Mornings, especially once you're thrown back in the routine of school and day care, often become crazy and chaotic trying to make sure everyone has everything they need and gets out the door on time. I've gathered up five easy-to-implement morning and after school hacks to make your life easier...and you might even have time to sit down and drink a whole cup of (HOT) coffee or tea.
I turned to every parent's friend on the internet, Pinterest, to gather up some inspiration and have compiled a whole bunch of favourites in this board here.
When a good friend of mine went back to work after her second mat leave this spring, she mentioned that she was going to do this and it was like a lightbulb moment. Why hadn't I ever thought of something like this?? Currently we lay out the kids' clothes the night before but why not plan the whole school week at once? In most pins I see the sixth compartment being used for shoes but we are using it for uniforms so when it's that day she can grab it from there to change into - no searching the house for soccer jersey or her Sparks uniform. Bonus, once it's washed, it just goes right back in there for the next week.
Another friend told me they use those plastic drawer sets which work just as well. She said though that they keep theirs downstairs so the kids come down to eat breakfast in their pajamas and then get dressed afterwards. Prevents breakfast spills from getting on the clothes, and saves the kids running back up to get changed and getting distracted by toys.
Before School and After School Routine Chart
We actually did a before school chart last year and it worked really well so I'm going to update it and do it again. Our chart had step-by-step elements of the morning routine and I'd often hear Miss M in the bathroom reading it. We added free clip art to our routine so that there was an image that went along with it for our pre-reader. Saves me having to remind the kids to "brush your hair" a few times at least. I had multiple copies of it posted around the house (outside the upstairs bathroom, in the downstairs bathroom, in the dining room, and in the mudroom - basically any spot where she would be during the morning so she could see what came next without running back and forth - and likely getting distracted by something shiny).
This year I'm adding an after-school chart to the mix. I never realized how many things there are to do after school to get ready for the next day. Plus this year all of the kids' extra-curricular activities are on weekday afternoons, to keep weekends free, so we're going to need to be organized! I think she's old enough to take care of her own backpack now, and Mr. M is old enough to do it along with me.
As I mentioned before, somehow I've become a short order cook in the morning. That ends this fall. Today I made waffles for lunch and doubled the recipe. I'll do the same with pancakes later this week. This allows me to freeze a bunch of them so they can just pop in the toaster. I'll also set out some yogurt and apples or banana on the table in case they want something to go with it.
I also love these make-ahead smoothie packs. I often make smoothies in the morning as they only take five minutes to whip up, but this is an efficient way to avoid getting out half a dozen ingredients and then putting them all away again every day, plus it's a good chance to mix up the flavours and nutrients in each.
Half the reason I want to do this one is just because of how cool it sounds. Like something from outer space. "Report to Command Centre!" This is an area with the family calendar, any special daily reminders (Does one of the kids have show and share today? Do we have the class stuffed pet home for the weekend?"), and any special things that an adult needs to take care of (pick up milk, return library books).
We have elements of this scattered through our house, but no one centre where everything is easy to find. I want to set this up in our small laundry/mud room that we all come in and out of every day. I've got several inspirational pins in the board at the top of the post to get organized.
Lunch and Snack Management
Making lunches became the bane of my existence pretty quick last year. I know I'm not alone in detesting this tedious task.
This year I'm hoping to prepare the elements for lunches and recesses on Sunday. Miss M does not like most dinner leftovers so we usually give her sandwiches or a bento box style lunch with tea biscuits, cheese pieces, yogurt, fruit and veggies, etc. My plan is to hard boil a few eggs (for eating sliced or in a sandwich), mix up some tuna and mayo in a container for sandwiches (yes my kid has the stinky lunch you keep hearing about at home), chop up some veggies, pre-portion some fruit that won't spoil like grapes and blueberries in our handy labelled Rubbermaid containers and then put everything in a drawer in the fridge so it's ready to quickly make a lunch.
I'm also baking muffins and biscuits now and freezing them (I split and butter them as needed before freezing) so they're ready to be grabbed out the night before and thawed out by the next day's lunch.
I'm already doing this with snacks at home. I have a shelf in our pantry and a section of the fridge that are all healthy snacks the kids can get themselves (granola bars, yogurt, presliced cheese cubes, crackers, etc.) and it's been working well this summer so after school I'll direct the kids to those areas to get their own snack, saving me one more time that I'm making food for them every day.
PIN FOR LATER!
So that's about it. Five fairly simple adjustments that will hopefully make a big difference in the morning and after school chaos.
I expect this plan to fall to pieces by the third week of school. But it's nice to dream, isn't it?