Establish a Morning Routine to Get Kids Out the Door on Time

It's time to get on a routine! All You shares tips on making your mornings run smoothly.

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Most parents look forward to the start of school, but I'm dreading it, just a little bit, for one reason: the morning routine. For the first time this year, I have two kids in school five days a week—a third-grader and a preschooler—and the logistics of getting them both up, dressed, fed and where they need to be on time is, I have to admit, stressing me out. Luckily, we already have morning routine systems in place that I hope will make it all easier:

Divide and Conquer

The big kid has to be at school at 8 a.m., a 1-mile walk from home. The 3-year-old has to be at school at 9 a.m., a 20-minute ride from home on the city bus. I have to be at work before 9:30, a 40-minute train ride away from either school. Obviously I can't do it all. I'm lucky to have a husband with a flexible schedule so he can take the 3-year-old most days. We'll likely continue the routine we've had since the baby started daycare: One parent in charge of each child, from waking to morning drop-off. (Though if the little one gets up early and demands breakfast, I'm not going to refuse.)

Get As Much As Possible Done the Night Before

Homework is checked and put in the backpack before bed. Clean uniform is laid out; uniform sweater is hung on the rack of hooks by the door, next to the backpack. Lunch is made and in the fridge so the only thing we have to do in the morning is slide the Planetbox into its carrying case and add a drink. ("Doesn't the sandwich get soggy?" my friends ask. Yes, but my daughter doesn't complain and the extra 10 minutes of sleep and reduced morning hassle are totally worth it.) Kids shower at night, and most of the time, so do the grownups.

Keep Breakfast Simple

No pancakes (unless there are leftovers from Sunday morning) or other fancy meals. We stick to yogurt and fruit, toast with nut butter, or something else with protein that I can get on the table quickly—or better yet, the 8-year-old can prepare herself. (I usually toss my breakfast smoothie ingredients in the blender the night before, so all I have to do in the morning is take the blender jar out of the fridge, blend with soy milk, and pour into my to-go cup.)

Have a countdown.

The 8-year-old needs to leave the house by 7:35 at the absolute latest, so I try to make sure she's dressed and sitting at the table eating no later than 7:15. That's when I finish packing my work bag and touching up my makeup (I'm already up and dressed before 7, when she wakes up). At 7:25 she gets a "wrap it up" warning, which means she has 5 minutes to finish breakfast and head to the bathroom to brush her teeth and hair. By 7:30 we're both putting on shoes and jackets and giving ourselves a final check before we head out the door.

Build in a buffer.

As we all know, getting anywhere with kids always involves last-minute delays, from a forgotten book to a toddler tantrum. That's why that 7:35 deadline is a bit of a fudge—we could safely leave the house as late as 7:40, if we hustle. So when the 8-year-old decides she has to have that purple hair clip, or when I have to go searching for my smartphone charger, we'll still get there on time. Phew!

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