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Real-Mom Tips On How To Get Your Kids Out The Door Faster & Smoother

Written by Aja Lake

Photography by Juno

Mornings can be the worst. Filled with groggy kids, groggy parents, and missing socks, the struggle of getting your family up and at ‘em is real. To help curb this, we’ve gathered real-life, practical tips from some of our favorite moms. From morning snuggles to easy meals and fun songs, we’ve got top-notch advice to ease into your day with less pain. Whether you’re packing your baby up for the sitter or wrangling school kids in the A.M., there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks to pluck from below.

“I’m not very drawn to routine, but for kids, it’s indispensable! I’ve found it helpful to perform tasks in the same order every morning. This way your child learns a rhythm that he will independently begin to follow. My 3-year-old son Henry wakes, eats breakfast, gets dressed, brushes teeth, puts on sunscreen, brushes hair, puts on shoes, and so on…in that order. Each of these takes place in a designated spot in the house. His clothes are always on his bed, toothbrush in the bathroom, sunscreen and shoes near the the butler’s pantry, hairbrush on the side table. Having everything in a specific place means that we’re not scrambling around trying to find things, and he knows where to go for them. Henry seems to love the regularity of moving through the house to check off his tasks. He anticipates and sometimes initiates what’s coming next. He’s started counting his tasks, and if we get out of order, he reminds me. He’ll say, ‘Wait Mom! We didn’t do number six yet, so we can’t do number seven!’ He has his own little number system worked out, and it’s pretty endearing.” -Kim Woods, Designer and Owner of Willaby, mother to Henry.

“I think it is important to have a system when getting dressed in the morning before school. Honing in on your child’s likes and dislikes is essential for a smooth morning routine. For example, my little one loves dresses, and I treat her school clothes like a uniform, in a sense. The choices for her are a few dresses and her favorite tights. A child’s wardrobe can be simple. My philosophy with my wardrobe, as well as with my children’s, is ‘less is more.’ Quality pieces last longer and feel better than fast fashion choices.” -Marissa Buick, Designer and Owner of Soor Ploom, mother to Edith.

“I’ve learned that kids generally don’t know how to ‘rush’ or ‘multi-task’ in the morning, so dropping that expectation has definitely helped. The key for us is just getting up early enough so the kids can move at their own pace. I also have to step in and help. I basically dress my 9-year-old right when she wakes up. Even though she’s physically capable of doing it herself, she is just super pokey in the mornings and I hate having to constantly nag and remind her to put on each sock and shoe. It feels a little silly to dress her like she’s tiny but it’s shaved off at least 30 minutes from the morning routine and made things waaaaay more pleasant. I also keep a stash of granola bars in the car for the rare morning when breakfast just doesn’t quite happen.”
Kendra Smoot, prop stylist and mother to Stella, Imogen, and Truman.

“Our school stars at 7:45, the earliest start time in the district. Ack! The kids have an alarm clock in their room that goes off 15 minutes before they have to actually get up. The alarm goes off and they crawl into bed with me and we cuddle and chat for 10 minutes or so. It helps the kids transition into their day. They often tell me more details about school, worries, and friends than I get at dinner. We put the clothes out the night before; they like to get dressed in my bedroom. This helps me so much, as well, since I’m not a morning person. I shower at night, my husband showers in the morning. He does lunches, I do breakfast. With our son, Augie, who is very easily distracted, less time is actually better. If he has too much time he thinks he can play or start looking though his Pokémon cards. The compromise is for him to bring a toy or book for the car. Also, the kids have hooks for their coats and backpacks and a spot for their shoes in the entryway. It’s a last-minute stop before heading out the door. Same goes for us; being organized—kids and parents—is so important. Five minutes of making sure your keys and everything else is in the right spot the night before does wonders for rushed mornings.” -Trina Papini, Co-Owner of Metier, mother to Augie and Lalou.

“Fast lunch foods! We often do sushi roll Mondays and get the rolls from Whole Foods the day before. Also, make the trip fun so they want to get out the door. For example, I save an audiobook chapter for the car, so there’s incentive to leave early. And velcro shoes are a must!” -Rachel Wolff, President at Freda Salvador, mother to Otis and Rosie.

