A stress-free school morning routine isn’t out of reach, even if you’re currently struggling with getting out the front door on time. Looking for a stress-free kid’s morning routine? Keep reading for the best tips on setting your kids up for a great start to the day!
This is an update of a post originally published on August 28th, 2014. It has been updated and republished with a new date.
Establishing a Stress-Free School Morning Routine
What are your feelings about school mornings? Maybe you and the kids are “morning people” and everyone jumps out of bed on time.
But if you’re reading this, probably not! Your school year mornings are likely stressful and rushed. You deserve to start your school day mornings without the stress. Check out these 12 ideas for a happier daily school morning routine.
I have the school morning routine down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping. Scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes. Hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise!
Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school. Boy, was I a groggy mess!
12 Tips for Stress-free School Mornings
I decided I didn’t want to spend the weekday mornings with my kids stressed out, yelling or running late. Once my children were school age and ready for school, I implemented these secrets to successful school mornings. I’m here to tell you that having a good morning routine is key to household happiness for the entire family.
Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. These are the must-read tips to streamline your school morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process. Keeping reading for the top practical tips for a smooth school routine with less morning stress.
Prep for School Mornings the Night Before
Mornings don’t start in the morning. They start the night before! Prepare as much as you can the day and night before.
Better mornings are started off in an organized and calm manner. There isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things. The family isn’t trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Put in the work ahead of time for less work in the early morning.
The following are simple tips that you can use to streamline the school morning routine by prepping the night before.
Plan Outfits Head to Toe
My elementary-aged son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my next-day wardrobe the evening before.
But when pressed for time, some kids will have trouble choosing their outfits for the day. I swear it takes my teenage daughter 20 minutes just to find the “right” outfit (and then comes out wearing practically the same thing as the day before!)
Kids, especially younger ones, usually need a bit of guidance when it comes to picking an outfit. Children might pick weather-inappropriate things, like a sweater when it’s going to be 90 degrees! Helping kids decide on their outfits casually the night before takes the pressure off the school morning routine.
Choose Clothes Ahead of Time
If your kid has trouble getting dressed try these easy tips for a smoother morning. Plan the entire week of outfits in a single day! I work with my kids to plan outfits for the week.
Have your children help choose their outfits on Sunday night. Gather all parts (socks, underpants, accessories) so they have them together in one place.
Stack items inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. In the morning kids just have to grab the next outfit and get dressed.
For children that have trouble deciding, narrow outfits down to 3 choices, max. Keep only weather appropriate clothing in the closet to choose from. If it’s winter, that means shorts are packed into a bin, out of sight.
For additional kid’s clothing tips, read more about buying back to school clothes on a budget.
Everything Has a Place
No mad dash looking for anything on school days because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before. It’s a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness!
Bedrooms are tidied up. Toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before.
Middle school aged kids can certainly complete these tasks alone but younger kids may require help and reminders.
Organization for School Days
I recommend having designated hooks and/or storage bins for school morning items. Use a label maker so there’s no confusion on where things go.
Backpacks – Every afternoon after school, your child’s backpack should be cleared out. Then return all paperwork, permission slips, library books and homework to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning.
Hair – Hair styling products like hairbrush, de-tangling spray and elastics/bows should be together so it’s easy to style in the morning. We keep all hair styling items in a bin under the bathroom sink. This way we can pull it all out and put it away fast.
Jackets – Jackets are on their own hook next to the backpacks.
Shoes – Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door. We stack shoes on a shelf in our garage, making sure pairs are together each day.
Read more about using organization for a successful morning routine with these organizing tips.
Lunches Made in Bunches
Buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags. Again, individual clear plastic bins are great for storage!
Have separate bins for the fridge and more for the cupboards to hold school lunch items. I store cold foods in a bin in the fridge. Dry snacks are in a container in the cupboard. Fill a water bottle and have it chilled in the refrigerator.
In the morning, grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal. Add everything into the lunch boxes and you’re good to go! This job can also be given to an older child or teen to do. Simply grab one item from each bin, so easy.
