Updated: Oct 23
Have you ever wondered what it is to make your morning and after-school routines easier, more pleasant, and most importantly, kid-driven?
The first and easiest thing that you can do, no matter what age your kid is, is to buy an alarm clock.
No one in my family is a morning person. I can remember when my oldest started school I dreaded having to go wake her up in the morning, it was a fight every morning to get her out of bed, she would cry and kick and scream. And by the time we got her up, everybody was in a bad mood.
Then someone gave me the advice to buy her her own alarm clock. At first, I was skeptical, she was only four. I just didn't see how it was going to help the situation. But let me tell you, that alarm clock was the best $5 investment that we've made for our mornings. When the first day that we used it rolled around, she popped up on the very first alarm, turned it off, and started getting herself out of bed. Part of me was relieved that it actually worked. But part of me was frustrated because I couldn't understand why it was so easy for her to get up with the alarm, and so hard for her to do when I was the one trying to wake her up.
What I realized is that it's much harder and a little silly to be mad at an alarm clock when it goes off. But it's really easy to be mad at Mommy when she comes in the room to tell you it's time to get up.
So my advice is to take the responsibility off of you and let that alarm clock be the bad guy.
There are actually a lot of other times we're making the alarm, the bad guy worked in your favor. Anytime we go play at the park, or we spend time at the pool or any other activity that I think the kids will be upset about. If we are leaving, or we're stopping, I left that alarm be the bad guy. I'll tell them now that we're going to be here for 30 minutes, and I'm going to set an alarm.
And when that alarm goes off, it's time to go. It is like magic. When they hear that alarm go off. There's no crying, there's no fussing, there's no negotiating, we're just done. The alarm is the bad guy, not me.
Now, the second thing that I suggest is for you to create a before-school and after-school checklist for your kids.
This doesn't have to be fancy, it can be done on a piece of loose-leaf paper. All you need is a list of the absolute most important things that have to be done before school. And when you get home from school. There don't need to be any times listed. There doesn't need to be an order in which these things get done. It's just a list of the things that have to get done.
The smaller the list, the better. For my kids, we started with it written on a piece of paper, wrote the list together, and then tested it out for about a week or so, scratched off things that weren't important, and added anything that we might have missed. Once we felt good about the items on our list, I went ahead and created a template one Canva and let the girls design these lists. I printed them and then laminated them.
Now every morning when they wake up. All I have to say is did you start your checklist? They pull it out, and they begin checking off the task in whatever order they choose. If they want to brush their teeth before eating breakfast, by all means, go for it.
Letting them participate in deciding what was on the list, and letting them decide in which order they do it is a game changer, and getting them bought into the system, having it laminated, and then being able to check it off with an expo marker each and every day is the most fun thing for my five-year-old.
For me, the most fun part is that I can literally sit on the sofa the entire time that my kids are getting ready in the morning. The only thing on the list that they can't do on their own at this point is brushing their hair. When it's time to do that. They bring the brush, the spray bottle, and the ponytails to me.
Now, I'll be honest, most mornings, I don't just sit on the sofa and do nothing as they do their list. But for those days, when life is just hard, maybe I didn't sleep well, the night before. Maybe I'm stressed, or maybe I have my own things to deal with. It's great to know that they can handle it with very little direction.
So now you're probably thinking that I'm being overdramatic when I say that my kids can do everything on their checklist without me. But I'm not kidding.
The third piece of advice that I have is to set up systems in the house to give your kids the ability to complete tasks on their own.
Be prepared and realize that they're going to make mistakes, they're going to make some messes along the way. But if you spend time teaching them on the front end, eventually, they are able to do it without much help from you.
So the first space that I focused on with my family was the kitchen and pantry area. In the pantry, I made sure that all of the items that my kids are allowed to have been on the bottom shelf where they can reach this includes any items that they might want to eat for breakfast, any items that they are allowed to snack on, and any items that they need to make their lunch. In addition to having these things accessible in the pantry. I've also given them an entire drawer in my kitchen for all of the things that they need all of their cups that they use to drink throughout the day and to use at school or in their plates, their bowls, their lunch boxes, and all the containers that go inside of the lunch box are also in there.
This summer, now that my youngest has gotten a little older, I even went as far as moving all the things that they use out of the refrigerator down to an area that they can reach. Because all of these things are easily accessible to them. They're able to make their own breakfast, make their own snacks, and make their own lunch for school.
Now I'll be honest, there is some extra legwork on the front end. When you start giving them this freedom, you have to set rules in your house. For example, we had to make sure that they know which type of snacks are appropriate to bring to school and which ones are for them to eat at home. They know that milk is not an option to drink all day long because it's costing us $5 A gallon at this point.
We spent a lot of time this summer learning how to properly make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without making a mess all over. We've learned how to properly put the bread tie back and how to put the bread away so that the entire loaf is not squished when we're finished with it. There have been and will continue to be messes that happen and mistakes that are made. But I'd much rather spend my time teaching them how to do the things versus doing it for them for the rest of their life.
Another area in the house that I spent time setting up was our home workstation. Before I had this setup, the kids would come home from school, throw their backpacks on the ground shoes on the floor in the middle of the walkway of course, and want to go straight to play.
Now I have hooks in the laundry room for backpacks to be hung and a basket for shoes to be put in right underneath it. I now have a cabinet in the living room. It has everything that they need to get started with their homework pencils, erasers, crayons, loose-leaf paper, and any workbooks that the school sent home specifically for homework. I also have a bin in that cabinet specifically for all the papers that come home from school.
So instead of them handing it to me at random times, they stick all the papers from their folders into that bin. And I check it when I'm ready to deal with it. Now, when they come home from school, they grab their checklist, and everything that they need to complete that checklist is available to them without my help.
The last thing I have implemented in our house for the school year is an easy reward system.
Now in the past, I tried to do chore charts and make it all complicated. And I'll be honest, I'm not very good at being consistent. So the system that we use in our house that is pretty much foolproof is the ticket system.
I went to the Dollar Tree, and I picked up a pack of Carnival tickets, they had him by the school supplies for $1.25. I spent about $30 Picking up random things in the store that I thought my girls were like, I got little knick-knack toys, I got some bath paints, and some nail polish. I got arts and crafts sets a bunch of little different things that they enjoy.
I brought all that home. And I set up three buckets and dispersed all the things into them. One bucket was for things that cost two tickets. One bucket is for things that I think are worth three tickets. And the last one is a bucket of things that are worth four tickets. So instead of having a set list of things that the girls can do to earn tickets, I just decide as I go, what earns a ticket.
If you're just starting out using a checklist, maybe every time they complete the entire checklist, they get a ticket when we were doing nighttime potty training. Every morning that they woke up dry, they got a ticket. Anytime I girls are nice to one another or do something helpful without being asked. They get a ticket.
I like this concept for two reasons. One, it's super forgiving, because there's no rules about when or where somebody earns a ticket. And two, the opportunities to use the ticket system are limitless.
Every Saturday, I open up the store and allow them to come and spend their tickets on small prizes.
Those are my tips for making this school year easier and more pleasant for everyone. Get yourself an alarm clock. Make your family morning and afternoon checklists. Set up spaces in your home to allow your kids to be more independent and set up a reward system. I hope you find all this information helpful. And it makes you a little less apprehensive to get back to that school time routine.
Until next time, my friend, be sure to give yourself a little grace as you move through this journey to get your life realigned for good.