Back to school routines: Tips for making school mornings peaceful, not hectic

Back to school routines: Tips for making school mornings peaceful, not hectic

By Brittany Carlson


My boys started school last week, and it was apparent on the first morning that I needed to re-think my morning routine. The kids were slow to get dressed and wanted to play. No one wanted to eat breakfast until we needed to head out the door. My vision of a calm and peaceful morning disintegrated as I threw lunches together and told a shoeless little boy to put on his shoes as we drove so we wouldn’t be late.


This week, it’s been much better. I’ve made some adjustments to our routine based on some great advice from friends through Facebook, and I’m proud to say that both of my kids have been getting in the car fully dressed and fed in the morning. 


Here are some of my favorite tips for peaceful morning routines:


  1. Prep the night before. 


There are so many parts of getting ready for school that can be done the night before, and it really does make a big difference in the morning. 


“The more you can do the night before, the better,” wrote my friend Jewel. “Lunches are packed the night before, snacks packed, water bottles filled, backpack by the front door, clothes picked out and laying on the couch (including shoes).” 


Another mama friend, Emily, wrote that her son picks out his outfits for the entire week ahead on Sunday. “It’s a win-win for all of us,” she said. 


Jaclyn, a school-age mom, goes step further and lays out breakfast utensils the night before so her kids can serve themselves. “I’ll leave the bowls and spoons out at night and the box [of cereal],” she said. “And I always aim to be ready 15 minutes before we need to leave or catch the bus to cover all the weird, random, last-minute things that pop up.”


This brings me to my next point: 


  1. Give yourself extra time. 


It might be painful at first, but setting that morning alarm a little earlier will give you, the parent, a chance to dress, make breakfast and have some peace before getting the kids ready. Personally, this helps me to be much calmer with the kids, especially when milk starts spilling on school clothes and socks go missing, et cetera. 


Kevin offered some advice from a dad’s perspective: be the first up in the morning. “I always lead by example, so if I want my kids up and ready, I am first,” he said. 


  1. Create a new routine for your kids to follow. Let them know what they need to do, and in what order. 


For example, Sherry has her kids get dressed and make beds before they come downstairs in the morning. They even have an extra set of toothbrushes downstairs so they can brush after breakfast. “I’ve found that if they go back upstairs, chaos follows,” she said. 


Mary, a mom of three school-age boys, found that making a checklist for her kids helps them get ready for school on time. Items on the checklist include “eat breakfast,” “brush teeth,” “get dressed,” “get back packs and lunches.” 


“If they are ready on time in the mornings, they get a check mark by their name. Three check marks equals a prize,” she said. “Bad behavior gets check marks erased.”


This kind of reward system was another common theme in the morning routine advice, leading to my final tip:


  1. Build in motivation. 


It can be tough to go from wearing PJs all morning in the summer to getting ready quickly when it’s time for school. Kids respond best when they are rewarded for getting their tasks finished on time.  


Melissa helps motivate her 5 kids to get ready on time by offering extra tech time. “We don’t allow any other time for their school devices except in the car,” she said. “So, when they have finished their tasks, they are allowed to sit in the car and play”


My boys can have extra playtime once they are dressed with their beds made and finished with breakfast. 


I hope these tips are helpful to other parents out there who, like me, might be finding it hard to transition from slower summer days to busy school mornings.