Getting your child out the door in the morning, on time

If you have school-age children, you’re well aware that some mornings can be difficult. Even highly organized children have a few mornings each month where there is a melt down and things fall apart.

Here are a few tips to help get your children (and you) out the door on time:

Is your child getting enough sleep? When children go through growth spurts, they often need more sleep than at other times. If their courses are more difficult this year than in the past, they might need more sleep to mentally process all that they’re learning. Talk with your child’s pediatrician to determine what is the best amount of sleep for your child.

Are parents ready before children? It’s easier to help your child in the morning if you’re already up and prepared for your day. The younger the child, the more important this is.

Have you planned for 15 extra minutes? No matter the day, you should always plan an extra 15 minutes into your morning schedule. Don’t have a super tight schedule, because if things go wrong your child will be late for school. When an emergency arises, it’s wonderful to have the additional time.

Are materials set the night before? Clothes, packed backpack, extra curricular sports or dance bag, lunch (in the refrigerator, but ready to go), and whatever materials your child needs for the next day should be prepared before your child goes to bed.

Do you have an “out-the-door” checklist? All children (and even adults) can benefit from a checklist for what to remember in the mornings. I recommend typing up the checklist and laminating it. Then, let your child use a dry erase marker or a wax pencil to check items off the list before heading out the door. You can also add special items to the list (Don’t forget your signed grade card!) when there are daily items your child needs to remember. Older children might not need to physically check items off the list, but they should stop and review it mentally.

Do you scream or sing in the morning? The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin recommends in “Tips for being a more light-hearted parent” to “Sing in the morning. It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone—particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.” Keeping a light-hearted mood can help inspire your kids to also have positive outlooks — which can help set the morning tone.

Is everything okay at school? If you’ve tried every piece of advice for getting your child out the door on time and still can’t do it, you might want to talk to your child’s teacher or a trusted person at your child’s school. There might be a bigger issue you need to investigate (abuse, bullying, isolation, etc.).

Check out Unclutterer’s “Don’t forget your materials” and the comments to the post for additional tips and tricks. Good luck!

29 Comments for “Getting your child out the door in the morning, on time”

  1. posted by Adventure-Some Matthew on

    This is not only good advice for those with children, but for anyone who has to get out the door on time themselves. As a college student, many of these apply to me.

    I finally acknowledged that it takes me more time to get ready than I wanted to admit. So now I get up earlier than I need to and have time to slowly get ready for the day (it does help that I don’t have such early classes as I used to).

    Part of my getting ready procedure includes gathering materials, looking over the list of what I need, and reorganizing my todo list; all the night before. This is such a stress reliever! I can just grab my bag and be ready to go in the morning, without worrying about what I’ve forgotten.

  2. posted by Jude on

    My kids are teenagers now with complete responsibility for getting themselves out the door. When they were younger, one of the interesting ways I’d make sure they were awake was to play recordings of overtures & fanfares, or sing “morning” songs. No one could successfully stay in bed when the William Tell Overture was resounding through the house. They also especially liked Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man or when I sang Irving Berlin’s “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning.” It made the process more fun for me.

  3. posted by Carmen on

    Now I have 2 5-yo and 1 7-yo in school this year. We did the morning checklist thing by giving them each their own dry-erase board. They have an evening checklist to “prepare for tomorrow” and a morning “out the door” checklist. The little ones can’t read yet, so we have pictures next to the words. So far, it’s working great. I like that I don’t have to keep track of what they have done or not in the morning. I just keep track of whether they have completed their checklist or not. So far, much less yelling in the morning than last year.

  4. posted by Dawn F on

    Might I also suggest that breakfast items be prepared and/or set out the night before as well. If your child is having cereal and toast in the morning then set out a bowl and plate on the kitchen counter and put the placemat, napkin, spoon and vitamin (or whatever applies) on the table. Breakfast can be a snap if you’re prepared in the night before plus it avoids the likelihood of running out of time and simply driving through a fast-food place to get something and scarfing it down in the car.

    Also I would suggest to parents that they read their children’s school papers the evening before so there are no surprises about what is planned the following day(s) – is there an event to attend or a permission slip to sign or a baked good requested for a bake sale? Don’t wait until the morning of a school day to find out – read the papers and review newsletters, teacher’s notes, etc. the evening before.

