What are your feelings about school mornings? Maybe you and the kids are “morning people” and everyone jumps out of bed on time. But if you’re reading this, probably not! Your mornings are likely stressful and rushed. Start your day on school mornings without the stress with these 12 tips with ideas for a happier daily morning routine.
Making School Mornings Easier
I have the morning routine down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school…boy, was I a groggy mess!
This is an update of a post originally published on August 28th, 2014.
12 Tips for Stress-free School Mornings
I decided I didn’t want to spend my mornings stressed out, yelling or running late. Once my kids were school age and ready for school, I implemented these secrets to successful school mornings. I’m here to tell you that having a morning routine is key to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process. Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!
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1. Prep for School Mornings the Night Before
Mornings don’t start in the morning, they start the night before! Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way school mornings are started off in a calm manner. There isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Here are 7 ways that you can streamline the morning routine by prepping the night before.
2. Plan Outfits Head to Toe
Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my next-day wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. But when pressed for time, some kids will have trouble choosing their outfits for the day. They may also choose weather-inappropriate things (like a sweater when it’s going to be 90 degrees!)
I work with my kids to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All the kids have to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get dressed.
I don’t stop wardrobe planning with the kids. Every night I decide what I’m going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don’t even second guess myself, I just grab and go. Have your kids help choose their outfits on Sunday night and gather all parts (socks, underpants, accessories) so they have them together.
3. Everything Has a Place
No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness! Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before.
I recommend having designated hooks and/or storage bins for school morning items. I love using a label maker so there’s no confusion on where things go.
Backpacks – Every afternoon after school, backpacks should be cleared out. Then return all paperwork, permission slips, library books and homework to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning.
Shoes – Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door.
Hair – Hair styling products like hairbrush, de-tangling spray and elastics/bows should be together so it’s easy to style in the morning. We keep all hair styling items in a bin under the bathroom sink so we can pull it all out and put it away fast.
Jackets – Jackets are on their own hook next to the backpacks.
4. Lunches Made in Bunches
Buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags. Again individual bins are great for storage! Have separate bins for the fridge and another for the cupboards to hold school lunch items. I store cold snacks in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks). Dry snacks are in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie).
The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich. Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.
5. Set the Stage for Sleep
Sometimes I have to remind my husband that a tickle-fest right before bedtime is not going to get our kindergartner in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower and lavender essential oil in the diffuser right before bed can also help kids relax. Read more about using essential oils in the bedtime routine.
We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don’t try to skip story time!). Keeping the nightly routine the same every evening can help sleep come quickly and have kids sleeping all night in their own beds.
6. A Reasonable Bedtime
According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 6 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 8:00 pm.
With a toddler, first grader and high school aged kids in our house, we have everyone in bed around the same time each night. Bedtime is between 7:45 to 8:15 pm and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren’t groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.
7. Put Yourself to Bed at a Decent Time, Too!
I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm. And then I’m kicking myself in the morning when I don’t want to get up!
I’ve pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I’m feeling better, waking easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.
8. A Restful Room is Conducive to Sleep
A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out.
I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep!
I have more sleeping tips here from TravelingMom.
Good Morning Sunshine!
After a peaceful evening the night before and a good night’s rest, your kids will be in a better position to have a happy school morning routine. Here are my tips for nailing the morning routine and getting the kids out the door on time.
9. Awakening to an Alarm Clock
If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once unless you use the snooze button. But I’ve never taught my kids what the snooze button is (they assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!)
If you don’t get up you’re going to be late, easy as that. When MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!
Are a habitual snoozer? Try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!
10. The Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast
We never leave the house without breakfast. I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. Leave plenty of time in the morning routine to fit in a good breakfast.
I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with juice, milk or soy milk are a hit. Homemade oatmeal with diced apples and cinnamon is often requested. Or if we are more rushed, a simple bowl of cereal and a banana.
I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine “to-go” and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.
On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!
11. Final Brushing Call: Teeth, Hair and Out the Door!
I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter’s hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.
Give kids the 10 minute and 5 minute countdown. Ten minutes before you need them out of the house, call it out. Then repeat at 5 minutes till. We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we’re in the car and on our way.
12. It’s Early…Know Your Limits
Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. My older kids also take turns emptying the dishwasher and reloading with the breakfast dishes. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time.
Do you have a slow-poke? Consider a timer. I’ve also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl; when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task.
If you keep finding yourself running late, set the morning alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early. Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!