Lunch Ideas to Help the School Morning Routine
As noted, I have items in separate bins for each grab-and-go lunch prep in the morning. A bin in the fridge for cold items and a bin in the cupboard for dry goods.
Keep sandwich fixings together – In the fridge, mayo, mustard, lunch meat and cheese are in a bin together. In the cupboard, nut butter and bread share a bin (I grab jelly from the fridge if using that for PB & J).
Buy in bulk – Purchase in bulk and prep everything at once. Think outside the expensive store-bought snack sized items like chips and crackers. Many portions are more than kids should be eating. Some bags are actually 2 serving size instead of 1. Pre-packed snacks are also more expensive. They often cost twice as much or more than if purchasing in bulk.
Take for instance, apple sauce and yogurt. Yes, those pouches and bowls are so handy but apple sauce and yogurt bought in a tub is so much cheaper. And it’s easy to spoon it into small plastic to-go cups. Stack them in a bin inside the fridge to grab quickly!
Fast Grab & Go Lunch Items
These are some easy and fast lunch items to prep early in the week that will make your school morning routine run smoothly. Need more ideas? Try these 100 healthy lunch ideas for kids.
- Cheese cubes
- Cut fruit, like melons, apple slices, berries or pineapple
- Cold slice of pizza
- Carrot sticks
- Hard boiled egg
- Grapes (cut in half for little kids)
- Pasta salad
- Veggie strips, like green and red peppers or snap peas
- String cheese
- Green salad with a container of dressing
- Apple sauce
- Cherry tomatoes
- Chips, including potato and tortilla
- Crackers, like Wheat Thins, Goldfish or Triscuits
- Granola bars
- Pita bread, cut into wedges
- Trail mix
- Yogurt raisins
- Fruit leather
- Graham cracker
Set the Stage for Sleep
Sometimes I have to remind my husband that a tickle-fest right before bedtime is not going to get our little ones in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, favorite books in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower and lavender essential oil in the diffuser right before bed can also help kids relax.
Turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. Keep the pace slow and calm. After a while kids know what to expect. Keeping the nightly bedtime routine the same every evening can help sleep come more quickly.
According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 6 am Monday through Friday. That means they should be going to bed no later than 8:00 pm.
One way to do that is to try and have everyone in bed around the same time each night. Set a bedtime across the board for all the kids, no matter their ages.
We aim for consistency on the bedtime. Having a set time for sleep works for us. When they’re getting enough sleep, our kids show consistency in their behavior and attitudes. Nobody has a bad morning!
With enough rest, my kids hop right out of bed in the morning and aren’t groggy in the afternoons. In the evenings kids are sleepy enough that they put themselves to bed on time each night.
Put Yourself to Bed at a Decent Time, Too!
I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed, I finally find time to myself. But I find myself puttering around doing nothing. I’ll read too many Facebook posts and start projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm!
The late nights were wreaking havoc on my mental health. Then I’d be kicking myself in the morning when I didn’t want to get up!
Last year, I pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time. My new bedtime gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I started feeling better. Now I wake easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.
Can’t get to bed early every night? Aim for at least a few times a week when you can catch up on sleep.
A well-rested parent is a happier parent. And a happier parent is less likely to snap at 6 am getting kids ready for school. Check out these additional self-care ideas for moms.
Restful Rooms Are Conducive to Sleep
What’s your ideal sleep setting? For most people, a slightly cool room, comfy bedding and white noise (like a fan) are perfect. Add complete darkness and a soothing scent (like lavender) to invite refreshing sleep.
On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out.
I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight. If the lights are on, children are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open? There is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep! I have more sleeping tips on TravelingMom.
Good Morning Sunshine!
After a peaceful evening the night before and a good night’s rest, your kids will be in a better position to have a happy school morning routine. Here are my tips for nailing busy mornings and getting the kids out the door on time.
