if you stick to it. Just like with the gym, you just have to carve out the time to start and, you know, actually start. You can always make adjustments as you go to find out what works best for your family.
If you’re establishing a new morning school routine during a pandemic and if your children are remote learning, you’ll obviously have to make adjustments. The first such adjustment is to your expectations, especially if you have to help your child with remote classwork and homework during the day. Try to keep kids on a schedule, so waking up in time to grab breakfast, brush teeth, make the bed, and get prepped for class is key. Kids crave a routine, and in this difficult time of no routines, making one is important for both you and them.