How to Simplify Your Morning Routine + Free Printable

Do you have a school age child? If you’re anything like us, mornings are hectic! There is so much to prepare and very little time before we need to be out the door with our kids. Starting in Kindergarten, or even Pre-K, kids are already able to do much of the morning routine on their own. The question is how to get them to actually do it? In this post, I’ll show you the methods we use to simplify our morning routine and make for a calm way to start the day.

How to Simplify your Morning Routine

If your home is anything like ours, the morning routine is a pressure point. Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Or we went to sleep too late and just want to hit the snooze button. We have too many things on our mind. The weather is not cooperating and we need to change last minute. Someone is hoarding the bathroom. And so on and so forth.

With five people in our house trying to get ready more or less at the same time, we have found we need a system to make the mornings work. Here I’ll break down our method for getting five people out the door, while mostly avoiding tears.

a morning mug of coffee to simplify your morning routine

1. Your morning starts the night before!

One of the most important ways to facilitate a calm morning is by leaving as few tasks as possible to do in the morning. This means that you day start the night before. What does this mean? Every pain point in the morning can be somewhat alleviated by preparing in the evening.

Having trouble getting up? Make sure you go to bed on time.

This applies to both the children and ourselves. Our big kids need to go to sleep around 8 o’clock. Since they love reading in bed, that means we aim to get them in bed by 7:30 at the latest. Our three year old still naps, so can often go to bed a little later.

Working backwards that means we are aiming to brush teeth and read together around 7:00 pm. That means that dinner need to be finished by 6:30 (but often times is done earlier). You get the point.

Adjust your evening schedule to facilitate the correct bedtime you need to avoid struggles in the morning. (And for the adults, don’t stay up browsing the web or mindlessly watching TV!)

hanging cubbies labeled with the days of the week, for prepping clothes and gear ahead of time

Having trouble getting dressed? Choose your outfit the night before.

When our kids were younger, we would always have them lay out their clothes the night before.

This past year, we experimented several months with a weekly cubby hanging system, so that the boys were actually choosing their clothes a week at a time. Doing this was also helpful from a laundry perspective as I could make sure they had everything they needed for the week before the rush started.

In the past couple of months, we have had less issues with getting dressed, so we have let them go back to choosing clothes in the morning. Experiment with what works best for your family, and don’t be afraid to change it up if something that used to work, stops working.

Having trouble eating breakfast? Prepare breakfast food (and packed lunches) while you are cleaning up dinner.

My most calm weeks, are the ones where I have prepared food ahead of time. Every weekend I try to make sure that I have the “main course” for lunches already prepared.

Our usual items include: muffins, squash bread, yogurt, lentils, and eggs. And when I am really on top of it, I also make a big batch of pancakes ahead of time. They freeze perfectly and can be reheated in a toaster or pan.

One “hack” I really like is packing portioned dinner leftovers directly into lunch boxes. I may come back with another post all about packing lunches but for now, this is a great tip I’ve been using successfully all year and highly recommend!

If you have a coffee machine with a timer, set it up at night so that you come into the kitchen with a fresh cup of joe already brewed. We also keep a small stash of protein bars for those mornings that are really, really, really rushed. (Our favorites are Epic Bars, but we also like RXbar and Larabars).

picture of school lunch boxes with cucumber, eggs, olives, radishes, date balls and an apple on the side
prep lunches the night before

Having trouble remembering all the item you need to take? Pack your bag before you go to bed.

In the hustle and bustle of the morning, I am often extremely distracted which means that things are bound to be forgotten. I’ve found three ways to counteract this, and usually remember everything we need:

  1. Automation- doing the same things, in the same order, every day, helps them become automatic.
  2. Making a list for days that are out of the ordinary- I either dictate a note on my phone or use a small piece of paper so that I can look and not have to “think” about all we need to take.
  3. Packing bags the night before- mostly we don’t need our things out while we’re sleeping, so everything that can go in a bag the night before, should!

2. Everyone has a role

In a family with kids, morning can be especially hectic because there are tasks they can’t yet do independently. Or perhaps there is too much competition over the bathroom or the kitchen. To solve this problem, it helps to have defined roles for each person.

For example, in our household, Michael and the boys need to leave an hour before myself and our little girl. That means that we each do something different concurrently:

I am in the kitchen preparing breakfast and finishing packing up lunches for the kids, while Michael gets himself ready, and while the boys are expected to begin their own morning routine.

When the boys sit down to eat, Michael gets his stuff in the kitchen done, while I take care of Little A and have my own breakfast.

Then when they’re all gone, I will help Little A get ready for school. When all the messy stuff is done, I will quickly get myself ready to leave.

girl at the bathroom sink in the morning getting ready
getting ready for preschool

3. Sequencing- the key to success

Regarding the boys’ morning routine, the most important aspect is having clear expectations. This is where sequencing comes in. The kids need to know what things they are expected to do, and in what order.

The exact particulars have changed slightly as they have gotten older and had different schooling situations. Right now, at ages 6 and 7, and with a slightly long commute, we have kept expectations to the minimum.

As they get older, we will expect for them to be more involved in packing their own lunches and snacks. In the meantime, they need to do the following:

  • Get dressed (and put away pjs)
  • Eat breakfast
  • Clear breakfast plates
  • Brush teeth/use restroom
  • Shoes and Outerwear (jackets/hats/gloves/sunscreen etc)
  • Check backpack

These are all things they are fully capable of doing. Where we struggle, is helping them manage their time, and not get distracted with play or reading.

I expect we will continue to have challenges as they grow and mature, but for every new situation we are prepared to adjust our plan.

4. Morning Routine Printable

One of the most helpful way to encourage our kids’ independence in the morning, had been posting our morning routine.

Our morning routine has both words and drawings. This works especially well for preschoolers that can’t yet read and don’t have much sense of time.

When the kids were really young we kept it very simple, but now I even add a few extra written clarifications, so that there is no doubt about what needs to be done.

Posting your morning routine is helpful so that the kids can look at it on their own. It is also useful for us as parents, as we can direct the kids to look at it when they begin dawdling in the morning.

So with all that said, and after having to draw and redraw our routine multiple times, I finally got smart and made a printable! And you can get your own copy as well by entering your email in the box below. Feel free to use it as is, or cut up the different sections and mix them up. You can use just the pictures, just the writing, or some combination of both.

What’s your biggest challenge in the morning?

And now that we’ve got mornings all set, let’s start working on that evening routine for those rushed weekday evenings!

P.S. Interested to hear more about our routine? This is how it’s been going. And some details from when our boys were in preschool, and even babies! Want to know more about our daily life in New York City? That’s here!

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