When asked what is the key to smooth school mornings with kids, I always give the same short answer. They start the night before!
I am a morning person. I love the potential the early morning brings and the clean slate you have to start with. Over the years we have developed some routines that we at night before we go to bed, which have made school mornings with 5 kids enjoyable and a form of “organised chaos”.
Taking about 30-45 minutes the night before to do these activities, means not only are the stress levels reduced in the house, but that I can get to the gym in the mornings before school, my husband can ride to work a couple a mornings a week and the younger kids and I have time to walk to school most mornings (weather permitting). Here is what we do:
1. Set Table For Breakfast.
We set out the place mats, bowls, spoons, glasses, cereal boxes so all that is required in the morning is for the juice and milk to be taken out of the fridge. This means that everyone can serve themselves as they get up. EDIT: This has changed slightly since we no longer eat breakfast cereal. I make sure everything the kids will need is in the appropriate place. You can read more about our breakfasts here.
2. Prepare Lunch Boxes.
This is by far much easier to the night before than in the morning. You can see my process in detail here at Preparing School Lunches.
3. Complete Notices.
The children have a folder where they place any notices from school when they arrive home. I will fill them in as required and place them in their lunchbox for collection. It is their responsibility to then see that it makes its way to school.
4. Ensure Clean and Available Uniforms/Clothes.
We don’t actually put the clothes out for the school kids, the kids need to do that themselves but my husband and I will will make sure that their uniforms are in the right spot for the children to get them. I will work with the preschooler to lay out clothes for the next day. He is at a stage where he is very particular about what he will and won’t wear. Having them organised the night before means that if he wants to wear his “motorbike t-shirt” that I have the time to calmly find it for him. If I leave this to the morning, I find that this sort of demand more frustrating and time consuming and it starts to build up stress in the house if it takes me some time to locate the desired t-shirt.
5. Un-stack Dishwasher.
Depending on what I have cooked and who we have had to visit, our dishwasher can do 2 -3 cycles in a day. Almost always we put the dishwasher on after dinner and my husband then empties it before bed. As one of the kids’ jobs is to stack the dishwasher in the morning, it is so much easier if it is emptied.
6. General Tidy.
With 5 children, I have realistic expectations about the tidiness of our house. One thing I find really helps is to try and start each day with a relatively tidy house. This doesn’t mean perfection, but means all things back in their place, so when the toddler makes his way into the lounge room for the first time in the morning and starts tipping out the blocks, it is just one layer of toys on the floor!
7. Empty The Bin/s.
We have three small bins inside: rubbish, recycling and compost. It is most likely that one of these will need to be emptied and my husband does a check of these at night. Having them emptied means less running around for me the next day.
8. Check The Calendar.
As dates for events come in, they all go up on the family calendar. Checking it regularly means that I have a better idea of what is coming up and can then make the appropriate plans.
9. Make To Do List.
I find that once I have written down my to do list, I automatically feel more in control of what I have to do the next (few) day/s. It also means that I can plan the best way to prioritise the activities that need to be completed and reduce the level of running around that I do.
10. Wind Down.
It is super beneficial to turn off screens an hour before bed time to ensure you have a good night’s sleep. I take this last part of the night to potter around, read etc, before I hop into bed. This means that I go to bed calmer and feeling more relaxed.
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