Morning madness! If you’re like me, you need to get yourself off to work and your children to child care, preschool, and/or elementary school every morning. Hopefully, this is accomplished without tears, missing homework assignments, lost show-and-tell items, yelling, or high stress.
This school year, my husband and I made a promise to stop the morning madness, or at least decrease the madness. The chaos is hard on everyone, and not the way we wanted to begin the day. After much research and a lot of trial and error, we have come up with a plan that works for our family (most of the time).
Here are a few tips:
1) Create a schedule – Our family created a schedule. We brainstormed a list of tasks and talked about who should be responsible for each task. Then we determined an order for the tasks. It was nice to include the boys in creating the schedule, as they felt that they were part of the process. I can remind them that it was their idea to get dressed and then eat breakfast. (The schedule is posted in the hallway outside the bedrooms of both boys. It has been a great tool to help keep all of us on track. I wish I would have had this when they were infants and toddlers. I think mornings would have been smoother. They even drew the pictures for the chart!)
2) Prepare the night before – The more prepared we are the more likely we are, to avoid the morning madness. From clothes and shoes to lunches and backpacks, we prepare everything the night before. This has been a huge stress reliever for our family.
We use a days-of-the-week organizer to choose outfits for the week. On Sunday afternoon, we choose clothes for the entire week. We look at the ten day forecast to decide what types of clothing to choose—shorts, jeans, long-sleeve shirt, short-sleeve shirt, etc. It has ended up being a very educational process, as we discuss the upcoming weather, accuracy of forecasts, etc.
We find our shoes the night before. In the past, we would be zipping through our morning routine, and Ben would say, “I can’t find my shoes. Mommy, where are my shoes?” I would frantically run around the house looking in every nook and cranny for the shoes only to find that they were in daddy’s car, and he had left for the office over an hour ago. Then I would dig through our shoe bin to try to find shoes that fit. This usually ended in tears, as the shoes were a little tight, ugly, uncomfortable, or caused Ben to run slowly (one of my favorite reactions to ‘old shoes’), etc. Now, we find our shoes and set them next to the garage door before we start bedtime.
The boys take a bath or shower before bed. This is helpful because I am not trying to get myself ready and give the boys a bath in the morning, and they wake up clean. It is one less thing to add to our already busy morning.
After bedtime, I am exhausted and ready to sit down to watch a little TV, but I know that I will have a crazy morning if I don’t prepare the backpack and lunches. It is much easier to take care of those details after Ben and Will go to bed rather than in the morning. I check the backpacks for teacher notes, field trip permission slips, etc. and make Ben’s lunch and snack. If needed, I create and post a “Remember to Take” checklist on the garage door, so I see it before we walk out to the van. It is a lot faster in the evening than in the morning, and a lot less stressful!
3) Set a bedtime and stick to it! – When the boys are in bed by 8:00 p.m. with lights out, they wake up refreshed, cheerful, happy and brush their teeth, get dressed, and eat breakfast without me nagging them or reminding them of the consequences of not following the family rules. When we miss or delay the bedtime, the boys wake up groggy and cranky. The morning then turns into morning madness. Not the best way to begin the day!
4) Encourage independence – The morning is less stressful when children do more for themselves. As appropriate, encourage your children to get dressed and brush their teeth. The more they can do for themselves, the easier it is for parents.
5) Beat the clock/music motivator – My secret weapon is turning getting ready for the day into a game. Sometimes we play beat the clock/timer. Can we get dressed before the timer rings? The boys really love trying to beat the clock. There is a big celebration when they are ready before the ringing of the timer. Other times, I play fast music and see if the children can move as fast as the music. This is pretty funny because they move super fast to keep up with the music. I always chuckle as they try to dress to the beat of the music. Of course, this does not work so well for brushing teeth, because I do not want them to rush through that process. I try to allow more time for that.
6) Emergency pack – For those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad mornings, I use a preassembeled emergency pack (Thanks for the good idea, Mom! My mom is so wise!) that I keep in the car. In it, there’s a granola bar, juice box, hairbrush, sunscreen, dental floss, hairspray, etc. I break the emergency pack out on those days that we are running really late. My hope is that the emergency pack will be unopened this year. (I will keep you posted!)
I hope these ideas help your family avoid morning madness!