Updated: Apr 1, 2019
by Stephanie Mitton
Does your family have a hard time getting out the door? Are you yelling your head off and worrying that you are giving your children psychological scars? Are your kids ignoring you?
This post will keep your family calm AND get out of the house in 30 minutes.
My kids get on the bus at 7:22 am. That's early. And there is no time for fooling around. Here’s what I’ve done to get my family out the door in record time.
Tricks to our (mostly) successful morning routine:
1. Analyze your schedule
Take the time to write down what you need to do each morning and how long it REALISTICALLY takes to do it. Are you trying to do too many things? Can you do something differently?
Maybe you’re in a season of life with young kids and you have to get to work on time. And maybe that means hot breakfasts with bacon and pancakes everyday aren’t an option right now (see Number 7: Keep Breakfast Simple).
2. Make a new schedule and KEEP TO IT
Our morning routine unfolds like this:
6:50 am. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast. Our kids usually wake up on their own. We have never had the need for an alarm clock since it is so rare that they sleep in, But an alarm clock can be a helpful tool if you’re kids don’t already consistently wake up on time.
7:10 am. Brush teeth and do hair.
7:15 am. Outdoor clothes on and backpack prep (give or take some time for sunscreen or winter gear... we do live in Canada).
7:20 am. Out the door for the bus which comes at 7:22 am.
7:23. Celebrate your on-time awesomeness!
Maybe your family will need more than 30 minutes, and that's okay. Everyone's morning routine will look different. For example, we don't have a dog, so we don't need extra time for a dog walk in the morning. Also, my kids are 5 and almost 8 so they require limited assistance getting ready. Generally this is a plan that my husband and I can tackle completely on our own, so if one of us is away the routine doesn’t have to change. All that being said, make a plan that works for YOU.
3. Ring a ding ding
Seriously. This works.
I set alarms on my cell phone for the time intervals outlined in our above schedule. Everyone in the family knows that when the alarm goes off it’s time to transition to the next thing. At the beginning you may need to share what that alarm means (I often still do) but that will decrease over time. The alarms cut down on yelling or even having to remember when you need to be doing what, without worrying about the time.
4. Work hard, play hard
Teach your kids that they can play after the work is done. And make sure you and your partner practice what you preach.
Parenting expert Amy McCready recommends this technique:
“A When-Then Routine is a tool to help your kids stay motivated to get everything done in the morning—even the “yucky” stuff like brushing teeth and getting dressed.”
My kids don't have a lot of time to play in the morning (have I told you their bus comes at 7:20 am!). My rule has always been they can play in the morning but only after they’re ready for school. Their bus used to be later, and the same rule applied. If they were slow pokes, they had no play time. It was up to them if they had time or not.
5. Night prep
You probably already know this, but do as much as you can the night before, when you’re not a walking un-caffeinated zombie. This includes laying out clothes for the next day, making lunches, signing homework or permission slips. Many parents hate making lunch the night before but it WILL make everyone's morning smoother. Try it!
6. Get ready before the kids
I have spent most of my career with a professional position outside of the home (now I work from home, lucky me). I would get up early and get myself mostly ready for the day. This allowed me to do the things that I enjoyed like doing my hair and makeup (although quickly) before everyone got up. Depending on if I wash my hair or use dry shampoo (side note, dry shampoo is amazing) I can get ready in an estimated 30 minutes. In more ambitious periods of life, I have even got up extra early and exercised. One step at a time folks…
7. Share responsibility
Split up morning tasks between everyone. Depending on your kids ages, they may be able to do most things themselves. I am raising my children to become responsible adults. If my children are able to do tasks on their own, then they need to.
My oldest recently told me she doesn't want me to remind her what she has to do. So we worked together and created a visual chart of what they have to do before bed and in the morning. They follow it themselves, I don't nag, everyone is happy!
Like this post and comment below with your email address if you want a copy of my responsibility chart. It's made a big difference in our home and I'd love to share it with you!
8. Keep breakfast simple
Keeping breakfast simple will save you SO much time. For example cereal, bagels, smoothies, fruit and yogurt can be great weekday meals, while eggs and bacon and pancakes are better for weekends. If you can't do this, prepare ahead of time, e.g. cook eggs on the weekend and reheat or make hard boiled as they last for days. I find eating simpler is often healthier anyways!
9. Future proof
Be reasonable. If you were taking 1.5 hours to get ready in the morning, changing your schedule to 30 minutes is not going to work.
Also, talk to your kids ahead of time about the changes you want to make to your routine and why. Make them a part of the process and you may find that they are happy to participate. My kids appreciate the responsibility, and yours may too. Tell them ideally it means less nagging and fighting and yelling in the morning, everyone will have a better start to their day.
The final word
Be kind to yourself. It WILL take time for your family to adjust, consistency is key, of course adjust as necessary but things will NOT change over-night.
I hope these tips and tricks help you get your kids out the door in 30 minutes.
Stay in touch
Do you have other tips and tricks you use for your morning routine? I would love to hear about them. Leave your comments below.