Now that the school year is winding down I'm pretty proud of the morning routine we've established. It took a few hiccups and some trial and error during the beginning of the school year to make sure things fell into place but we seem to have found a routine that works for us.
I really believe the key to a successful morning begins the night before. In fact, ours starts as early as the afternoon before!
1. Pack lunches the day before (the kids can probably do this!)
Once the big boys get home from school they unpack their lunch bags and repack them almost immediately. They are in charge of their own lunches and have been all year. As a kindergartner and first grader we saw no reason why they shouldn't be making their own simple lunches. We have a basket in the pantry filled with snacks they are allowed to take (fruit snacks, granola bars, crackers, etc), a basket on the counter filled with fruit, often there are cheese sticks and yogurt tubes in the fridge, and sandwich supplies are always available. They know how to layer some ham and cheese on bread and put it in bags, Then they grab two healthy choices and one treat, throw them in their lunch bags, and put the bags in the fridge. Done. One less thing to think about in the morning.
2. Set up any clothes/diapers/bags/etc.
Three of our kids pick out their own clothes but the little boys obviously don't. Plus we use cloth diapers. I try and have any outfits needed, and their diapers set up, before I put them down for the night. This way I'm not trying to assemble a diaper while a kid is on the changing table or trying to decide what to dress them in when I need to be loading them into the car.
This also includes backpacks, shoes, sweatshirts, diaper bags, what have you. We have hooks for the backpacks down by the boys' room and each kid has a cube cubby in the closet by the front door for sweatshirts and shoes. There are many that find homes elsewhere but it's slowly clicking that the cubes are where those items belong. If it's not there it's a good chance to remind the child where things belong and why they have a home.
3. Do a quick clean of the kitchen
In my monthly goals I mention how helpful it is to wake up to a clean sink and now, clean counters. There is nothing distracting me in the morning from getting breakfast started and having quiet time with Jesus if the sink and counters are clean when I wake up. This means that before bed (usually after dinner or right after I get them all in bed) I do a quick wipe down of everything and make sure the dishwasher is loaded (hopefully started) and the hand wash dishes are finished. It makes it so much easier to relax knowing it's done!
4. Have a breakfast plan
Just like knowing what is for dinner long before 5pm rolls around knowing what is for breakfast long before 7am rolls around is pretty much a necessity. I tend to alternate between sweet and savory breakfasts. On many of the sweet days I'll pair muffins or baked donuts with scrambled eggs so I'm not totally loading the kids up on sugar right away. And savory days tend to be biscuits and gravy, omelets, or egg sandwiches. Having an idea the night before is key though. There have been many mornings where I've scrolled through Pinterest for far too long and then realized I had no time to make anything but scrambled eggs and toast. Good? Yes. Fun for this food girl? Not so much.
5. Wake up before the kids
Okay, I'm sure many of you are thinking about how this is impossible or how you have babies so every moment of sleep is extremely precious. I know! I understand and was right where you are just a few short months ago. I couldn't drag myself out of bed because I had been up 2-6 times with the little boys. And waking up before my big kids? Impossible. I'm not sure I've ever done it.
But do your kids know how to stay in their rooms and play quietly?
Our big kids know they are not allowed to come upstairs before their clocks say 7am (and they are set 15 minutes slow to give us some wiggle room). I know I can get out of bed at 630am and I still have 45 minutes before they will bombard me with questions and stories.
The little guys? It's hit or miss if I'm actually up before them. My alarm goes off at 6am and if I get out of bed right away I've usually got 15-30 minutes before them. But I'm an "easer-inner" to the day and tend to hit the snooze once or twice and then they might be up. If they are I'll nurse them for a few minutes and then let them play in the living room while I have quiet time in the kitchen.
Even just 15-30 minutes of time without the kids underfoot while I'm reading my Bible and making breakfast makes a huge difference. I really encourage you to see if it's something that can work for you, even with little kids in the house.
6. Have breakfast on the table by a(n) (approximate) set time
So by now I've got my breakfast plan ready the night before and I'm up before the kids to get it ready. My goal is to always have breakfast on the table between 715am and 725am. This allows us enough time to eat our breakfast and finish our morning routine before heading out the door. I know about how much time each breakfast I make takes to cook so I know when the last possible moment is to get it in the oven or pan to be ready. Some days it gets on the table late, and that's okay. But the mornings that go the smoothest are the ones that fall into this plan.
7. Teach your kids what to do next
Our kids have learned (because we took the time to train them, and are still reminding them) that after they are done eating they ask to be excused, rinse their plate/bowl/silverware, then go brush their teeth. Sometimes we need to remind them but after months of doing it every day they seem to have caught on. This has significantly lessened the amount of times we need to ask, "What are you supposed to be doing?" because they just know. If your kids are younger they might not be able to do the same things as mine but they may be able to place their dishes in the sink, even if they can't rinse them. They can start learning simple tasks that help you out!
8. Give yourself grace when it doesn't go smoothly
There will always be mornings where something got misplaced, breakfast didn't turn out, the alarm got shut off, a kid lost a shoe, etc., etc. Don't lose your cool or pile on the guilt when a morning doesn't run smoothly. Just yesterday we were almost late because one kid forgot to fill out his book log and was doing it after shoving down breakfast as fast as he could and then once we got out the door someone had to run back home to get a water bottle. They made it with about three minutes to spare before the bell rather than the ten or more they usually have.
The point is, no morning will be "perfect" because that doesn't exist. There will be mornings that run smoothly and there will be mornings that feel worse than ever. Give yourself grace and try again tomorrow (or rather tonight) to get things back on track. Different seasons will present different challenges as well. If you are a working mom you may need to have quick grab breakfasts ready versus cooking a breakfast for the family. If your oldest child is still too little to help out on their own, let alone help siblings, perhaps there are ways to simplify other parts. The key is to have a rough plan in place so you know what needs to be done. If you don't? You may end up with the most terrible day ever!
What do you do to set yourself up for a successful morning? Is this an area you struggle in?