Mornings can be a challenge for a single adult trying to get off to work. For families attempting to get everybody ready and out the door for school each morning, the challenge is a bit more complex. The best way to prepare for school is to prepare the night before. The best way to prepare the night before is to have a routine and to stick to it each night.
Before you can create a routine or plan, you must first determine which tasks must be completed in order for you and your children to be ready for a school day. Make a list. Be sure to include breakfast, personal hygiene including bathing and brushing teeth, choosing of school outfits, organization of schoolbooks and backpacks, and packing of lunches. Once you have a basic list, it is time to decide which of these tasks can be performed the night before.
It is difficult to eat breakfast the night before school, but you can prepare breakfast in advance. Breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast and waffles can be prepared the night before and then quickly reheated in the microwave for a hot, tasty breakfast. Muffins and cinnamon rolls can also be baked the night before and warmed in less than 30 seconds in the morning. By preparing these foods the night before you eliminate time, fuss, and mess in the kitchen on hectic school and work mornings.
For kids who are not breakfast eaters, stock the pantry with protein bars or even toaster pastries. These packaged items can be set out on the counter or table the night before along with an empty glass for juice or milk. Is your high school student just like you, not able to function without a morning cup of coffee? Get a programmable coffee pot and set it to brew and be ready for his early morning dash.
* Personal hygiene
Kids (and adults) need to be clean and tidy before they head out each morning to school. In households with a single bathroom, scheduling showers can be a nightmare. It can even get difficult for households with multiple bathrooms. The easiest way to eliminate morning bathroom gridlock is to have your kids take their shower or bath at night. For some families this works great as the kids can come from an evening’s sports practice, class or game and shower or bathe then.
If your nighttime routine is unpredictable and even more hectic than your morning routine, consider instituting a mandatory bedtime routine that includes a shower or bath. If your child and you recognize that the shower or bath is not optional and simply part of getting ready for bed, it will become routine in no time. Set a strict time limit for the shower or bath, no more than 10 or 15 minutes and stick to it. This will not only keep your schedule on track but will help your household save on water.
* School outfits
For some children the choosing of an outfit to wear to school can take hours. Other children simply throw on the first set of clothing they find lying on the floor. Eliminate the outfit hassle by incorporating the choosing of school clothes into the bedtime routine. Set a time limit, 5 to 10 minutes and stick to it. The outfit must be chosen and set aside for the morning and there is no going back to change things once mom or dad approves the outfit. Choose and lay out all pieces of the outfit including underwear, socks, jewelry, belts, and hair accessories. Shoes should also be set out and placed with the outfit or at the door you leave by. If your student wears a uniform to school, set it out each night also.
If your child enjoys the process of choosing her school outfits, set aside a special time for this process. This could be during free time after school or dinner but be sure to enforce that the final outfit must be chosen before lights out and cannot be changed in the morning.
* Organizing backpacks
No matter if your child completes their homework after school or after dinner, the school backpack needs to be packed and organized before the student goes to bed. If your evening schedule is varied, set a backpack check time to be the start of the bedtime routine. Each night, you and your children should prepare their backpacks together before showers and pajamas. Track down all supplies, books or gym clothes that are needed for the next day. Sign any permission slips or forms and place in a folder. Make sure lunch money or fees are included in the backpack and zip to be sure nothing falls out. When the backpack is organized, place it in the same place every night. The best location is nearest to the door your child exits each morning.
* Packing lunches
Never leave the packing of a school lunch for the morning. It is just one more thing that you will have to rush to do and in a hurry may actually forget. If you are busy in the evening, have your older child pack his own lunch. Sandwiches can be made the night before, fruit and veggies can be cleaned and chips can be tossed into the lunchbox. Be sure to refrigerate the lunch so no spoilage occurs.
Preparing for school the night before does not have to be stressful or chaotic. It does take a little planning, patience and the resolve to stick to a routine while being flexible enough to roll with life’s unexpected challenges.