I've talked with a lot of parents who struggle with a morning routine & getting kids out the door on time. There's nothing worse than shoving your child out the door to the bus while screaming, "Wait! You have to bring your library book!" I hate having to rush/hurry anybody anywhere. I feel like it sets such a poor tone for the day when somebody is screaming at you to hurry up.
While this does happen occasionally in our house, it's more the exception than the rule. Please note that this is not me saying that we have it all together. Just ask my neighbors, who have definitely heard how much we do no have it all together. But, I think having four bodies that you have to get up & ready leads you to having some type of organization for getting out the door in the mornings. Maybe it's my teacher-brain or my type-A husband, but we run a pretty tight ship in the morning. Here's how we get everyone on the bus without (too much) chaos:
Routine, Routine, Routine
Can't say it enough. Consistency is key to any good system & you must be willing to see it through before you embark. There are no exceptions to the rules, especially in the beginning. Once things are established, you can bend a little but there is no give in the beginning. Here we go!
You are not allowed downstairs until you are fully dressed & ready for the day.
Nobody comes downstairs to eat breakfast in their pj's. We save that for the weekends, when there is less rush. When you get up in the morning, you are responsible for dressing yourself. You brush your teeth, make your bed & do whatever chore you have for that morning. (Click here to see how we do chores at my house.) When you are finished, you may come downstairs.
I don't fight the clothing battle at my house- it's something that I've just chosen to give up, but that's a different post for a different day. We don't do the "pick your outfit the night before" thing because my boys aren't that hung up on clothes- yet. If it's a special occasion, I may lay out clothes the night before or just talk to them about my expectations (i.e. it's picture day, wear a collared shirt). But basically, you go to school in what you decide to wear & I'm okay with it (through clenched teeth).
You brush your own teeth before breakfast for 2 reasons: A) Your breath stinks & I don't want to smell it and B) if I have to send you back upstairs to brush (especially more than one of you) I lose you to distraction & I need you focused in the morning because Momma isn't getting up any earlier than she has to. Dentists: I know you should technically brush after meals but feel free to come to my house & show me how that goes while you're trying to get 3 out the door & manage a toddler. This works for me, I'm going with it for now.
Shoes on, lunch & snack packed, backpack is zipped & ready before we eat.
I hate velcro shoes so all of my boys have to tie their shoes as soon as they are capable. I also have a "no shoes in the house" rule that I let go of in the mornings. I'm not having children putting on shoes right before we're due to leave. That leads to chaos & yelling. So, in the name of sanity, I chose to let that one go in the morning. Shoes are centrally located in the laundry room in a handy shoe cabinet from IKEA that I recommend.
I used to keep socks by the shoes but have since moved them upstairs. That's going to require some planning from the boys this year. Do I have gym? Yes, so I need socks. Or No, I can wear my forbidden flip-flops.
Lunch & Snacks
This requires some prep on your part. I pack all lunches the night before in Snapware labeled with each child's name.
Everybody has a Camelbak water bottle that is filled & ready to go before bed.
You put your lunch & your water bottle into your lunch bag- which I've laid out for you (the night before) with your daily lunchbox note already inside- and put it in your backpack. If you have something in your lunch that needs to be kept cold, you are responsible for getting an icepack out of the freezer & putting it in your lunch bag. I ALWAYS ask if this happened- no need to for anyone to get sick. (My husband is rolling his eyes right now.)
Snacks are packed similarly; click here for how I deal with snacks at my house. The boys know what & where the approved snacks are. They grab what they want & pack that as well. Snacks are packed separately from lunches at my boys' schools, so I encourage them to take something small & easy.
Backpack is zipped & ready
This means that your backpack is ready for the day & contains whatever it may need: planner, folder, etc. We use our command center to manage this. The boys also check their daily schedule to see if they need to return something (like library books) or dress accordingly (gym shoes). I like backpacks zipped before being officially packed & ready. If they're not, it just adds one more step to getting out the door especially when those zippers get stuck.
When all is ready, you have free time until breakfast.
When you're ready, you're free to do whatever you'd like until it's time to eat breakfast. The TV doesn't go on until everyone is ready, but I do allow morning TV at my house. We find it's a nice way to ease into the day (i.e. Mommy is cranky until she gets her coffee & isn't up for conversation). Sometimes, depending on what time they get up, they have lots of time to play before breakfast. Other days, we're on the clock. It just depends on our morning.
This works REALLY well for us. I do have to prod them along sometimes & I ALWAYS ask them to make sure everything got completed. 95% of the time, it has. I like it because it promotes independence & takes me out of the equation. If you forgot your snack, it's on you. No more blaming Mom for those things.
This is a lot of steps- don't think you can impose this kind of system on your kids overnight. We gradually evolved into this, adding things/expectations over time. If you have no system but would like to start, I suggest starting with the upstairs component: getting dressed & brushing teeth before coming downstairs. I just feel, with my boys, that anytime I have to send them back upstairs for something it generally turns into chaos. I do not like chaos, especially 1st thing in the morning.
Hope your back to school goes smoothly!
* I was not compensated for any of the products mentioned above. I just like to share good things that I've found along the way!
What works for your family in the morning? Share your routines with me!
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