Getting out the door in the morning with two pre-schoolers can be a struggle for our family. More often than we’d like, Matt and I roll out of bed and begin the mad dash to get ready the second we hear our kids stirring upstairs. And the chaos begins. Together, Matt and I tag team the check list (while taking turns getting ourselves ready): Negotiate weather appropriate clothing. Hair and teeth brushed. Locate shoes for each kid (seriously, how do these get lost every dang day?) and ask them 14 times to put them on. Backpacks packed. Double check backpack inventory to avoid running back home for Elmo. Serve semi-healthy breakfast…and then clean it up after it’s inevitably spilled on the floor. Where are Tom’s glasses? Plead with kids to hurry up and get in the car. Now we’re late. And I’m frazzled. And yelling.
And then the worst part – the wave of guilt post drop-off after a stressful morning. I feel horrible about how I set the tone for the day for our entire family.
Not every day is like that though. On the days that we exercise our routine everyone is happier. Having a good routine streamlines our morning and makes all the difference in starting our day off on the right foot. And it helps me be a better wife and mom.
So today I’m sharing 5 tips that help our morning routine run smoother. I know these tips may not be for everyone, but these are what we’ve found work best for our family. And if you have any tips, please share them in the comments!
1. Prepare as much as possible the night before.
As part of our bedtime routine we have the kids pick out their outfits for the next day. After the kids go to bed I empty out their backpacks (so I can toss artwork in the trash without getting caught) and repack them. I also complete and pack any forms, paperwork, checks, etc. they need for pre-school. Then, in the same spot every day I set aside everything that needs to go out the door in the morning — backpacks, shoes (& socks), all my bags and snacks for work, keys, sticky notes with reminders, etc.
Prepare the coffee! Hearing the coffee pot timer go off a few minutes before my alarm helps me get out of bed in the morning. It’s like a little reward I have to look forward to.
Straighten the house. Matt and I can’t go to bed unless the kitchen is clean and the house is picked up. This is not a deep clean. We take just a few minutes to do a quick toy pick-up, flip or fold a load of laundry and I always sweep the kitchen floor up from dinner crumbs. We both really love waking up to a clean house.
2. Set a bedtime alarm and wake up before the kids.
This is the one we struggle with the most but is the most impactful when we execute it. I need 8 hours of sleep each night but can easily be convinced to watch just one more episode of whatever we’re currently binge watching on Netflix. So I set a bedtime alarm which is automatically calculated based off of the hours of sleep you need and the time you want to wake up. I love this iPhone feature (under the clock app) and as soon as I hear the bedtime ding we turn the TV off.
As for waking up before the kids, this is truly the best way for me to get a head start on my day. And if I can squeeze in a few moments of quiet time, get dressed, makeup and hair done and have a cup of coffee in me before they come bouncing down the stairs I find I am much more patient throughout the morning. On the weekends I get up two hours earlier to blog and it’s some of my happiest and most productive time.
*Side tip: In my attempt to get Thomas to sleep in his bed throughout the night again I read an awesome tip for kids, but I think it’s also equally applicable for adults. Try not to let your bedtime or wake up time fluctuate more than an hour on the weekends. By staying up too late or sleeping in too long it throws your body off track for the work week.
3. Make the bed.
This is a habit of Matt’s that he has in turn taught our kids. It’s a quick and simple task to do that jump starts your day with a sense of accomplishment and sets a productive tone. It’s also a habit that can lead to other good habits. And at the end of a long day, it’s always nice to come home to a bed that’s made. Thanks, Matt!
*Side note: One of Matt’s favorite books that he keeps on his bedside table is “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe The World,” written by Navy SEAL commander Admiral William McRaven. He explains how making your bed every morning can have a profound impact on your well-being and behavior throughout the rest of the day.
4. Create a morning routine for the kids.
On our best mornings, Thomas and Caroline know not to get out of their beds until their alarm clock goes off. Once they’ve gotten the green light they are supposed to make their beds, go potty, brush their teeth and get dressed before they come downstairs for breakfast. They know the drill. And on the days they follow the routine it is magic and eliminates a lot of scrambling in the morning. (While we work on getting Thomas to go back to sleeping through the night in his bed right now, we still make him follow the morning routine by sending him upstairs to his room as soon as he wakes up!)
5. Run through schedules.
Every morning Matt and I run through what’s on our calendars for the day while we get ready together in the bathroom. Not only is it nice to know what each other is up to that day and determine who will pick up the kids from daycare, sometimes we’re surprised to see we are both available to grab breakfast or lunch that day. Most days we are too busy to chat outside of a text here and there, so when we can squeeze in a meal together it’s a real treat!
