My two mantras for school mornings: Kids crave routine. Morning works best when there is a routine in place.

When my oldest child went to kindergarten it took us practically the whole school year to adjust to an earlier start time. We had no routine. It was a miracle that she caught the school bus as often as she did. The next school year we started with a routine that we follow to this day with a little tweaking here and there.

I don’t know about you, but as an adult I can get out of the house in 10 minutes flat. In 10 minutes I can brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, and grab a quick breakfast. Add children in to the mix and there is no way I can get out of the house in 10 minutes. I have one child who constantly needs to go back to her bedroom to get one last thing, leading to a delay. Another child needs constant reminders to brush hair, teeth, and get ready! My youngest is an early riser. The earlier he gets up the more compliant he is.

So, how do I manage to get three children up and on the school bus each day? Routine.

Wake-up Time

My oldest is in middle school. She must be on the bus by 6:55 a.m. I know! Can you imagine the horror for a 7th grader to have to get up at this time? But, because we had a routine in place from her later start elementary school days, the transition to middle school was easy. She is not a morning person. Currently she is not woken by her alarm, but by high school I would like to see her get up by herself. Once my oldest daughter gets on the bus, I wait for the younger children to get up.

Getting Dressed

My younger children are morning people who are fine as long as everything goes as planned in the mornings. They crave routine as much I do. My husband is responsible for waking up our children, making sure they are dressed, and have brushed their teeth. The 10-year-old is independent in her morning routine, but the 5-year-old needs reminders to “wear pants” from time to time.

Sometimes I have the children choose their outfits the night before, but this often does not work. I found that my daughter liked to swap outfits, thereby delaying the morning process. Now, I place all my children’s clothing in correspondingly labelled drawers: “Underwear,” “Socks,” “Shirts,” etc. In the morning the children know where to find each item they will need. My son cannot reach the hangers in his closet, so all his clothes are in his dresser. When my daughter had the same problem I bought an extension device that lowered the height of the hanger, so that she could reach her clothing.


Breakfast varies by day, but always consists of fruit, milk, and cereal/toast/muffin/waffle. I have tried setting the table the night before, but found that I prefer setting the table in the morning. I have plates, cups, and napkins in easy-to-reach places. My children tend not to eat a huge breakfast, but I insist that they take a couple of bites of each item. I would like them to eat more, but don’t worry unnecessarily as both have a snack and lunch sometime during the school day.

Making Lunch

While I am waiting for the younger two to come down, I start packing lunches. The night before I unpack the lunch boxes, clean out wrappers, and refreeze ice packs. I pack my younger two the same lunch. Since I know what each child likes I tend to pack lunches that are acceptable. Lunch works best if all items that I need are in a convenient location:

  • yogurts on the same shelf in the fridge
  • fruit cups on the same shelf in the pantry
  • juice bags on the same shelf in the fridge
  • snacks on same shelf in pantry
  • sandwich fillings and condiments on same shelf in fridge
  • sandwich bags and plastic containers in the same cupboard
  • lunchboxes on top of fridge

Backpacks, Coats, Shoes, Lunchboxes, Musical Instruments

Everything the children need for the next day stays on the ground floor of the house. I have the children pack their backpacks the night before to make sure homework is in the folder with notes to the teacher and permission slips. I place luncboxes and musical instruments next to backpacks. Coats and shoes are placed close to the door.

With younger children, it is best to help them get ready. As children get older, start giving them more responsibilty for their morning routine. Everyone benefits.

Leaving on Time

When considering when to leave your house to be ready for the school bus or to drive to school, consider the following:

  • time it takes to buckle child in car seat (if you have an infant or a toddler, factor in the time it will take to get all your children in your car or van) or put younger child in stroller to walk to bus stop
  • time it takes to get coat, shoes, gloves on for all children
  • time it takes to find the child’s school bag, lunch box, coat, shoes, spare supplies
  • time it takes to drive to school/walk to bus stop

Sicne my children get the school bus at the end of the driveway, there are times when i would let my 3- to 4-year-old stay in the house to watch TV. I knew she was safe and warm in the house. I would not advise leaving an infant or a toddler. When I had an infant or a toddler, I left a stroller in the garage with a pile of blankets inside it. I would place my baby in the stroller wrapped in blankets. She was protected from the weather for the time it took to go down to the bus stop.

Basically, leave yourself plenty of time. Children do not know the words “hurry up” or “let’s go.” Before children I was not the most organized person, but soon came to realize that kids need to live in an organized home. Stressed out mom = stressed out kids. “Plan” and “organize” are still my favorite words.

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