In many homes, mornings are a mad dash to get everyone off to work, school, day care, the bus or wherever they need to go. Shower, breakfast, teeth brushing—so much has to be done in a short time.
It can be tough to leave the house on time without completely losing your cool. Here are some simple strategies to help tame the morning mayhem.
Cut out screen time. Yes, TV or an iPad will occupy the kids during breakfast. But they'll eat their cereal slower as they stare at Scooby-Doo. Consider saving screen time for the evening as a reward for completing homework or for making it out the door on time that morning.
Do as much as you can the night before. Yes, you've likely been told this 1,000 times— now make it 1,001. The morning rush will go smoother if you don't have to pick out shorts for camp or the shoes you'll wear with your dress. Lay out everyone's clothing the night before (and get the kids' input to avoid morning battles). Don't forget accessories and undergarments. Prepare for breakfast by setting the table and prepping as much food as possible. Place nonperishables like fruit and water bottles in lunchboxes. Fill backpacks with homework, signed forms and books. Every little thing you do in advance will shave precious minutes off your routine.
Prepare for afterschool activities. The night before, go over what (if anything) is planned after school. If your daughter will be going to dance class at 6 p.m., lay out a leotard. If baseball practice is the next evening, gather the sports equipment. To prepare for a doctor's appointment, ask your son to take out anything he might want to bring (like a book or electronic device) to pass the time while he waits. That way when you rush home from work and only have 10 minutes to get ready, you aren't scrambling.
Keep breakfast simple. You don't have to whip up an omelet from scratch—though scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast and fruit make a fine, relatively simple breakfast. Cereal, fruit, yogurt or oatmeal also can do the trick. If your kids love pancakes or waffles, make a batch over the weekend and freeze them. Then reheat them in the microwave or toaster. (Or go for the premade, frozen variety.)
Wake up before the rest of the family. You may want to rise and shine 30 minutes before your family to help you feel calmer and less stressed. That will give you some peaceful "me" time for your morning routine.
Give everything a place. Every item should have a "home" that makes sense. Consistently place backpacks, jackets and shoes by the front door or the door to the garage. Lunchboxes can go near the refrigerator so you can grab any perishables. And don't forget about your needs. Choose a spot for your purse, keys and phone.
Maintain the routine. Most kids thrive on consistency. So keep the morning schedule the same as much as possible. If you always have them eat breakfast after they wake up, do that. If they always get dressed as soon they wake up, then do that. Kids will be more likely to get out the door on time if their morning is predictable, without any surprises.
Delegate. This means you won't have to do as much the night before or in the morning. Enlist your partner's help, whether that's prepping for breakfast, packing lunches, driving the kids to day care or whatever works best for your family. And, as the kids are able, give them responsibilities, too. Teach them to lay out their clothes the night before and make sure their backpacks are packed and ready to go.
Leave time for a "double-check." You don't want to have to turn around halfway to school when your daughter remembers she left her lunchbox on the kitchen counter. Review backpacks' contents before you leave the house to ensure nothing's forgotten.
Dole out rewards. If you have 10 minutes to spare before you need to head out, do something fun. Read a story, play a quick game or chat on the front steps. If you're lucky, these rewards may incentivize your kids to get ready quickly another day.