PS — I know I’m going to get a bunch of questions asking “when/how do we exercise”? This is one of the most popular questions I receive every time I write a post like this. Honestly, this depends on the week. I try to get to kickboxing 3x a week. Some weeks I don’t go at all. When I do exercise, I prefer to sleep in and hit the gym after work. However that is not always feasible so some days I go to the gym at 6 am and Matt gets the kids ready while I shower and get dressed for work. Then he leaves for the gym when I get home and I take the kids to daycare. He showers at the gym and walks one flight of stairs down to his office afterwards. We know we should be making this a higher priority because it helps us feel so much better and we tend to eat healthier when we’re exercising, but we’re working on this!
I work full-time from home, so I get out of bed 3 hours before my kids wake up to get a jump start on my day (giving me time to wrap up early and focus just on them when they’re home from school in the afternoons). My husband does the morning routine and breakfast with the kids and then I pause my work to do the school dropoffs.
We have a laminated moring checklist on a clipboard for my son who can get a little distracted in the mornings. He is very motivated to finish the list early and have a few minutes of play time in the morning before he gets on the bus.
I definitely agree that being as prepared as possible (clothes laid out, lunches made, all jackets, hats, shoes by the door) helps us have a less stressful morning for sure.
OMG — THREE HOURS is SO impressive. I thought waking two hours earlier on the weekends was ambitious but you’ve blown my mind. WHAT time do you get up!? Also, I absolutely love the check list and think both of my kids would really love it too. Caroline is so process oriented and Thomas just needs constant reminders of to-dos. haha. I want more of your mommy hacks!! Guest post?! 🙂
I always love these posts! Question: What time do your kiddos usually go to bed and wakeup? Also, how do you get them to do their morning routine without fussing and whining? LOL We’ve been working on making bed, brushing teeth, etc… but all I get are whines and fussing. Help! 🙂
Depends on who is putting them to bed. haha. Matt lets them stay up longer than I do because he’s a total sucker for “just ONE more round of Candy Land!” It’s later than we’d like, but they are usually in bed between 8-8:30 but it takes them FOREVER to fall asleep. Thomas is an early riser — usually up before the sun. As for fussing — I think I do it to my kids more than they do it. haha. I’m constantly asking them “are y’all getting dressed up there?!?!?!” from the bottom of the stairs.
Love getting a glimpse into your mornings! Sounds like you guys have the routine down, which I’m sure is so helpful. Our family thrives off of routine, too!
Structure for the win! 🙂
We keep a basket downstairs (all bedrooms are upstairs) for all kids shoes and clean socks. It eliminates searching for these items in the morning and has been a game changer. We also pick up toys, etc at night, and the most life changing thing — Roomba runs while we’re all sleeping so we wake up to crumb-free floors with no effort!
oh man, a roomba is SUPER high up on my wish list right now. We have a shoe basket when you walk in but have done a terrible job of enforcing the kids to take off their shoes right away and put them in the basket!!! They usually take them off somewhere in my bedroom, leaving sand ALL over my floor, or by the bathtub. We need to get better about using the basket!
Checkout the deebot on amazon. Really well rated. I got mine on Prime day last year and I love it. I can even run it from an app on my phone!
Kelly Franks says
I know it’s not the same as the roomba but we got a refurbished V7 Dyson Cordless Stick Vacuum off ebay and it’s amazing because you can remove the stick piece and it becomes a dust buster…a super powerful dust buster. You can get 8 minutes of use on high suction and 21 mins on low suction. Which is more than enough!
Bekah Walsh says
We recently got a bobsweep pet edition thanks to a special on zulily – a few of us in the neighborhood have and love it. Keep an eye there for better pricing – we saved a LOT!
I totally agree – having as much done the night before makes a huge impact on whether the morning will go smoothly or not…and I don’t even have children yet! 🙂
I was this same way before kids too. 🙂
Jessi's Design says
Whew! With my husband’s railroad schedule, all of this is usually on me (but man its nice to get those extra hands when he is in fact home) but YES to the night before prep. I usually have Andi’s clothes picked out, backpack packed, lunch packed and everything by the door before I go to bed. Luckily I can get ready while she eats breakfast and we’ve perfected this to a 30 min time frame (haha #dreamteam) Thanks for sharing! I always love reading day in the life type posts!
you are super mama!! give me all your secrets! 30 minutes?! that is amazing.
How old is Thomas again? It looks like he independent dresses himself from your post and i am super impressed. My son just turned 3 and gets so distracted when it’s time to get dressed. 😬 I know he’s capable, but it’s a mental battle.
3.5 yo! While he is definitely capable of getting dressed himself IT TAKES HIM FOREVER. Literally, FOREVER. Most of the time Caroline ends up getting him dressed for us because she runs out of patience waiting on him to be ready.
That’s hysterical! Caroline sounds like a future executive in training. Love it!
