I’ve Figured Out a Few Tricks That Make Mornings Easier If You Have Kids
By Heather M. Jones
Photo © @darby/Twenty20
Feb 12, 2020
Mornings around here have always been a struggle.
OK, more than a struggle — a hellish tornado filled with cereal bowls, shoes and screaming.
Desperate for routine? And not just for your kids, but yourself? Read about this one parent's approach here.
It seemed like no matter how early we got up, we could never get out the door on time and with our emotions in check. No one likes to start off the day fighting. The yelling, nagging and whining — on our parts and theirs — were setting a negative tone to the day and leaving us all feeling on edge. I had to find a better way.
Organization has never been my strong suit. I have good intentions, but lackluster follow-through. I needed to find some tricks that I knew I could stick to, not just ones my kids could manage. Before the start of this school year, I came up with a game plan, and for the first time in the eight years my oldest son has been in school, mornings are great — or at least doable (I’ll take it!).
Here are some tricks that have proven useful for us:
On each level of the house, and for each child, I have posted a set of tasks to be completed before school and a set for after school. The tasks seem painfully obvious, but if you have kids like mine who get distracted easily and need constant reminders, it is stress-relieving to say, “Check your list” instead of, “Put on your shoes. Your shoes. YOUR SHOES.”
Even if you think the task should go without saying, put it on there anyway. For example, my six-year-old’s lists are as follows:
- Get dressed.
- Eat breakfast.
- Put lunch in backpack.
- Shoes on.
- Jacket on.
- Grab backpack.
- Sit on couch to wait.
- Put backpack in spot.
- Take off shoes.
- Put lunch on kitchen table.
- Give Mom/Dad agenda, papers sent home and homework.
- Have a snack (if you want one).
My 11-year-old has similar steps on his list. These tasks seem like they should be intuitive, especially after doing them every day for years. But having them laid out and clearly posted lets kids check and make sure they have everything covered, and gives me a place to send them to get back on track when they are distracted. It also helps them become more self-sufficient instead of waiting for reminders from me.
Clothes in Resealable Bags
Above everything else, this has been the biggest game changer.
Get five extra large resealable freezer bags for each child. Label each bag with the child’s name and a day of the week (I do Monday to Friday). Over the weekend, I put one outfit in each bag. Then I put all of the bags filled with clothes into a laundry basket and keep the basket somewhere accessible. In the morning, the kids can just grab the bag with their name that corresponds to the day of the week, get dressed and put the empty bag back.
Yes, I know I could just lay out clothes the night before, but that has never worked — not in eight years.
Part of this morning overhaul means being realistic about my own tendencies and weaknesses. I know that if I forget, or decide to put it off until the next morning, that I am setting us up for chaos.
It’s also really handy because I just fold the laundry directly into the bags instead of putting them in drawers for them to get rifled through. As an added bonus, this methods helps me make sure I have all the clothes they need for the week. Nothing is more frustrating in the morning than realizing someone has no clean underwear (and then having to search the house for a rogue pair so your child doesn’t have to go to school with their butt hanging in the breeze).
Keep a Mesh Bag by the Door for Socks
Technically, this is an after school (or evening if you have places to be) activity — but it still makes mornings easier. As soon as the kids come through the door after school, or when they are in for the night, I have them take off their socks at the same time they take off their shoes and put them in a mesh laundry bag (the kind used to wash “delicates” works great).
When laundry day comes, toss the whole bag full of socks into the washing machine and dryer as is. When it’s time to pack the resealable bags, you can just take them right out of the mesh bag, knowing that you have matching pairs all together.
"Part of this morning overhaul means being realistic about my own tendencies and weaknesses."
To answer some questions I’m sure some of you are thinking: yes the socks do get cleaned well, especially if you make sure the kids unroll them before putting them in the bag. If you find the bag is getting too stuffed, get each child their own bag and label it with a Sharpie.
If you don’t want bare-footed children running through the house, pick up some fun slippers for them and add “put on slippers” to your after school list.
Keep a Basket of Snacks in the Kitchen
My husband packs lunches in our house (sorry folks, he’s taken), and to make life easier for himself in the mornings, he keeps a basket of non-refrigerated snacks by the kitchen table. This includes things like fruit, apple sauce, granola bars — anything that is grab and go. If you use reusable containers, try filling them on the weekend and sticking them in the basket to grab as you need them through the week. In the mornings, he just needs to make and pack their main meal, grab a few snacks that are ready to go from the basket and add anything from the fridge like yogurt or cheese.
Get Your Kids Their Own Alarm Clock
My oldest son now showers in the morning and he is the longest shower-taker in the world. He knows that the earlier he gets up, the longer a shower he can take. He frequently sets his own alarm for earlier than mine and I wake up to find him showered, dressed and eating breakfast (as per his list).
My youngest loves having an alarm to set because he feels both grown up and autonomous.
"Yes, I know I could just lay out clothes the night before, but that has never worked — not in eight years."
Both kids wake up more cheerfully for their alarms than they do for me coming into their room and telling them to get out of bed. Having the kids get themselves up has cut down on the nagging and the complaining in the mornings by a lot. Of course, set your own alarm and make sure they didn’t turn off their alarm and go back to sleep!
The secret to the success of these changes is that they are so minor and simple that they were easy for us — even procrastinating, disorganized me — to implement and stick to. It amazes me how big a difference these little tweaks have made. Happy organizing!
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