“The one tip I have, that I heavily rely on is this: My daughter, Icy, has very long hair, and every night, while she is relaxing and watching Puffin Rock, I comb her hair thoroughly and put two french braids in it. Doing it the evening before means I do not have to deal with a cranky 4-year-old at 7 a.m. who really doesn’t want to have her hair brushed. It’s a life saver for me.” -Bronagh Staley, Owner of Sweet William, mother to Icy and Fointan.

“We let our children get dressed on their own, but we always have their bags and shoes ready by the door and then it’s, ‘Who is going to open the door? Who is calling the lift? Who is coming on my bike today?’ That always get them excited and out the door quicker.” -Marta Bahillo, Founder of Babaà, mother to three.

“We need to leave our house at 8:10 a.m. in order to arrive at school in time. At 8:00 a.m., our Sonos system automatically starts playing a song, and all the family members know it is now drill time: Brush teeth, plait hair, gather lunch and gym bags, put on shoes and coats, etc. Our aim is to have everybody waiting in the hallway at the end of the song! We have different songs for all five days off the week (the children and my husband pick their favourites), and it works like a charm–we’re all dancing to get ready!” -Esther van de Paal, Co-Founder of Babyccino Kids, mother to Sara, Pim, Ava, and Casper.

“I’m sure every mom knows this, but get the diaper bag packed ahead of time so it’s just ready to go. I have two bags that I rotate: One bag for everyday outings and another for beach/park days that has toys, sidewalk chalk, etc. (I learned this trick after coming home from the park too many times with a diaper bag full of sand and soggy chalk). Also, I always plan to get out the door 30 minutes before I really need to because something always comes up.” Amanda Jane Jones, Graphic Designer, mother to three.

“We’ve recently discovered that some sort of fun incentive works great to get them up and ready to walk out the door without complaints. A special something for breakfast, a stop on the way to school, cooking breakfast themselves or helping make mom’s coffee, or being able to bike to school instead of drive work well to motivate our girls to be dressed and ready on time.” -Emily McMaster, Founder of Mabo, mother to Ruby and Mabel.

“Wake up early enough to not have to rush. To save on time, prepare everything the night before (school uniform, school bags, etc.). I have taught my children to be quite independent from a young age, so after they get a big morning kiss, they get dressed in my bathroom while I shower and get dressed. All breakfast ingredients are ready the night before and we all prepare it together so that it’s all done in 10 minutes and we don’t need to rush our breakfast while sitting down to eat. My motto in the mornings: Do not rush things, so that you don’t need to stress. The more you plan and prepare the night before, the less you will have to do the following morning. The other thing is routine—I’m a big fan! As boring as it may sound, from Monday to Friday we do the same thing, at the same time, every single day. We all love the fact that life is predictable enough that we have time to do everything we wish to do during the day.” -Celia Muñoz, Founder of La Coqueta Kids, mother to Flavia, Lucas, Siena, Bosco, and Hugo.

“I set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. every morning, so that we have plenty of time before we have to leave. This is hard for me, as I’m not an early riser! I don’t like making a lot of decisions in the morning, so we prep lunches and outfits the night before. Breakfasts are so much easier when you are not reinventing the wheel—Monday is oatmeal day, Tuesday is hardboiled eggs and toast, Wednesdays the girls get to make smoothies, etc. We talk it all through at the beginning of the week and that rhythm really helps.” Elizabeth Antonia, Art Director and Writer, mother to Elodie and Francesca.

“We recently added a little toddler-friendly area to our front entryway. There are two hooks that Faye can use to hang her jacket and tiny backpack along with a basket where she can find her shoes. She loves getting to participate in getting ready to leave the house and having everything in an easy-to-find, accessible spot speeds the process along. Now, if only we could master getting those shoes on the right feet on the first try….” Erin Boyle, Author and Blogger at Reading My Tea Leaves, mother to three.

