Get Your Kids Out the Door: 10 Tips for a Smoother Start to the Day


Far from your kids’ fairy tales where woodland creatures help make their bed and breakfast, real-life mornings are often stressful. Fortunately, a smart parent can implement a number of tips and tricks to make mornings go by as smoothly as buttercream! No more yelling to get out the door.

A smooth and efficient morning routine sets the tone for a productive day ahead. Here are 10 strategies parents can implement for a smoother morning routine!

1 - Minimise morning tasks

Here’s the most basic morning prep rule: Everything that doesn’t absolutely need to be done in the morning should be done at night.

For example, showers need to be taken in the morning. But choosing and assembling outfits can be done at night. Breakfast definitely has to be eaten in the morning, but making breakfast and even setting the table can be done at night (extra tip: invest in recipes for overnight, eat-on-the-go breakfasts!). Loading the car must be done in the morning, but packing school bags and briefcases can be done at night, with all bags set by the door before bed.

The surefire way to minimise time on morning tasks is to have less of them!

2 - Do YOU first

Picture this: if your kids woke up before you did, you’d be getting out of your bed in a hurry to catch up with them and supervise. You’d be groggy, disoriented, and more than a little cranky - not a good energy to start everyone’s day with!

In contrast, waking up 15-30 minutes ahead of the chaos means you’ll rise at your own pace, take your time in the bathroom, savour your coffee, and double-check your to-do list. Setting aside time to fulfill your own needs first fills your cup so you’re able to focus 100% on your family’s needs later.

Your kids look to you to lead and respond to your energy, so make sure that your energy is calm and centered. A calmer parent will result in calmer kids, yielding calmer mornings for the whole household.

3 - Wake your kids with giggles

Now that you’ve woken yourself up gently and pleasantly, pay the favour forward to your kids. Kids can view mornings negatively - possibly for the rest of their lives - if they associate them with jarring alarm clocks, rushed meals and showers, and naggy parents yelling at them to hurry up.

Put in the effort to make mornings a positive time of day. Wake your child with sweet words, a happy tone of voice, and perhaps a tickle or two. Parenting instructor Kate Orson calls this “giggle parenting”. Say something encouraging - “Great job brushing your teeth on your own!” - whenever they complete a task to keep the positive mood going. And if they get upset and make a fuss, go back to giggles to distract them from whatever is making them resistant, and enlist their cooperation.

4 - Use checklists

Save time on running back into the house because someone has forgotten something. Make lists and post them in a visible area, such as the kitchen or by the door before you leave. A list for the adults might go: keys, wallet, phone, charger, lunch, briefings. A list for kids might include: homework, schoolbooks, lunch, coat. Younger kids might need pictures to go along with words.

5 - Have consistent proper places

Proper places for EVERYTHING will save time and endless questions like “Mum, where’s the toothpaste?” or “Mum, where are my shoes?” in the morning. Make certain your kids know where things can be found - and must be returned in - common areas like the kitchen and bathroom.

Assemble a “drop area” for the kids to put their school bag at night. Install pegs for coats and a place to store shoes by the door so they’re ready to grab in the morning. For you and your spouse, set out a dish or tray that holds your keys, watch, and wallet. Everyone simply divests themselves of everyday items in the drop area when they get home, and you’re all assured you’ll find them in the same place the next morning.

Over time, keeping things in their proper places won’t just make mornings in your house smoother, but will instill a lifelong habit of being organised and efficient in your kids!

6 - Set your schedule to music

Get ready in the morning to some lively music! Parent trainer Katherine Firestone of the Fireborn Institute suggests that you build a morning playlist with your children, starting with chill tunes that get increasingly faster with every song. For best effects, incorporate the same playlist into your routine. Kids can adjust their pace to whatever song is playing - a song might normally play when they’re getting dressed, so if they’re still stuck in the bathroom by then, they’ll know they need to catch up. The last song should get them so hyped, they’ll know it’s time to jump up and rush out the door!

7 - Gamify it

Make things even more fun by turning mornings into a game. Think game shows with timed challenges like Minute to Win It, but for your routine! Write up a schedule to keep your kids on track. For example: 7:10 - Use the bathroom. 7:20 - Get dressed. 7:30 - Eat breakfast. 7:50 - Put shoes and coat on. 8:00 - Grab school bag and lunch, and head out the door. Then use an egg timer to count down each task. Watch as your kids cut down on their dawdling and concentrate on finishing tasks to beat the timer! Give them little prizes or treats when they get through the morning on time to keep this strategy rewarding and effective.

8 - Whisper instead of yell

Of course, even with safeguards in place, not all mornings will be perfect. When you find yourself losing your temper, resist the urge to raise your voice. Instead, the more frustrated you get, tone your voice down so you’re whispering instead of yelling. Your kids will be able to tell from your voice that you’re losing patience without the situation turning aggressive. Never say anything you don’t mean - the effects of a bad morning will only last a day, but the effects of an unkind word could impact your kids for years.

9 - Practice on off days

If you’re trying to implement a new routine and your kids are having trouble picking up on it, practice on the weekend. Take advantage of the low-stress environment to explain each step of the routine to your kids, and listen to their feedback. The routine should be focused on them, after all, so allow them to voice out their reactions, then teach them to take responsibility by letting them be part of finding solutions.

Once you’ve got a routine down, remember that weekends and vacations aren’t an excuse for anyone to get sloppy! Even if you’re going somewhere fun on your off days, make sure the kids still prep their things at night and put stuff in proper places. On the last days of vacation, rehearse your normal school routine again so that nobody’s shocked when school starts.

10 - Maximise your evenings

Finally, review your household’s evening routine. Do you leave dishes stacked to be washed at the same time you make breakfast? Take an extra ten minutes at night to do them so you can start the morning with a clean slate.  Are you putting off reviewing school letters and permission slips for the morning? Sign and tuck them into the right school bags at night. And most importantly - is everyone getting enough sleep?

Well-rested kids and parents will be less sluggish and cranky in the mornings. Refer to this sleep chart. If you find your kids aren’t getting the right number of hours of sleep before it’s time to wake up, work on adjusting your evening routine as well so they’ll have an earlier bedtime. Tweaking your morning and evening routines will take some time, but a few rocky weeks of adjusting will be worth starting every day thereafter with mornings as smooth as clockwork. ■