What are mornings like at your house? Are they organized and calm or totally stress filled? Today, Alison from Organized Motherhood is sharing with us how to create a solid morning routine. I know from experience, if you struggle with mornings and getting your kids to school on time, these tips will be a difference for you.
Getting out the door in the morning can be a challenge for anyone, but when you add kids to the mix… it can become practically impossible.
After struggling for years to get myself and my kids dressed and out the door on time, I finally had to take a hard look at what wasn’t working in our morning routine.
How to Create a Solid Morning Routine
If you struggle to get out the door in the morning, these are some of my favorite tips to solve your morning routine issues!
Know Your Time Constraints
One of the most important parts of creating an effective morning routine is knowing (and communicating) your time constraints. Make sure that you allow enough time to get out the door in one piece, and make sure that everyone, kids included, knows the time limits.
The easiest way to figure out exactly how much time you need in the morning is to work backward. Start with your end time to figure out exactly when you should wake up (and when to wake up the kids).
Communicate your end time
Most morning routines have an end time. This is your time that you need to be to the bus stop, preschool drop off, or be dressed and ready for “learning time.”
But to actually get out the door on time (and with your sanity intact), it’ll be easiest if everyone knows the end time.
While you may know that you need to be to preschool by 9, your preschooler may not know that. Explain that preschool starts at 9:00 and the importance of being there before class starts. Also, show your child what 9:00 looks like on a clock.
Figure out your start time
To calculate your start time, make a list of everything that you need to accomplish in your morning routine. Next to each item, list the amount of time (be honest!) that each task takes.
For example, list getting yourself dressed (15 minutes), getting the kids dressed (15 minutes), eating breakfast (20 minutes), etc.
Don’t forget to account for things like tying shoes, zipping coats, and even time to get the kids safely buckled in their car seats, too.
Once you’ve listed everything, add up the time. This is the minimum amount of time that your morning routine will take.
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Add margin time
Margin time is one of the best things you can do for your morning routine.
As you’re calculating the amount of time that each activity will take, you may want to include margin time. Margin time is extra time built into your routine “just in case.”
It never fails, especially when I’m running late, my toddler will throw a tantrum, my kindergartener will refuse to wear a polo shirt, and I’ll get stopped by a train on the way to school. On those days, margin is your saving grace!
When adding margin, try adding a few minutes to each task (an extra five for getting dressed, five for eating breakfast, etc.) as well as a little bit of time to your end time. Instead of planning on getting out the door at 8:45, plan on leaving at 8:30 just to give yourself some breathing room.
Once you’ve accounted for margin time for each task, as well as a little extra for your end time, add your total time and subtract it from your end time. For example, if your routine takes you 90 minutes, you need an extra 25 minutes for margin, and you need to be to the bus stop by 7:25, you’ll want to start your routine at 5:30.
If you need help figuring out how much time you’ll need, download my morning routine template here.
Start the Night Before
Another trick to having a great morning routine is starting the night before. Even if you have a lot of last minute items (filling water bottles, fixing breakfast, and loading the car), there are still plenty of things that you can do ahead of time.
You may not be able to pour the Cheerios or serve the oatmeal, but you could set out the dishes and cereal on the table. There are also a lot of great make-ahead recipes, like overnight oatmeal or breakfast burritos.
Lay out clothes
Trying to sift through laundry and closets first thing in the morning can easily become a recipe for disaster. Laying out clothes, both for yourself and your kids, the night before can save a lot of time in the morning.
One trick that I’ve been doing with my oldest son is laying out his clothes for the week. I’ve started laying out six outfits in order to reduce Friday complaints, too.
To organize the clothes, choose six outfits, including matching socks and underwear, and place them in hanging shelves or cubbies. Every morning, the kids can easily select the outfit that they want to wear.
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Pack lunches, snacks, and water bottles
In addition to preparing breakfast, try packing lunches, snacks, and filling water bottles ahead of time.
If your child eats leftovers from dinner, try dishing those into individual containers as you’re putting away the dinner leftovers.
If you need to make sandwiches, make them ahead of time. Some sandwiches, like peanut butter and jelly, can even be frozen. Just make sure to spread peanut butter on both slices of bread before adding the jelly so that the bread doesn’t get soggy.
Note: my kids have food allergies, so I’ve even done this with the soy nut butter and sunflower seed butter. It works like a charm!
As part of our evening routine, my kids help clean out all backpacks and repack folders, notes to teachers, etc. We typically leave them open and ready for last minute items like lunches, snacks, and water bottles, but as much as possible is packed ahead.
But don’t forget to repack your own bags, either! I can’t tell you how many times I left my laptop at home or even bottles or pump parts when I was breastfeeding.
If you can, pack as many bags as possible in the car. As long as the weather isn’t extreme, I’ve been known to leave my laptop and purse in the car (I park in a locked garage. Don’t do this if you have to park outside).
Don’t forget outerwear
Especially on rainy days or in the winter (I live in Michigan, so warm coats, mittens, hats, and boots are a necessity), it’s a great idea to have outerwear sorted and ready to throw on in the morning.
In my entryway, I have a bench with baskets and drawers underneath. Everyone has their own drawer for hats, gloves, and scarves. Everyone also puts their most frequently worn shoes in their designated basket. During the winter, the kids wear boots, so they pack their shoes in their backpacks every night before bed.
We also hung hooks for coats above the bench. Since Michigan’s weather is unpredictable, we usually hang two coats, like a rain coat and spring jacket, for each person above the bench.
While creating margin time will help you account for little mishaps that may occur as you’re trying to get out the door (soiled diapers, toothpaste splatters, etc.), setting boundaries will help you create a solid routine.
Avoid last minute changes
Some things, like last-minute changes to plans, are an immediate “no.”
Especially for school-related functions, I need advance notice to make a decision. For example, if hat day is on a Friday, I need to be told at least the night before to pick out a hat and send a dollar to the school.
Include bribery time
One thing that has made my mornings so much smoother is a little “incentive” for my kids to get themselves dressed and fed quickly.
While we limit screen time at our house, my kids are allowed to watch cartoons for a few minutes if they get ready before 7:20, our routine end time. If my son finishes his breakfast by 7:15, then he gets to watch five minutes of Wild Kratts, his favorite PBS show.
If your kids procrastinate or aren’t motivated to get ready quickly, an incentive might be helpful.
Make time for yourself
One thing my mom taught me was to get myself ready first (bonus points if you add time for self-care).
While this has backfired (I’ve had my share of spit-up on my clean blouse), for the most part, it’s helped me stay calmer and more focused throughout my entire morning routine.
If your kids wake up before you’ve finished your routine, allow them to play quietly in their rooms while you finish getting ready. I’ve even let my kids make forts out of the pillows and bedspread just so I could have a few more minutes of me-time.
By knowing exactly how much time you need to get out the door, doing as much as you can the night before, and setting boundaries so there are fewer unexpected issues in the morning, you’ll be well on your way to getting out the door on time (and with your sanity intact).