We’ve hit the hottest part of summer, but with school supplies showing up on store shelves, you’re probably already thinking about the school morning routine. For many parents, this mad dash can be one of the most stressful parts of back-to-school season. How do you get everyone out the door without a meltdown? Or missing a critical soccer cleat, lunch or permission slip?
Time Timer was originally designed to help parents keep their kids on time for school, so we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the ins and outs of creating a better morning routine for kids. In fact, we’ve written about it a lot over our company’s history. This year we decided to revisit our own advice and pull together our 5 best-ever tips for a happier school morning routine. It’s a mix of our tried-and-true methods along with some fresh updates.
1. Practice Makes Perfect
Your kids practice for baseball, band concerts and spelling tests, so it only makes sense to give your morning routine for school a few practice runs, too. Start this process about two weeks before school starts. The first week introduce school-year bedtimes for the whole family to gradually get back on track. A regular sleep schedule is one of the keys to helping everyone feel rested and prepared to take on their day.
One week before school, add in the school wake-up time, too. Set those alarms and make sure everyone actually makes their way out of bed when they go off. Choose one or two days that last week to actually go through your entire morning routine—getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and getting out the door. Break out your Time Timer MOD® and time this process, so you can work together to figure out together how much time you really need. Then adjust wake-up times and expectations based on this information.
2. Prep for Tomorrow Tonight
You can’t have a good morning routine without a good evening routine. Set aside 30 minutes each night to prep for the next day as a whole family. Ask one child to set your Time Timer PLUS® for 30 minutes then make a game out of seeing how much everyone can get done. Parents can make lunches or supervise this process for older kids. Everyone lays out clothes for the next morning and packs up their backpacks and gear for after-school activities. A little prep time goes a long way to improving moods the next morning.
3. Chart Your Way Through Trouble Spots
After that first week of school, you’ll know where your family gets stuck in the morning. Maybe your son always forgets to brush his teeth. Or your daughter doesn’t leave herself enough time to eat anything for breakfast. Keep your children on task with a more flexible and time-based version of the morning routine chart.
We recommend investing in the Time Timer® MOD + Dry Erase Board. It allows you to list out the three to five critical things your child must do each morning. Then you can assign each item a time limit, such as 10 minutes for getting dressed followed by 10 minutes for breakfast. Try empowering your children to start managing their own morning routines by timing each task and checking it off as it’s completed. Repeat until it’s all second nature.
4. Focus on Calming Jitters
A big part of morning chaos can stem from anxiety. There are a lot of unknowns as kids head for a new grade or even a new school. Try using a Time Timer to shake those first (and maybe even fifth) day jitters. If everyone’s headed for a meltdown, try calling for a two-minute timeout for some quiet chill time. Set a timer and have everyone pick a comfortable spot to breathe and re-focus.
You can also calm nerves by using a timer to help your kids understand what’s next. Set your Time Timer 10 minutes before the bus is coming, so everyone can see how much time is left to put shoes on and grab lunches. Seeing the timer countdown as the disk disappears makes it easier to track those minutes before a big transition. Teens may even want to install the Time Timer app on their phones and use it to navigate their day.
5. Build a Routine Binder
This genius idea came from a guest blog post by Paula Berman, owner of Paula Berman Organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She knows kids struggle to remember all the steps in a routine, so she suggests building a mini routine binder. Invest in a small binder, plastic sheet protectors and a Time Timer PLUS® 20 Minute. The goal here is to create a visual reference your child can carry along throughout the morning routine.
Within the binder, create one page for each task in your child’s routine. This might start with turning off the alarm then go through making the bed, getting dressed and so on. Make this as visual as possible, so it’s easy for still sleepy kids to follow. Add a timeframe for each task and ask your child to stay on track by setting their portable Time Timer PLUS ® 20 Minute, with its easy carrying handle, as he or she moves through the morning. This system is more detailed and visual than a simple word-based checklist, so it may be a good choice for a child who struggles with reading or transitions.
Need a little help getting started with your morning routine? Check out our downloadable checklist!Download the Morning Routine Checklist
Do you have any tips you’d add to the list? What helps your family have a stress-free morning on school days? We’d love to hear. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org