Those first mornings of the school year can be tough. But if you don't get an efficient school morning routine in place as the kids go back to school, it may not get better later in the school year.
Here are some ideas to help you streamline your school morning routine, and get everyone back to school with less stress.
Wake Up Early
On the first days back to school, start your school morning 15 to 20 minutes earlier than you think you need. As the school year goes on, you may be able to adjust your wake-up times. But having a little extra time is a great cushion to put in place for those unexpected hiccups everyone experiences.
Some parents find that it's helpful for them to get up earlier than their kids, especially if they are trying to get out the door to work. Figure out how much interruption-free time you need before your kids get up. For instance, do you need your morning coffee before you see their bright, cheery faces?
Of course some parents can roll out of bed, wake their kids, and get started on the day. Regardless of what works for your family, having a few extra minutes at the beginning of the school year can be a real lifesaver.
Keep in mind too, that wake-up time is directly related to bedtime, especially with younger kids. As a result, you may want to start the school year with an early bedtime too and adjust later if it seems warranted.
Even if the pandemic has caused your child's school to go online or implement a hybrid model of learning during the 2020–2021 school year, waking up early and getting started on the school day will be beneficial for your family and help your kids accomplish their school-related tasks.
Get It Done the Night Before
For a smooth school morning, it helps to plan ahead the night before. Encourage your kids to do what they can the night before. For instance, you may want to make sure lunches are packed, clothes are laid out, breakfast is planned, devices are charged, and homework and other things are packed for school.
Some families even find that taking showers and baths in the evenings are helpful, especially if your kids still need help with these. If this is the case for your family, consider making these things part of the kids' bedtime routine.
Depending on your child's age, they may be able to do many of these things on their own with supervision from you. In fact, encouraging kids to prepare for the next day teaches important life skills like independence and time management. So, don't shy away from assigning your kids some of these tasks.
Finally, many families find it useful to have a designated space in their home where they keep everything that is needed for the next day. Then, they put backpacks, chargers, electronics, keys, shoes, and other necessities in this area the night before. Doing so saves them from running around the house the next morning looking for what they need.
Learn to Delegate
When kids are little, parents often do most everything for them, and sometimes they just stay in that habit even as they get older. A new school year is an ideal time to take a look at your child's skills and add new jobs to their morning routine.
Start practicing over the summer or on the weekends first though. Teaching new skills on a hectic school morning may not be effective.
For instance, if you want your kids to take care of a chore that you've previously done for them, like feeding the dog, making their own lunches, or getting dressed, spend time teaching these skills when you're not rushed. Don't try to squeeze it into your already hectic school morning.
Don't Sweat Breakfast
While it's true that breakfast is important—some even argue that it's the most important meal of the day—it doesn't have to create extra pressure for you or your kids. Start by planning some easy breakfast ideas that you can have on hand for your family.
Aside from cereal and milk, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fruit, oatmeal, and other simple items make great breakfast options and are easy to grab in a rush. You even can make use of the breakfast offered by your child's school or daycare, if this option is offered. The key is that you aren't allowing breakfast to throw a wrench into getting the day started.
Another way to solve breakfast issues is to ask your kids what they want for breakfast the night before and plan out simple breakfast ideas. Of course, some kids can't plan that far in advance, but just starting them thinking can be helpful.
Kids will respond much better if they know the night before that you're out of their favorite cereal, rather than when they are still foggy from sleep.
Keep in mind that breakfast is still important even if your kids are learning from home during the pandemic. Make having breakfast every day a priority. Not only will it help nourish your kids, but it gives them a good start for the online learning they will be doing.
Have a Checklist
Trying to remember everything that needs to be done can be a challenge, especially at the beginning of the school year. For this reason, some families find it useful to develop a checklist for their morning routine. Here are some things you may want to include on your morning checklist.
- Brush hair and teeth
- Wash face
- Get dressed
- Eat breakfast
- Put on shoes
- Grab lunch and devices
- Double-check backpack
- Use the bathroom
- Turn off the lights
Of course, depending on your family's needs and goals, this list will vary slightly. For instance, you may need to add feeding the dog. Or, you may want your kids to eat breakfast before getting dressed. The key is to develop a checklist that works for you and your kids.
Also, keep in mind that you may need to double-check to be sure all the items have been completed. Some kids like to skip steps, like brushing their teeth, but their dental hygiene is important and checking to be sure this step has completed by younger kids is especially beneficial.
Give Kids an Incentive
Sometimes kids need a little more motivation to get through their morning routines, especially if they don't like school, are grumpy in the mornings, or are simply slow moving kids. Consequently, these kids may not care that they get a late slip. To keep your mornings from becoming a battle, you may want to consider developing some incentives for your kids to get ready on time.
For instance, some kids will be sure they accomplish all their tasks if they know they are going to be allowed to play a game, read a book, or watch television before school. As a result, if you plan to motivate your kids with these types of rewards, make sure you build in a little extra time.
Of course, if your kids don't meet the deadline, they won't receive the reward, which can create another challenge. So, be sure you have built in enough time for them to actually get some free time before school.
During a pandemic, there is so much uncertainty that implementing little rewards for kids can give them something to look forward to in an otherwise stressful day. Also, having some time to relax before school can be a great way to decompress and may even help facilitate better focus and learning.
A Word From Verywell
You may need to tinker with your morning routine until it works for everyone involved. Be creative in your solutions and do what works best for your family. There are no right and wrong answers when it comes to establishing your family's morning routine. With a little time and creativity, you will soon have a morning routine that works for the entire family.