For many parents, the most challenging minutes of the day hit even before leaving the house.
Getting kids up, dressed, fed and out the door can be a herculean undertaking, especially when adjusting to a new fall routine. My father had to resort to using a vacuum cleaner to roust me out of bed when I was a teenager. (Sorry, Dad!)
Just in time for back-to-school, we asked you to help us identify the best ways to get kids up and out of the house on time.
Get them dressed the night before
For this surprisingly popular hack, parents let their kids sleep in what they plan to wear the next day, thereby getting rid of one of the biggest morning hurdles. Kids’ clothing these days is stretchy and comfy, anyway.
This won’t work for some fashionistas, but it can help skip minutes of crabby indecision for many children. And it’s not just for little kids. Some of the parents we talked to continued having their kids do this until sixth grade.
“Get out of bed and, shazam, you’re dressed!” said mom of three Catherine Clifford of Chevy Chase, Md., who admitted that this hack does make for rumpled clothes. “But really no worse than they would have almost immediately anyway,” she added.
Breakfast first (and sometimes twice)
Parents of kids who are prone to getting hungry often get food in them first before tackling any other task. Minneapolis mom Naomi Olson will even give her daughter a breakfast tray in bed.
“She gets ready so much easier than when I just try to arouse her cold and make her move,” Olson said. “Amazing what food can do!”
One dad said he also keeps healthful morning snacks (fruit leather, etc.) in the car to keep his kids happy en route to school. This can also be a lifesaver if you have a kid who isn’t hungry enough to eat breakfast until it’s too late.
Technology is your friend
Some parents enlist Alexa’s help to rouse kids and keep them on schedule. “I like to tell Alexa to stop the music in ‘X’ amount of minutes. And by then we have to be in the car,” said Leda Baker, a Minnetonka mom of two.
Make it their responsibility, not yours
Some parents write out a list of jobs for their kids to do each morning, so they can check off tasks such as getting dressed, making their bed and brushing their teeth.
“The sooner you push the independence of them doing the essentials on their own, the better off they are,” said Sue Marty, who lives in Osceola, Wis.
Double up on alarms
Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Many parents also set a timer or a second alarm to alert their kids that they need to be getting shoes and coats on now in order to catch the bus.
Proponents say it cuts down on the parental pleading and yelling.
“It’s not Mom nagging you that it’s time to go, it’s just reality!” said mom Cailin O’Connor of Madison, Wis.
Ryan Lindberg of Minneapolis, the dad of a sixth-grader, also employs a version of this hack. His son has his own phone, with a series of alarms calibrated to keep him on track:
5:30 a.m.: Wake up, make breakfast.
6:40 a.m.: Shower/make lunch/pack bag.
7:15 a.m.: Leave house.
It works like a charm, said Lindberg, whose son does everything himself.
“No joke. From early fourth grade onward, I was completely on autopilot in the morning,” he said.
Use screen-time as motivation
If they can get themselves ready early, some parents allow their children to spend their spare minutes watching a show or playing a video game. This only works if they really are completely ready (shoes on, backpack packed, etc.) and if they can manage to shut off the TV in the middle of an episode without wailing when it’s time to go. If so, Netflix can be a powerful motivator.
Reward good behavior
For each morning her kids are up, dressed, washed, fed and out the door on time, Lisa Kuszmar of Charlotte, N.C., puts a little pompom in a jar. If there are five pompoms in the jar at the end of the week, the kids get a treat.
“They can see and touch it, and it is a visual reminder of success,” she said.
Get them up earlier
This last one isn’t really a hack, it’s more like Getting Kids Ready 101, but it bears repeating. Kids are incapable of rushing to get ready like adults. So the parents we talked to suggested building dawdling time into the schedule and preparing as much as possible the night before.