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5 Sanity-Saving Tips for School Mornings

Cheryl Dumesnil
morning rush before school

You've got one kid on the toilet, reading a Dora the Explorer book in a Yoda voice. You've got another kid "helping" pour cereal all over the kitchen counter. You've got five minutes to get dressed, fix your hair and make lunches, or the kids will miss their school bus and you'll miss your staff meeting. No, you don't need to spike your orange juice with Grey Goose. You need a handful of tried-and-true, stress-free morning hacks.

1. Oh Mighty Checklist

sanity check

Let's face it, most kids couldn't map their way out of a paper bag much less plan and execute the many steps they must take to get out the door clean, fed, dressed and equipped for their day. Time to introduce your tribe to the God of Sane Mornings: The Mighty Checklist. Whether your checklist takes the form of a magnetic board with "to do" and "done" columns like this one from Somewhat Simple or a list scrawled on a paper bag, the function is the same: the checklist tells your kids what to do so you don't have to.

2. The Great Reward

jar of marbles

Getting your crew into the car on time without the yelling (them) or tears (you) might be all the reward you need, but the kids are gonna want a little 'something something' for their efforts. Give each kid an empty jar and a supply of marbles. For each Mighty Checklist task they complete independently, they put two marbles in the jar. If they need a reminder to complete a task (because let's face it, they're kids, they're gonna need reminders), they earn one marble. If you dole out more than one reminder: no marble, but they have to complete the task anyway. When they've filled the jar, they earn a reward. What's it gonna be? Five bucks? A trip to the ice cream shop? A new app for the iPad? To keep kids motivated, use jars they can fill in a week if they do all their tasks independently, and label the jars with the rewards your kids will earn when they are full.

3. Sane Mornings Begin on Sunday

woman under wave of laundry

Okay, so maybe you're not a "planner." Maybe you're a spontaneous, free spirit who sees routine as a weapon of the dominant paradigm, anathema to creativity, oppressor of the masses. Maybe that's why your mornings suck? Time to compromise your principles in service of your goal. Dedicate part of Sunday to setting your family up for weekday success.

Sunday Hack #1: Clothes

Choose five outfits for each child (or let your children do the choosing), from hats and hairbands all the way down to socks, and place them in an organizer of your choosing, labeled with the days of the week. Yes, this means you need to have the laundry done on Sunday. Yes, you'll thank yourself for this Monday through Friday.

Sunday Hack 2: Food Prep

Remember how Carol Brady and Alice (bonus points if you can answer the Brady Bunch trivia question "What was Alice's last name?") stood at the kitchen counter, constructing six school lunches, assembly-line style? Didn't that look fun? (Pretend it did.) Guess what? Your turn! Prep the week's lunch foods on Sunday afternoon. No, you shouldn't make Friday's tuna sandwich on Sunday (unless food poisoning is your idea of a good time), but you can prep and bag carrots, grapes, hard boiled eggs, and many other snacks that will make lunch packing easier during the week. If you don't have an Alice available to help, you can get your kids in on the game. (Nelson. Her last name was Nelson.)

4. The Night Before

exhausted mom

Sure, after you've locked your kids in their bedrooms-uh, or tucked them in their beds for the night, you're more likely to be thinking "chardonnay" and "Inside Amy Schumer" than "pack the lunches" and "pour the cereal." But remember, the more you do tonight, the happier you'll be tomorrow, and Amy's not going to help you reach your "sane school mornings" goal. Unless . . .you could grab your laptop and stream the show while you complete these night before steps. See? Who says you can't have it all?

Nighttime Hack 1: Kitchen Set Up

Lay out the breakfast supplies (except, like, the milk-eww), pack up those lunchboxes and don't forget about yourself. Get that coffee maker set up for the morning. You're gonna need it.

Nighttime Hack 2: Bathroom Bucket

Searching time is wasted time, so make a bathroom bucket for each kid, filled with all their getting ready needs: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, sunscreen, rainbow glitter gel for the fauxhawk-whatevs. Then check the contents the night before, to make sure they're good to go.

Nighttime Hack 3: School Stuff

Is tomorrow library day? Find the books now. Is that field trip permission slip due? Fill it out now. Yes, they did their homework, but did they put it in their backpacks? Get everything packed up and place it near the exit hatch for a quick grab-and-go escape (or better yet, have the kids do all this before bedtime).

5. In the Wee Hours

sleepy woman

Real talk: if you have an unhealthy relationship with your snooze button, you're going to need to break it. To make your mornings work, you've gotta get up earlier than the kids. Don't roll your eyes. Have a little faith. The benefits will outweigh the drawbacks. Promise.

Morning Hack 1: You First

When you wake up before the kids do, you have uninterrupted time to get yourself ready for your day. Know what that means? Your socks are more likely to match and you'll probably remember to apply mascara to the lashes of both eyes. Also, when your zombie creatures emerge from their night caves, you'll be ready to help them turn into children.

Morning Hack 2: Enjoy the Quiet

You know how you set up your coffee maker last night? In the quiet hours of your early morning, it's almost as if someone made that coffee for you. Now go sit in your favorite spot and enjoy every precious sip. Remember: kids sense stress like dogs sense earthquakes. If you start your day in peace, the kids might just follow your lead.

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5 Sanity-Saving Tips for School Mornings