“I’m a huge believer in prepping the night before and keeping breakfast easy peasy. Having clothes laid out, backpacks ready and by the door, and as much of their lunch made the night before makes all the difference! For breakfast we keep it real simple and as healthy as possible with a quick smoothie, cereal, overnight oats, fruit, granola and/or yogurt. It starts everyone’s day out right and keeps dishes to a minimum. We also have a ‘rule’ that the kids don’t come downstairs for breakfast until they are dressed down to their shoes, teeth and hair brushed, and beds made. I’m all about a smooth morning.” Elle Rowley, Founder of Solly Baby, mother to four.

“My husband and I use the same bag for our kids, so it’s always stocked no matter who is in charge. Each of the kids has their own water bottle, which we usually leave in the bag. We keep a tin of snacks that is stocked at all times. That way the bag is always ready to go with water, food, and diapers. We can grab it and go pretty quickly! On school days, we set out our first grader’s uniform on the couch each night. That way, we can tell him to change into it after breakfast and actually see that he’s doing it! When my husband wakes up, he’ll prepare the kids’ toothbrushes so that all we have to do before school is tell them to go brush teeth and don’t have to worry about a big mess or any extra steps. The key with my older son is reducing the amount of steps he has to take to complete a task, since he can be quite a slow poke! We prepare all the dry ingredients for his school lunch the night before, so that we only have to make his sandwich fresh in the morning. We make sure he’s assembled his backpack the night before, so that papers are where they need to be the next morning. This stuff actually works well for us, and mornings don’t feel super stressful!” -Lauren Bradshaw, Author and Founder of Walnut Animal Society, mother to Henry and Arlo.

“My husband makes an entire week’s worth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at once, using frozen bread. He then puts the sandwiches back in the freezer and pulls out what we need each morning and puts them in sandwich containers. They are thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime! It usually takes about 45 minutes to get our entire morning routine complete before needing to be out the door. We like to set a timer about 20 minutes before we need to leave so that when it beeps, we know it’s time to head to the car. It really helps keep us on time so there’s no tardy slips!” Annie Messing, Co-Owner of Brimful, mother to Fen, Di, Mei, and Zai.

“We are in the lucky situation that Milla’s school starts at 9 a.m. But, especially since we do have time in the morning, I try to engage her as much as possible. Otherwise, I loose her in her games and then we never get ready. We often play Who Gets Dressed First–the only way to get this done quickly! Then, she helps me prepare breakfast and her lunch. Her help does not really save time (on the contrary), but allowing her to help keeps her engaged and from escaping to her room (from where I would need to call her three times until she finally comes down for breakfast). In general, I try to make getting ready and prepared for the day our shared task.” -Birgit Sfat, Founder of Over The Ocean, mother to Milla.

“Wake up early so you are not rushed. It’s nice to have some time for yourself before getting the little ones ready.” -Sue Tsai, Designer at Nico Nico, mother to three. 

“Prepare, prepare, prepare is the name of the game. Lay out clothes/uniforms the night before, and pack lunch boxes and backpacks. Try and think about what they’ll have for breakfast the night before, and lay out plates and glasses. I usually do a big batch of hard-boiled eggs to go with toast (I’m loving this Food52 hack—who knew!) while my colleagues Kelli and Laura swear by overnight oatmeal. Try and get your kids accountable for everyone getting out the door, have them help draw their own checklist, such as ‘brush hair, wash teeth.’ I set an alarm to go off on my phone 5 minutes before we absolutely must leave the house to make it to school by our desired time. The funny alarm music I chose sometimes helps lighten moods when tensions are high and everyone is rushing. We call it the ‘5-minute warning’. I find showering and washing hair at night instead of in the morning an absolute time-saver, and generally just washing my hair less. I use this dry shampoo which makes mussy hair look a little more polished and helps stretch times between washings. Getting up 15 minutes before the kids also helps—getting my bed made, getting dressed and ready before I wake them up gently just makes for a better day. And if you’re a family that does allow for screens in the morning, my tip would be to let them have it only after every single thing on their checklist has been done! For those times when you can’t wake up 15 minutes early and just need to get your teeth brushed!” -Zoie Kingsbery Coe, Founder of Kid & Coe, mother to India Rose and Luca.

This article was originally published on September 21, 2016.

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