Getting out of the house on time is nearly impossible with children! There was a period of time when I constantly raised my voice before 8 a.m. That is not the way I wanted to start our day, so I came up with a new plan that actually works (most of the time). Everything turned a corner when I thought about things from my children’s perspective. What’s in it for them? Why should they want to cooperate?
Need help getting your family out the door? Try adding these FIVE simple tips and tricks to your morning get out of the house routine:
1. Picture Schedules
Kids like routine and they do best when they know what to expect. Making a picture schedule helps them understand what their morning will look like and what they are expected to do. To make a picture schedule, print a pre-made schedule from online, or make your own by drawing or printing off the steps, or take pictures of your kid doing the steps and print them out.
Keep the steps simple, like: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, take vitamin, gather lunch, gather backpack, and get in bus/car. Hang the schedule somewhere at their eye-level so they can interact with it easily.
This is key! For me, the motivation for getting out of the house on time is arriving to work on time, but what’s the motivation for kids? Make it motivating and they will participate much more willingly. For my kids, the motivation is getting to pick a favorite song on the car ride and getting their gummy vitamin. Stickers, high fives, stamps, jumping to the car, a snack or toy in the car, or a special prize or a treat can all be options.
Kids enjoy earning things and the more fun and positive we can keep routines, the more compliant they will be. Younger kids (ages 1-4) do best with immediate rewards. Older kids (4+) can usually handle earning something over time. A sticker chart on the back of the front door worked well for us.
Streamlining the things I need to get done in the morning helps increase my patience with the kids. We make extra waffles, pancakes, sausage, and hard boiled eggs on the weekends (most of the time) to have as breakfast during the week. Occasionally, we have a breakfast-in-the-car day, and my kids are delighted when this happens!
4. Getting Dressed
Avoiding clothing conflicts can make mornings much smoother. Try picking out clothes the night before, or making a rule that they must get dressed before coming downstairs in the morning. Keep coats, backpacks, and shoes by the back door so they are ready to go when it’s time to head out. This drastically improves our ability to get out of the house on time.
5. Lower Your Expectations
This is a big motto in our house. Sure, it would be awesome if our kids dressed themselves, cleaned up their dishes, and put their pajamas in their room. But sometimes it’s too much for them. If your kid is really struggling with part of their morning routine, consider making it easier. If getting dressed is always a battle, have them put their pants on and you do the rest. If they won’t clean up their dishes, have them clean up their cup while you get their plate. The point is to create good habits and help them feel successful on a consistent basis. Once they are rolling, it will be easier to help them grow into new responsibilities.
Mornings are much more pleasant in our house now that my kids know what they need to do and what their reward is for doing it. When all else fails, the kids are wearing whatever they or I can find that’s clean and they are eating something that resembles breakfast in the car, but at least we are getting out of the house on a happy note!
Jessica is a pediatric occupational therapist and owner of The Wiggle Room, an indoor play space for all abilities in the Hollywood neighborhood. Jessica’s greatest passion is helping children and their families live a great life no matter what their abilities. She loves spending time with her husband and two boys walking in their NE Portland neighborhood, at the beach, or on their sailboat. Day dates, DIY projects that actually get completed, naps, and consignment shops also make her smile.