    Thanks for this interesting and timely post, Unclutterer! I look forward to reading all of the comments, suggestions and advice from the readers.

  5. posted by Sue on

    I’d like to echo other’s comments that this is also great advice for adults who have trouble getting themselves out the door on time in the mornings.

  6. posted by Morgan on

    These are great tips! I was already packing Preschooler’s lunch the night before (no excuses)! But I need to get better about laying everyone’s clothes out and getting the backpack ready and in the same spot every night.

    Thanks for the tips!!

  7. posted by Sara on

    When I was working and in grad school with a little one in daycare, I printed lists for myself to check off every morning. They included:
    -pump (cleaned & sterilized)
    -clean bottles
    -full bottles for baby
    -food for baby
    -extra clothes for baby
    -extra bibs for baby
    -diapers or other items as needed at daycare
    -lunch for me
    -ice packs for milk
    -school books and homework for my night class

    Believe me when I say I never would have made it without the list to check off!

  8. posted by mydivabydesign - The Diva's Home on

    We also try to have our kids get everything ready for the morning the night before. Lay out clothes, put all homework back in folders and backpacks, find socks and shoes, that kind of thing. It doesn’t always happen, but we try!

  9. posted by Jen on

    Singing in the morning might work for some, but not in our house. Our kids did NOT like to hear me sing, or even hum. For some reason. Strange.

    On a serious note, having everything ready the night before is really a sanity saver, particularly since I am not a morning person and I also have punctuality challenges 🙂

  10. posted by Ramblings of a Woman on

    These are great tips for young and old!
    My kids are mostly grown and gone and I have onadult daughter with 6 kids. We have always been know to be late, and she and I were discussing that recently. Seems that she and I deal with the same issue. That feeling of “I can get ONE more thing done before leaving!” And that one more thing usually runs us right up to the time we are supposed to be out the door, or makes us late! I am trying to walk away from the 1 more thing mentality to hopefully be on time more often!


  11. posted by empty on

    Our kids also hate to hear singing. “STOP SINGING! NO SINGING!” Parental singing inspires a total meltdown.

    However, getting everything ready in advance (lunches made, bags packed, clothing laid out) is the only way we can make it to my son’s school on time; it starts at 7:40am, which is daunting. We are getting better and today we were even a little early–we were actually the second family to arrive, which reflects how difficult Mondays are for everyone.

  12. posted by Wendy on

    I put my alarm clock on the other side of the room to make me get up on time which make the rest of the morning smooth, I am not a morning person. Also establish a routine so the same tasks are done in the same order. The routine means I don’t have to think and I remember to do everything I need to do to get out the door on time.

  13. posted by Lea on

    Apart from my eldest needing huge amounts of sleep (her light goes out first, to her huge frustration) and being hard to wake, we’ve never had any morning problems here.
    Bags are packed the night before, then we just get up, dress, eat, clean teeth and out the door.

    But – ask you paediatrician how much sleep a child needs??? How would (s)he know? If kiddo is hard to wake in the morning, they need to go to bed earlier, despite complaint. Repeat the increases until they aren’t hard to wake.
    (My only problem with this theory is eldest seems to need 15 hours of sleep a day, and there just isn’t enough time for that. We try to make it up on the weekend)

  14. posted by Jay on

    My children (6 and 3) attend school in Maryland. Our county has been waging a battle against truancy. The teachers are required to send any late student (unless a bus ran late) to the principal’s office to receive a late pass. The schools keep track of how often a child is late. (What they do with this information in beyond me.)

    Some things that have helped us: the kids take a shower/bath the night before; we put their knapsacks/school work in the same spot to grab on the way out; and my wife makes their breakfast and lunch.

    All the kids have to do in the morning is eat breakfast, get dressed, grab their knapsacks, and head out the door.

  15. posted by Jay on

    I forgot brushing their teeth.

  16. posted by Marsanne on

    I find that it doesn’t really take me very long to get ready in the morning. I have a problem getting out of bed – I just keep hitting the snooze button. But once I’m up, I’m up until I’m ready to go back to sleep. It’s my kids that have the problem getting ready. They get up relatively quickly, but then lollygag around the house, aimlessly looking for items that are in plain sight. However, we’ve finally gotten to a point in our lives where it doesn’t take everyone an hour to get ready to start the day.

