It’s back to school time and we would love to go on and on about how structured and peaceful the morning routine is in our homes, what with getting the kids ready, making a healthy breakfast, packing the perfect lunches, signing permission slips days in advance, creating exquisite french braids “just like Elsa,” and walking the dog–maybe twice.
You know, just like you do, right?
We admit it: Mornings are crazy, and a little help can go a long way. That’s where the kids earn their keep. Having your kids shoulder some of that school morning burden can really make the morning more enjoyable for everyone–and hey, maybe every even gets to where they need to be on time. Really, it comes down to independence. Children (at least ours) are always saying that they can do things by themselves, and what we’ve learned is that they can. Give them a little freedom and accountability, and they’ll be well on the road to responsibility. It’s a win-win.
So we’ve put together five smart ways to help your kids get ready for school in the morning to help minimize the morning crazies.
1. Create a night-before checklist. Sure, every parent knows we’re supposed to get things ready the night before, but it doesn’t always happen. A checklist can make it a lot easier. A simple “Homework done? Lunch packed? Clothes laid out?” questionnaire that lives on your fridge can ensure they kids actually do have everything ready before they go to bed. We always find morning is so much easier when you prepare for it.
2. Use a little friendly motivation…like the Marble Jar, perhaps? We love using the Marble Jar for managing screen time, but it also works to get your kids moving on a school morning. Kids who finish up their chores or get ready on their own, or whatever it is you need them to do, earn tokens or marbles. Like, you can offer one marble for remembering to brush your teeth without being asked. Or one marble for remembering to clear the dishes (properly!) without being asked. It’s amazing how quickly everything gets done. You might even need some bigger jars!
3. Make your own breakfast, kid. Even our preschoolers are able to prepare their own breakfast when they only have two ingredients to wrangle: Cereal and milk. We use a plastic cereal keeper (there are tons of options at The Container Store) and keep it on the counter next to a measuring cup, which actually works well instead of risking The Big Pour. You can also keep milk in a smaller creamer in the fridge, as an alternative to unwieldy gallon or half-gallon containers.
The trick is to make sure the bowls, pitcher, spoons, and food containers are easily accessible and non-breakable—picking Cheerios or Wheaties up off the floor is easy, but broken bowls are no fun for anyone. You can also keep freshly cut fruit in an easy-open container on a lower shelf of the refrigerator, whether it’s berries for the cereal, or a few big chunks of fresh melon on the side.
4. Get on (the reminder) board! Hang a white board or chalkboard somewhere that your kids are sure to see, and list important reminders on it. This way your kids notice it as they are heading out and will be reminded by the note — and not you — that they forgot to brush their teeth or bring the permission slip or pack an extra snack for after-school. Because that happens.
5. Save their backs with a daily unpack. We’ve all seen kids bent over beneath the growing weight of an overflowing backpack, and that can’t be good for them; however, lightening the load is an easy fix. Have the kids get in the habit of going through their backpacks each day as soon as they get home. Do not pass go, do not collect a snack. Children can put lunchboxes by the sink, get paperwork signed by parents, put their homework on their desks, and take out the extra books, folders, and assorted food stuffs stuck at the bottom–it’s amazing how much stuff they accumulate in just a few hours, right? Then repack the backpack for the next day, and hang it by the door so they don’t forget it on the way out.
Which, by the way, is one of the other reasons we’re sometimes late to school. We quietly admit that too. See? We’re all in this together.