I have a 5th grader and kindergartener and husband is a fireman so a lot of mornings it just me. This year I have FINALLY learned to make the mornings smoother I have to get up an hour before the kids to get ready then wake them up. I feel more stressed and on edge if we are all rushing to get ready at same time. I also lay out their uniforms , shoes and socks night before. If they pack lunch do night before , have coffee ready to turn on while I walk the dog so it’s also ready. It’s amazing how much smoother our mornings are when everything is ready and I just have to focus on getting to kids ready. I have a job that I clock in to and can not be a minute late. So by me being ready and not stressing it seems there are less meltdowns by all. As far as workouts, I have to do on my lunch break or get up even earlier than I already do. Not happening often!
Oohh, mornings with toddlers! I’m an early bird and a morning person and my kids like to sleep (because they like to go to bed late; they have bad parents), so I do have that going for me. I can manage hair, make up and such before they’re up and like everyone else, know that having as much done the night before is the key to success. I’ve also started trying to negotiate breakfast the night before so I’m not waiting on wishy washy, half asleep tiny persons to agree to the selection and/or have it already semi-prepped and packed in one of their bentgo lunch boxes because for whatever reason they never argue with what’s in the bentgo box (also means some days they eat it in the car on the fly). When L goes to school this fall, life will be terrible for a while hah. Our kids only do preschool a few days each week so we struggle with inconsistency of schedules (and bedtimes!) since they can stay in pjs, eat breakfast later, etc. on Mimi days.
i love the idea of negotiating breakfast the night before!!!! brilliant!
These are all great tips! I have a toddler and a newborn right now, and my tip, at least with a baby, is to build in some personal quiet time LATER in the day, because you just can’t expect to get it in the morning. I make sure that the first hour of my workday has no meetings or obligations so that I can spend that time at my desk drinking coffee and reading blogs or whatever, without taking attention away from my kids or being late.
i love this!!!!!!
Ashley Thayer says
After 2.5 years of constantly reminding my girls it’s time to get shoes on, it finally dawned on me to just set an alarm on the Alexa so I don’t have to do it every morning. I have a 7 and 5 year old. I just set it today for the first time. We’ll see if it actually helps me. Haha. Mornings are rough and I swear 30mins feels like 10min. Now if I could just get them to pack their own lunch I’d be made in the shade. 🙂
I’ve started using alarms on my phone and Alexa for getting ready reminders because I was tired of yelling as well. It seems to be working out well so far. I’m yelling less, anyway.
With a 4 year old and a baby, my mornings only function on routine. My kiddos are in bed by 7PM, so that gives me a solid hour to get everything done before I head to bed myself. Night prep saves my sanity! Thankfully their school provides meals so I’m not making their lunches, only packing breastmilk. I agree with Ashley – we use Alexa to set timers through out the morning to keep the preschooler (and lets be honest – myself) on track. He knows that if he’s not done before the timer goes off, he doesn’t get to start the Roomba before he leaves for school. Pushing that button is the highlight of his day!
One big thing we started a few years ago is picking up the house before reading stories and going to bed. Our 4 year old picks up all of his toys and his room before bed each night. Going to sleep with a clean house is the B.E.S.T feeling.
I drop my 18 month old at daycare at 6:30 am. I’m a nurse so I have to be at work by 6:45. I workout most days I work so that has me getting up at 4:15-4:30. I do it in the basement so I don’t have to go anywhere. We get her up at 5:50/6 and are out the door by 6:15. I just have to make my coffee (!!!!!), lunch and have her a little snack for the road. I do a lot of food prep on my off days. I think back to my days of nursing and wonder how the heck I did it with pumping etc; my daughter is Caroline by the way. Longtime reader, first time poster! Despite not getting home till after 8 on work days I’m thankful for my off days! I also do a timed 15 minute pick up at night after she goes to bed. She sleeps from 6:30/7-till we wake her up so I have no excuse. I’m also a major meal planner. So helpful even before we had a baby.
Im a mom to a just-turned-5 preschooler, a 2.5 year old, and a 4 month old. My husband leaves for work at 5:45am so I’m on my own in the mornings. I’m still getting up in the middle of the night to pump for my baby (I have lowish supply so I have to do this to keep my supply up), so getting up much earlier than the kids is so hard, but since I am on my own, if I don’t then mornings are train wrecks. I need to be up at least 1.5 hours before the bigger kids so I have time to nurse the baby and get myself showered and dressed. I would love to workout in the mornings but it’s too hard right now – when I stop pumping at night I probably will.
I never go to bed without doing everything possible to make the mornings faster. I even pour their morning milks in cups with lids the night before. Saving even seconds here or there gives me less to remember and do and just makes it less tense in the morning so I’m not yelling about being late so much.
My 5 year old hates getting up in the mornings and moves so slowly that I end up dressing her most mornings just to keep things moving. I need to figure out a way to motivate her to be more independent and efficient.
I brush and do their hair while they’re eating breakfast. That might be kind of unsanitary to do hair in the kitchen near food but it saves soooo much time.
And I always start the coats/shoes process 10 minutes before I think I should because it often takes longer than I think it should to get out the door. (We have a slightly different schedule everyday.) About half the time we are early but that’s okay!