  17. posted by Jen on

    @ Lea

    If you are serious about your eldest needing 15 hours of sleep a night, has her doctor ruled out a medical condition? There are numerous conditions that might cause this (eg hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, narcolepsy & others).

  18. posted by Preeti @ Heart and Mind on

    This has not been a big problem so far for us, as my kids were younger. My my oldest is starting KG, so this sure matters, we homeschool, so life is little simpler but still some days are hard to get ready and get out, these tips can be surely useful.

  19. posted by henave on

    Where I live, there is an almost 2 hr delay btw the start of elem school and middle school. I get up at 5:30, get the 4th grader up at 6 and on the bus by 6:45,get the husband up at 6:30 and out by 7, get the 7th grader up by 7:10 and on the bus by 8:30. It’s nuts! The high school bus comes in btw the elem and middle school. I know parents who have kids is preschool, elem, middle and high school all w/ different schedules. We do not do extra-curricular activities-thank goodness.

  20. posted by Jen on

    @Lea – I agree that the pediatrician may not have a clue how much sleep your child needs, both because it’s so variable between children (and adults), and because a lot of pediatricians don’t put enough importance on sleep in my opinion. But most children are infinitely more pleasant when they are well-rested. They will also be generally more healthy too, and require you to take less time off to take them to the doctor and stay home with them for various pinkeye/strep type infections. I have found that kids who don’t get enough sleep have much worse immune systems than those who do, and I don’t have room in my life for the added time and expense that this adds – so I make sure my 4 year old is in bed by 7:30 most nights. My in-laws think I’m crazy and too strict because of it.

  21. posted by WilliamB on

    My mornings go more smoothly when I lay out my clothes, pack my bag (reading materials, snack resupplies, etc), and pack my lunch the night before. I know this. So why don’t I do it every night? Makes me angry and frustrated with myself.

  22. posted by JenO on

    For the record, I am the Jen who posted 2 comments on 9/13. A different person posted as Jen on 9/14. 🙂

  23. posted by JenO on

    @ WilliamB

    The only way I could get myself in this habit was to realize it takes me twice as long to do it in the morning because I am so slow getting around; in the evening it takes far less time. So if I have to do it one way or the other, I choose the way that eats up less of my leisure time. It becomes a habit pretty quickly and then it takes even less time. Not saying it would work for you, but – who knows!

  24. posted by Jen L on

    @JenO – I guess we’re used to not being the only Jen around by now 😉

  25. posted by JenO on

    @ Jen L – So true!

  26. posted by LB on

    If your child snores, moves around in the bed a lot, wets the bed, or even has impulse control problems, it’s worth having an ENT look at their adenoids and tonsils. If these glands are too large, it gives the kids sleep apnea. While they may lay in their beds asleep all night, their bodies cannot fall into the deepest sleep b/c they can’t breathe properly. This often prevents them from being able to wake themselves to go to the bathroom. Also children CANNOT control their behavior without sufficient amounts of sleep. I’m convinced that some (not all, don’t flame me) of our pandemic of ADHD/ADD diagnosis are attributable to lack of sufficient amounts of quality sleep. Remember when everyone got their tonsils out and we rarely heard of ADD? Now no one gets them out, and people also I think in general don’t put their kids to bed early enough for several reasons, and we have rampant ADD.

  27. posted by Andrea on

    On mornings my kids are really hard to get out of bed, I let my husband “practice” his trumpet. He’s really really bad. As soon as they’re up, he’ll put it away. It works wonders! The other day, both of my kids were grumping about getting out of bed and I said, “Uh-oh, I guess I’ll have Daddy go get the trumpet.” And they were both up and dressed within seconds!

  28. posted by Homestead on

    Half a cup of frozen marbles in the bed…. that will get them out of it.

    No seriously.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet that works for us is a breakfast plan. Fridays are always junky cereal. Thursdays are toast. Mondays are waffles or something we baked that weekend. Wednesdays are “non-traditional” so they eat chicken nuggets or leftover pizza. That kind of thing. I also try to make my kids eat some sort of fruit and some sort of protein with breakfast.

    There is nothing worse than the blank and sleepy stare while they try to think of something they want to eat for breakfast.

  29. posted by Tamara on

    @ Jen
    How do you manage to have your child in bed by 7:30pm? I’m having hard time putting my 6 yr old in bed by 9, and she still tosses and turns till 10 pm most of time.

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