If you're tired of singing the "Hurry up! You're going to miss the school bus" blues, you're hardly alone. Weekday mornings are often chaotic for families. Seconds before rushing out the door, you can always find children scrambling through the house hunting for that missing science report, gym uniform, or favorite hair scrunchie while Mom frantically signs permission slips with one hand and stuffs the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into lunch boxes with the other. It's a daily scene that makes every parent shake her head. Yet, instead of forcing everyone to wake up even earlier to get out on time, turn your family's attention to the night before and take just 15 minutes out of your evening to prepare for the next day.
Plan Ahead for Breakfast
Right after you finish dinner, for instance, set the table for breakfast (a simple chore for the youngest member of the family). Pull out the toaster and set up the coffee maker, too. Try to keep weekday breakfast simple, and stick to toast, yogurt, fresh fruit, and cold cereal—no scrambled eggs or pancakes (although you could try frozen waffles as a no-fuss alternative). If your gang insists on something more substantial, plug in a slow-cook crock pot filled with cinnamon oatmeal right before going to bed. The sweet aroma wafting through the house by morning will surely entice everyone out of bed.
Encourage your kids to do as much as they can by themselves, including making their own breakfast. It teaches them self-reliance and independence, and it also allows you a few extra minutes in the morning to get dressed.
If your children are still a bit young to maneuver safely in the kitchen, you can lend a hand each night before going to bed by doing some prep work. Pull out cereal boxes from the pantry, pre-slice some bagels so the kids can pop them into the toaster themselves, and leave juice in sturdy plastic cups on the lower shelf of the refrigerator within easy reach of little hands.
Avoid Dressing Dilemmas
With a breakfast plan out of the way, it's time to concentrate on the morning wardrobe. If you have young boys who haven't yet acquired a fashion sense, the simple act of pulling out shirts, pants, and underwear each evening and placing them in a designated area so that they can dress themselves will shave minutes from the morning madness.
School-age young ladies are another story and would rather have their hair pulled than allow a parent to choose their day's wardrobe! One way to keep these fashion critics organized is to have them match outfits for the week each Sunday evening (a great idea for the working professionals in the household, too), and either storing them on hangers tagged Monday through Friday or on designated shelves in the closet. A variation of the same idea is to buy a five-cubby hanging canvas bag labeled with the days of the week. Any method they choose should eliminate the last-minute rush to the ironing board, or worse yet, tearing through the laundry basket for that favorite pink pullover.