Yet again, I found myself racing against the clock shouting orders at my kids and frantically throwing backpacks in the car.
We were going to be late. For the zillionth time this school year.
As a working mom with 4 kids 5 and under, I felt like running late was inevitable. I attributed our perpetually frenetic morning routine and chronic lateness to my busy life.
But as my frowning kindergartener jumped out of the van and reluctantly ran toward the school office to get yet another late pass, I felt like a complete failure.
Not only was my oldest child late for school, but I was already 45 minutes late getting my preschooler to her class. Forty. Five. Minutes.
While I was never thrilled with our crazy mornings, today I was downright ashamed.
My inability to get my mornings together was seriously affecting my kids.
Mornings tended to be a toxic mixture of stress and grumpiness as I would run around barking orders at my kids to try and get everyone clothed, fed, and backpacks ready for school.
The school year was wrapping up, but I vowed that the next year would be different. I was going to finally get my act together.
With a determination to change, I set out to find the solutions to our chaotic mornings and perpetual lateness.
And I’m happy to report that I did, in fact, get my act together in the mornings.
By implementing the following strategies into our daily routine, our mornings this school year have been completely different.
Where there was once chaos and stress, there’s calm and order.
5 KEYS TO A STRESS-FREE MORNING ROUTINE WITH KIDS
Here are the 5 strategies that helped our family create a stress-free morning routine:
1) Start the Night Before
I’m of the firm belief that your morning really starts the night before. Having a great evening routine is going to make all the difference when your head pops off the pillow in the morning. Preparing the night before ensures that you can rest easy knowing that you are ready for the morning.
Here are a few things you should consider building into your evening routine:
Lay out clothes
On school days, my kids are not usually joyful and energetic risers. (Sadly, we’re not natural morning people.) Which can make picking out clothes a drawn out process. Their brains are just not ready for those kinds of decisions.
However, once I started having them pick out their clothes the night before, mornings become much smoother without having to make choices about what to wear. I had some extra mini drawers we put in their room and they love having their outfit ready in their own little drawer.
But this strategy is not just for your kids. Laying out your clothes will also help you as you prepare for your day.
Since I workout nearly every morning, each night I lay out my workout clothes. Not only does this help me get going in the mornings, but putting on workout clothes makes it that much more likely that I will actually workout.
Plan bedtime deliberately
If you or your kids are not getting enough sleep, mornings are going to rough no matter how you slice it. Kids generally need at least 10-12 hours of sleep (see sleep requirements for various ages). And you need at least 7-8. Stick to a bedtime that ensures enough sleep.
Committing to getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night has had such a positive difference on my life. I’m naturally happier and more energetic during the day. Which means I accomplish way more everyday.
Get backpacks as prepared as possible for school the next day. If you drive to school, you could even stick them in your car!
If you pack lunches for your kids, putting them together the night before can save a lot of time in the morning.
2) Wake up Before your Kids
Even if it’s just 15 minutes earlier, waking up before your kids will completely change the tenor of your mornings.
When you wake up to a hungry child demanding breakfast, you wake up 2 steps behind and risk being grumpy. You’re groggy and haven’t even hit the restroom, yet you feel the need to get food made and get your kids ready. But waking up before your kids and preparing yourself for the day will center you before your kids wake up and the day kicks into high gear.
Here’s the bare minimum of what you should do:
- Get dressed
- Drink a big glass of water (wakes your body up and boosts energy)
- Make a list of what you need to get done that day
If you have time, these practices really set you up for a successful day:
- Pray/Meditate (you can start with these short guided meditations)
- Read something uplifting/inspiring
Personally, my happiest and most productive days are when I wake up at least and hour before my kids. For more on creating an awesome mom morning routine, check out this post on how to makeover your morning before your kids are up.
Or start the free 5-day Morning Makeover Challenge! In it, you’ll create a quick, yet powerful morning routine that sets you up for an awesome day.
A PEACEFUL MORNING AWAITS...
Join the 5-day email challenge and get the tools to start your day with energy & focus.
3) Make Breakfast Ahead of Time
You want your kids to have a solid breakfast, but there’s not always time to prepare a nice meal. By meal prepping breakfast foods, you can simply pop pumpkin pancakes or whole grain blueberry protein muffins in the microwave and get breakfast on the table in a couple of minutes.
Here are the 7 healthy make-ahead breakfast recipes that I rely on for easy mornings.
4) Create a Buffer Time
With kids, there will always be unexpected disasters. Potty accidents, spilled milk, tantrums, vomit…all to be expected in mom life.
Problem is that we don’t always plan for the mini daily disasters when we calculate how much time we need to get ready.
We always need a bit more time.
Planning buffer time has been most effective in creating a happy home in the mornings, despite the inevitable accidents that arise.
Where before, any kind of delay would set me off since we were always running late, knowing I have extra time keeps me calm and happy. Which in turn helps my kids stay calm and happy.
5) Use Chore/Routine Charts
If you just tell a kid what to do, chances are they will forget (or is that just my kids?). Which is why creating a chore or routine chart is so effective in giving visual reminders for the tasks a child needs to complete every day.
A chore chart can establish tasks that the child must do in the morning to get ready which may include:
- brush teeth
- get dressed
- pack lunch
- pack backpack
- unload dishwasher
- put shoes on (seriously, the hardest part of our morning)
I have found time and again that creating charts and checklists are very effective in keeping kids on task. It gives them clear reminders and directions.
I’ve made several printable chore/routine charts you can download:
- To create your own custom chore chart for older kids, check out this free printable chore chart for kids.
- For toddlers and preschool aged kids, check out this printable picture chore chart or the customizable picture chore chart (pictured below).
- For kids around 5 or 6, this chore chart is great.
6) Identify Problem Zones
Pinpointing exactly where your family struggles in the morning goes a long way to creating a calm and happy morning routine with kids.
For example, I found that we had a hard time getting everyone loaded in the car to get to school on time. It seemed that no matter what I did, that last push to get everyone into the car felt like herding cats.
Despite creating buffer zones and waking up earlier, the struggle to get out the door remained the same.
And despite my best efforts, after 10 minutes of loading the little ones and trying to coax my school-aged kids in the car, I would inevitably lose it and start yelling.
Then I realized exactly what our issue was.
When I would announce that it was time to load the van, suddenly hair would need to be brushed, socks put on, and shoes need to be found.
Once I recognized that the problem was that my children struggled to get themselves 100% ready ahead of time, I instituted a new rule: To sit at the table for breakfast, you must be 100% ready (shoes on, hair fixed).
This changed everything.
I didn’t have to prod and remind my kids to get ready. I simply reminded the of the rule: we need to be 100% ready when we sit to eat breakfast.
CREATE YOUR STRESS-FREE MORNING ROUTINE WITH KIDS
Your morning in the foundation on which you build the rest of your day. It can be hard to move on from a rough morning where foul moods and disasters wreak havoc. However, a smooth morning will set you up for a happy and productive day.
By following the 5 key strategies to creating a stress-free morning routine with kids, you can build a routine that sets your family up to have an awesome day.
You’ve got this, mama!
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