school morning routines, how to teach your kids to get ready for school on autopilot

Before my kids mastered our morning routine, our mornings were a bit…hectic, to say the least. There was chaos everywhere, lost or forgotten items, fights to get dressed and put on shoes, tons of nagging, lots of late arrivals and more yelling than I’d care to admit. Sound anything like your house? I hated the school year and how hard every morning had become. And I did not like the person I was either. Grumpy, yelling, and basically setting my kids up to have bad days. I’ll be honest, it sucked. But what if there was a way you could make school mornings easier and  teach your kids to get ready for school on autopilot? Spoiler alert – there is! 🙂

Let me paint you a picture of a recent morning in our house that, in spite of having the potential to become one of the crappiest (pun intended – you’ll learn why) mornings ever, we managed with ease.

It was my birthday. My little girls were eating breakfast. The big kids were up and getting ready for school. I had just tossed in a load of laundry when I heard some giggling and excitement.

“What a nice gift,” I thought to myself. “The kids are all in good moods for my birthday.”

The excitement got more intense as I headed back upstairs. I laughed to myself thinking they must be planning a sweet sur-

“Mom! Mom! The toilet is clogged and the water is filling up the bathroom!!”

– prise?

I raced up the stairs to assess the situation and was met with the unfortunate reality that the story was correctly reported, and dirty toilet water had in fact been spewed all over the floor. The toilet threatened to continue adding more, complete with all the waste components one would normally strive to avoid at all costs.

Here’s where I’m going to pause the story and tell you that this morning could have gone one of two ways.

I could have lost my sh*t (which, in all honesty, wouldn’t have been that inappropriate given the situation), and the morning would have been similar to those of our past with lots of chaos, nagging, running late, forgotten items and yelling.

Happily, that is not what happened.

After giving myself a minute to absorb the situation I was able to don the required protective gear, track down the tools, fix the toilet and deal with the disgusting mess. And my kids were able to get themselves ready for school with very little intervention needed from me.

In our house, this is huge! My older two are very easily distracted and following steps to get ready for school independently is a complex hurdle we have been working very hard to overcome. We had been implementing and tweaking our morning routine for the past month, and that day, all of that hard work really paid off!

Routines work, friends. And, because I have a solid rhythm for myself every night and every morning, we were a step ahead. Lunches were already packed and ready. The kids already had their clothes picked out. I am officially  organized enough to know exactly which tools are where and was able to clean up the mess, fix the toilet, sterilize the bathroom, get myself ready, get the kids to school on time with all of their materials, get my littles dressed and make it to my workout class with time to spare!

How did we go from A (mornings that sucked) to B (a great day in spite of a crappy situation)? A routine that finally works!

Want to achieve a similar miracle in your house? Here’s how to establish a solid morning routine for your kids:

Understand what resonates with your kids.

Prior to our current routine, I had some posters with cute pictures hanging upstairs in the kids’ bedrooms and downstairs where they would eat breakfast. They were cute, but after about a week or so, they just became decorations. When we made the simple tweak of writing out the steps on our white board and having them check off each item as they completed it, it started to translate from something to read, to something to do. They started learning and understanding what was expected of them and how to do it.

Don’t assume your kids can’t handle something just because you have always done it.

Give them responsibilities like packing their own snacks/water/school supplies. This is how they take ownership of this routine and can quickly see how it affects them. It empowers them to want to do it well.

Set a timer.

When my easily distracted children become side-tracked, I just remind them that we are racing the timer and tell them how much time is left. They like to beat it so this is good motivation, plus, they understand that the quicker they get through all the steps, the more time they might have to play before we head off to school.

Practice make perfect.

The first few weeks are not going to be seamless, but after a while, they will learn and remember what they need to do. With a few gentle reminders if they get off task, they will soon be able to handle the bulk of their tasks completely on their own each morning. Including making breakfast!

Here’s why it works:

Kids thrive on routines.

  • Routines help them know what to expect.
  • They’re empowered to be independent and responsible.
  • Routines make kids feel accomplished when they succeed and encourage them to take on even more responsibility because they feel like they can contribute and are valued.
  • According to this article from Aha! Parenting, routines allow kids the opportunity to take ownership of their own activities. “This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence. Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional,” it says, which fewer battles for you! 🙂

So, now are you convinced? Believe me, if I can get my four kids and myself smoothly and calmly out the door on a day which was set up to be anything but, you can surely handle it too. All you need is the right routine. If you’d like a little extra guidance to set up some routines for your kids or yourself that work, just click that little button to join my e-mail list and get my free routine generating worksheet.


And, if the idea of figuring out a new routine sounds like another thing to add to your list of things you’ll get to at a quarter to never because you’re so overwhelmed you don’t even know where to start, you might want to check out this post.

Now I’d love to know, what do mornings look like for you? What types of routines are essential in your home?