Establishing a Wake-Up Time
Figure out exactly how long your kid’s morning routine will take to allow enough time. The mornings can be the most stressful part of the day if it’s always in a rush. Estimate the amount of time for the family to wake, get ready, eat breakfast and get out the door.
If your kids aren’t morning people, allow a buffer of at least 15 minutes. With younger children that need assistance getting ready, make sure to work in extra time for that as well.
Awakening to an Alarm Clock
If your kids struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with a kid-friendly alarm clock. Looking back, I wish I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!). I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth.
When mom is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes. Eventually the kids and parents are trained in the wrong direction! When using an alarm clock, if you don’t get up, you’re going to be late.
Eliminate the Snooze Button
The alarm clock only goes off once unless you use the snooze button. But I’ve never taught my kids what the snooze button is. They assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!
Are a habitual snoozer? Try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway.
Get up right away. Either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!
The Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast
We never leave the house without breakfast. I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. Leave plenty of time in the morning routine to fit in a good breakfast.
A healthy and filling breakfast doesn’t have to take a lot of time. This article offers plenty of healthy breakfast ideas that are quick to assemble.
Smoothies are a fast way for kids to fill up. These high protein smoothies are ideal for travel, as they can be sipped in the car.
Make breakfast ahead of time – If you just don’t have time to scramble eggs each morning, there are some breakfasts that can be prepared the night before. Many of them can be frozen in batches then defrosted in the fridge overnight.
- Bake banana bread muffins and freeze them in zip-close bags. The mini variety also makes a great lunch snack!
- Overnight French toast is easy to make the night before. Pop it into the oven in the morning and breakfast is ready.
- Make a double-batch of my fluffy pancakes on the weekend. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!
What About Screen Time?
Are computers, tablets and TV causing your kids to drag their feet to get ready in time?
Some kids have a good start to their routine and have free time in the morning. It’s okay to allow a little bit of TV time. If kids have a hard time stopping, it might be a good idea to create a no-screen rule for school mornings.
My kids know that if they’ve tackled their to-do list, they’re permitted to watch television until it’s time to leave the house. However, we also have a rule that if they don’t immediately turn off the TV when I ask, they lose the privilege for the next day.
Final Brushing Call: Teeth, Hair and Out the Door!
That final bathroom stop can really derail the school morning routine! Younger kids may need supervision to ensure they properly brush teeth. Big kids can usually be trusted to handle the task on their own.
I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair. Mayhem and delays tend to ensue when kids attempt to share the sink!
Many children can handle styling their own hair, though kids with longer hair may require assistance. My daughter has waist length hair that requires untangling. We wash, detangle and braid it the night before. The next morning her hair is much more manageable.
Keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and de-tangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), allow extra time by getting up earlier.
Stumbling Blocks That Slow the Kid’s Morning Routine
Morning chores – Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by requesting that beds be made before we leave the house.
My older kids also take turns emptying the dishwasher and reloading with the breakfast dishes. Extra chores like cleaning the dog kennel are saved until after school.
Slow Movers – Do you have a slow-poke? Consider a timer. I’ve been known to set the timer for my special needs daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl. When the timer dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task.
Motivation – If your kids really don’t care about being late, motivate them with incentives. Try one of these printable behavior charts with a weekly goal of getting up and out on time.
Out the Door Countdown
Getting used to the new schedule can take time. If kids are busy getting ready they just aren’t going to be paying attention to the clock. If you prepped the night before, shoes and backpacks should be ready to go. Within a few minutes you’re in the car and on the way!
Give kids the 10 minute and 5 minute countdown. Ten minutes before you need them out of the house, call it out. Then repeat at 5 minutes till. This isn’t micromanaging. A reminder is a good thing to keep everyone on track, so long as you aren’t having to remind ten times.
Setting a daily morning countdown alarm on the Amazon Echo Dot Alexa is another great option!
It’s Early…Know Your Limits
Are complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts making your kids miss the bus? Save them for the weekends when you have more time.
If you keep finding yourself running late, set the morning alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early. Only you know where to draw the line. Set the limits for your kid’s morning routine and it will set them up for success!