How to master the morning routine with kids
Written by: Nicky Barker, Founder of Little Ones & Paediatric Sleep Specialist
Get up at 4am.
Just kidding. Well, kind of. Getting my crew dressed, fed, packed and out the door in the morning is no mean feat. When both parents are working full time, it’s ALL down to the timing to get your mornings running smoothly. There is no room for error. It’s taken me five years and 3 kids to perfect the art of the “morning”, and so here are some tricks I’ve learnt over the past million days of doing it, which will, I hope, make morning life way easier for you…
I was almost kidding about the 4am part. My best advice is to get up well before the kids. While that seems like you’re lucking out on some much needed sleep, believe me, it’s soooooooo much easier to have some quiet time to yourself as you potter around (with a huge cup of coffee) getting things done. I actually come to really look forward to my morning alone time – it’s often the only time of the day I am actually completely alone. Your start time will depend on how long it takes you to get ready for the day, what time you need to be out the door and also what time your kids usually wake. My kids are in a good sleeping pattern (including the baby), so they will predictably wake at 7am. We need to leave at 8. I like to wear makeup so I factor in 15 minutes for that, plus 10 minutes for a shower, 5 to get dressed and 5 for hair (let’s face it, these days a ponytail is ALL I’m going to manage, sorry hair straighteners). Chuck in some chilling time catching up on social media, and working backwards, my wake time is around 6:15am. And I’m ok with that. Gives me a nice easing-into-the-day feel. When the kids come charging (believe me, it literally is charging) out of their rooms at 7, I am good to go! This means the next hour is devoted to getting everyone else ready too.
Which brings me nicely to my next key morning lifesaver:
If you’ve read my Going Away With Kids blog you’ll know I’m a sucker for lists. I never used to be – I actually used to be quite good at retaining information. One child in and I was ruined. Memorically. After 3 kids there’s just no point even getting my brain to function at full capacity, so I resort to, hell, let’s face it, I DEPEND on lists. I have a list titled “THE MORNING” stuck on my kitchen wall. And that’s the truth. It’s even colour coded.
There are ten zillion things to remember to do in the morning. Once you’ve got school aged kids it goes up to twenty zillion. Without my list, how would I ever remember that today is a swimming day at school? Or that the rubbish needs to go out? Or to pack spare daycare clothes for the 3 year old? My on-the-wall-list is in 4 categories, with sub-lists in each category:
- Lunches (it reminds me what I need to pack in their lunchboxes!)
- Bags (reminding me of things that need to go in their bags that day, notices, books etc)
- Kids (covers things like getting them dressed, brushing teeth and hair…)
- Household (laundry, rubbish out, dishwasher on.)
If I go through each item on the list, in sequence, ritualistically, methodically, surgically, I’ll get it right. If I don’t, well, the consequence borders on apocalyptic. A good idea is to put your lists somewhere really obvious – you could even have another list of individual chores to do in the morning. This is a great idea once your kids are old enough to do household chores too.
And this finally takes me to my last tip for “The Morning” – split the load. If there are two parents in the house, or older kids, share the load. Have a routine. Have a plan. Write it down if it helps! My hubby and me have a morning job share that looks like this:
I have my morning “me-time” and he gets up before the kids too to have his shower, unpack the dishwasher and read the sports news. We usually meet in the kitchen right before the onslaught, which is enough time for a quick “how did you sleep?” “Ok, you?” “Not too bad, apart from Max at 3am needing water and the baby at 5am chatting to herself”. Once the kids roll down the stairs hubby has got their cereal ready and all laid out, while I’ve moved onto their lunches. He then makes his breakfast, usually while doing the reading homework with Miss 5, while I CONTINUE to make lunches. (I’m a lunchbox geek, so I spend ages making their lunches as nutritious and delicious as I can). To save even more time, you could always make the lunches the night before and keep them in the fridge. If I had less time in the morning I definitely would. But it works out ok at the moment. After the kids eat, hubby finds their clothes and dresses them while I feed the baby and tidy the kitchen. There is usually a bit of TV, while the last rushing around is done. At some point the baby gets changed and dressed and fed her morning solids – usually her big sister helps out here.
Miraculously we all end up in the car at the exact time I planned to. Everyone is fed, clothed and happy. Well, unless Mr 3 has suddenly decided that he REALLY NEEDS to wear his dinosaur slippers to daycare, which are too small for him anyway, and proceeds to have a dino-sized meltdown. (Not kidding, this happened the other day).
The morning does feel chaotic when you’re in it. But, incredibly, having the lists, sharing the jobs, knowing the routine really makes all the difference to how survivable it actually is. I never feel like I’m going to run out of time. I never forget anything or am late. And there is something very empowering about starting your day, already having achieved so much.
Especially if you even managed matching socks.