The very first thing I lost, when I became a mother, was my time. I tried to hold onto vague memories of sitting with a book for hours, and wandering the shops for an afternoon, but I was soon overwhelmed by how much time it actually took to take care of just one tiny baby.
Fast forward a few years, and I not only had a child about to start school, but also a busy toddler and a newborn baby. And, not surprisingly, I had entirely given up on ever having enough time for anything other than the essential tasks to keep these three kids alive.
I almost went into shock when I first discovered that my daughter’s school schedule would require us to be out the door by 8:00am each morning. There was simply no way that was physically possible without a lot of tears. Mostly from me. With any outing before 10:00am already taking a week of careful planning, I desperately needed a new method.
Parents, I hear you! We all want more relaxed mornings, and we all wish our children would cooperate. The ideas that follow, if supported consistently, will absolutely allow you reclaim your mornings and make this a reality! Amazingly, we even have time these days to fit in piano practise before school.
This is not only a guaranteed method for stress-free school mornings, but is a great approach any time you need to get everyone out the door on time. (Partners not included!)
Set out clothes 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 clothes before bed. And to make the routine even more slick, establish early on that your child shouldn’t leave their room in the morning until they’re dressed (younger children will obviously need help with this).
Pack lunches the night before
Then store them in the fridge overnight. If your child frets over their apple turning brown, just leave it whole. Any special lunch requests can be discussed and organised early. Older children often love to help with the packing before bedtime. Also have water bottles washed and refilled the night before, or ready to be freshly filled in the morning.
Have school bags packed the night before
Assist younger children, but allow older children to be responsible for packing their own bags. Have an allocated area where necessary items for the next day (such as a library bag) can be set out, so nothing is forgotten in the morning. A simple weekly schedule written up on a whiteboard can be helpful reminder of everyone’s daily agenda.
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 helping with hair styling. Don’t make the mistake of allowing too much time – believing you have lots of time to spare can often have the opposite effect on getting everyone out the door on time!
Only offer simple and quick breakfast options on school days
Reserve the fancy breakfast menus for weekends and holidays, making them something special 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, which also helps build their independence.
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 picture list of each task, whereas older children can refer to a written list if they need prompting.
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. Without nagging, check in with each child regularly to keep them on track. Once they’ve completed all their “must do first” jobs, they can then spend any remaining time how they choose. This is a great incentive for them to get organised quickly!
Work towards a set departure time
Allow for possible traffic, parking, or wet weather delays. Also allow extra time if you need to get a stubborn toddler buckled into the car! 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 offer countdown reminders at 10, 5 and 2 minutes to go.
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