Let’s face it, not everyone is a morning person, and even if you are, your kids might not be. Getting to school on time might be a perpetual challenge, or you might hit a rough period when, for whatever reason, it’s just tougher to get out the door on time than it used to be.
If you are looking for some strategies to keep your family organized and on time, we’ve got you covered. Below are suggestions from Lowell parents and teachers of kids age two and up—we hope you find a few tips that work for you!
Twelve Tips for Getting to School on Time
1. Be sure to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to feel ready for the day. What some of our parents do:
- “I have to prepare myself first! So obvious, but I'll never forget when my second son was an infant, and I had to pack both kids up to drive the older son to preschool. I worked so hard to make sure they were ready, had the baby in the car carrier and older son all set with lunch and backpack, then realized that I was still in my pajamas when it was time to walk out the door.”
- “If I’m calm and together, it helps my son feel that way too—so I get up earlier than I need to for a bit of quiet ‘me’ time.”
- “I send [my son] out to the car first because he is a slower mover than me. Having a minute or two of quiet helps me make sure I’m remembering everything I need.”
2. Create a “launch pad” where you can put everything that needs to go out the door in the morning. Having a basket, special cubby, or closet near the front door helps your children identify what needs to get into their backpacks. Consider posting a checklist to help your kids remember the items they will need. The launch pad can help you stay organized, too—forms to return to school, special items that need to be delivered to the class, your own bag, etc. “Keeping that spot sacred and learning to check it each morning before you leave is key!” one parent urges.
3. Do as much as you can the night before. This is by far the most popular piece of advice from our parents and teachers—specifically:
- After dinner is finished, spend a few additional minutes packing your child’s lunch. Better yet, get the kids involved, too. Set up a drawer with easy-to-grab snacks and then put your child on the job of packing his/her/their lunch. They might really get into it (and therefore actually eat it!?) and, it saves you an extra step too. For more tips read The Zen of Making School Lunches.
- Lay out clothes the night before—including socks! This is especially helpful if you have a style-conscious child. One of our parents shares, “Knowing that the options have been pre-selected and are ready to slip on will make the morning run so much more smoothly (and then that leaves time for determining the right accessories!).”
4. Establishing routines—and sticking to them—is a game changer. This includes establishing a regular bedtime. If everyone can go to bed early (easier said than done, we know!), waking up early isn’t as bad. In the morning, make sure everyone knows what should happen when—for example, dress for school and walk the dog before breakfast or vice versa. Whatever makes sense for your family.
5. It helps if there is something fun in the routine. For one of our families, it’s reading the morning comics. Other families rock out to in the car with a motivating soundtrack of favorite songs.
6. Talk with your children about how to get to school on time. There’s a good chance they’ll be more invested in making a solution work if it’s their idea. One mother recounted a time when her son suggested that he wear the next day’s clothes to bed. She admits, “I was squeamish about this, but it helped him and was better than being late!”
7. Help your kiddos learn to manage their time. When your children are learning to do things on their own, they benefit from some concrete strategies. Here are a few:
- Help them figure out how much time they need to get ready and how much to spend on various tasks—15 minutes to shower and brush teeth, five minutes to get dressed, 10 minutes for breakfast, etc.
- If your child needs help tracking time or is easily distracted, try a timer.
- Consider setting clocks 10 minutes ahead or planning to get to school 15 minutes ahead of when you need to. It leaves a cushion for the unexpected!
8. “If riding the bus is an option, take it!” Parents of bus riders say that their kids look forward to meeting up with friends at the bus stop and having time to socialize before the school day begins.
9. Limit the time spent checking phones in the morning. You might even need to establish a no-phone rule until everyone is out the door. Don’t let texts and streaming video get in the way of getting out of the house!
10. Keep a hairbrush in the car. It’s one less thing to do before you leave the house. Kids can also put on shoes and socks in the car if need be.
11. Try not to nag or yell when you’re running late. It can actually slow things down. “I try not to say anything unless I can be encouraging. This is close to impossible, but I try,” one of our parent says. It's going to happen—we all lose it sometimes—so don't worry. Remember, the car ride to school or the walk to the bus stop gives you the opportunity to say to your child, "I'm sorry. That wasn't how I wanted us to start the day. Let's hit the restart button and do things differently tomorrow."
12. Remember to take a deep breath and keep things in perspective. Mismatched socks? Dirty breakfast dishes in the sink? Snack bar in the car instead of a hot breakfast? Sometimes, you just have to let things go!
Have an idea that has worked for your family? We'd like to know! Add suggestions in the comment section.