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Morning success: Tips to make it out the door on time

morning success with kids

There is nothing worse than starting off the day on the wrong foot. Whether its missing shoes or arguing over the importance of brushing teeth, it can be challenging to get yourself and your kids out the door so that everyone gets to their relative location on time. As the saying goes: it takes a village. So we asked the employees at Children’s Mercy to share their best tips for morning success.

  1. Get ready the night before by picking out clothes, packing backpacks, making lunch and planning breakfast.

Pre-Dress (submitted by Marlene)
As a mom, I'm not above dressing my child in the clothing they are going to wear the next day when I put them to bed. It isn't pretty, and it isn't perfect but it works, kind of like parenting.

Sunday prep (submitted by LaNita)
My plan for the week, I iron on Sunday evenings what we plan to wear that week. Lay out clothes the night before, backpacks and coats at the door. Plan out lunches the night before, everything on the counter that doesn't need to be refrigerated (for lunch) and packed up. Breakfast is on the counter for them to pick up or eat before we head out the door. For the most part we are out the door without a hitch. Unless, I hit the snooze too many times.

Planning, planning, planning (submitted by Kadie)
We have 3 kids, and No. 4 on the way, and we're all about planning ahead! We lay out clothes the night before and sign any school stuff to be returned. We recently bought bins so the kids can "make" their lunches a week at a time by putting any packaged items in the daily bin so all we have to do is grab the items in the morning to toss in the lunch boxes and make a thermos or sandwich. However, our second child has significant ADHD so we try to establish a routine and consistency, as it's the best way to set her, and really all the kids, up for success for the day.

  1. Create a consistent routine so kids know expectations. Make a checklist your kids can check off in the morning.  For younger children, use pictures of each task.

Love and logic (submitted by Brooke)
I used the Love and Logic method that was - you are going to school by 8:15. The car will leave the house and you will be in it. You can have your clothes on or you can put your clothes in a bag and take them with you - the nurse will allow you to put them on in her office. Once I had a little tearful girl that was pulling on her leggings in the carpool line. Other than that, it worked. There were a few times they arrived after the first bell. I just let them deal with the consequence of heading to the office for a tardy pass.  

  1. Reward and praise. This will motivate your kids to succeed. Even if he/she does not succeed in all parts of the morning routine, use praise to reward when he/she is successful.

    • Create a point chart (using points, stickers, check marks, etc. as “currency”)
    • Attach value to specific behaviors.
    • Consider doubling value for behaviors that are most difficult for your child.
    • Begin by targeting one or two behaviors that are causing the most problems. Once progress is made, pick other morning behaviors.
    • Choose rewards your kids can earn with the points.
    • Post the chart in a place you will regularly see it.
    • Award points as soon after your child does what you expect as you can.
    • Provide opportunities to “spend” points daily.

Fast bucks (submitted by Andrea)
I had "Fast Bucks' (handmade green papers that looked like monopoly money) in the car. Every time she made it to the car on time she got one to put in the back seat with her. When she had 10 she got to pick a restaurant. At the time, the restaurant usually involved a ball pit.

  1. Use a timer (kitchen timer, alarm, phone apps, etc.) to mark out time periods for getting tasks done. Example: 10 minutes for getting out of bed, brushing teeth, and washing face.

Three alarm system (submitted by Jessica)
I must leave for work before my son gets up for school most mornings…so he’s in charge of getting himself to the bus on time this year. He has 3 alarms set for the morning: to get up, put on his shoes/coat/backpack and to walk out the door. He gets his clothes ready for the next day before he goes to bed at night. He gets breakfast at school because they offer healthy choices, so that makes it even easier for us! I also have a Ring doorbell camera and get a notification when he leaves the house. We both work well with a set routine and this kid has not been late to school one time this year… we have a backup plan in place in case he does run late, but we haven’t had to use it at all! I’m very proud of him!

  1. Remain calm and keep it simple. Yelling, threatening and long discussions can make unwanted behaviors worse. If your child does not do what you expect, give one reminder, then let him/her know he/she won’t get the point and try again next time.

  2. Keep essential items near the front door, such as backpack, shoes, socks, coat and lunch box.

Kiddos chip in (submitted by Christina)
My best tip for a smooth morning is to prep the night before - and have each kiddo help with their own prep. Choosing their outfit, deciding on breakfast, getting their backpack or bag together - and placing everything by the door before bedtime so nothing is forgotten. Most mornings my 4 kids make it out of the house stress free! For the days we don't - well, thank God for coffee and better tomorrows!

  1. Eliminate distractions. It is hard for your kids to focus on getting ready if there are lots of other things going on. Avoid use of electronics during the morning routine.

  2. Give yourself a break. None of us nor any of our kids are perfect. Let’s all just do the best we can, as Tonya and her mom remind us.

Shoe monster (submitted by Tonya)
When I was about 7 my three siblings and I were running late for school. My mom drafted a note explaining the situation and I handed it to the teacher. When I "graduated" from elementary school the teacher gave me back the note from that day. It read, "Please excuse the kids from being late today. As we slept, the shoe monster went through the house and hid all the kid's shoes. Each child said they were put by the front door so that's the only explanation for our tardiness." We still laugh about that. The teacher said she would read it to remind her that a lot goes on before kids get to school in morning.


Adapted from material developed by Laurel K. Leslie, MD.

Kazdin, A (2009) The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. New York: First Mariner Books.