Simple hacks to make your morning routine with kids run a whole lot smoother

Who better to consult than mums who've been there, done that, ironed the Minecraft t-shirt? Amanda Cassidy discovers some new ways to tackle the breakfast chaos as we start counting down to the back-to-school routine.


Let’s not beat about the bush. School mornings with kids can be challenging. That’s why we are currently basking in the glory of 9am wake-ups, cornflakes instead of porridge, Pokémon marathons and a strict sandwich-making ban.

Sure, they’ve had an ice-cream every single day since the school break began, but mummy has to stay sane and there is only so much time a trampoline can kill in this weather before the bickering starts.

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Besides, we all crave a bit of routine – especially as the summer holidays wind down. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that September really is the new January for parents. And while we would never want to rush anyone towards the back-to-school aisle in Dunnes, it is worth letting some organisational habits percolate from about now as we hand over snacks to our offspring every 45 minutes throughout the day.

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This parental new year is more about giving your children the comfort of order and routine rather than vowing to take those violin lessons you’ve been meaning to do for years. And as organised as you may think you are, however many years into the school system, there is nothing to lose by sharpening your metaphorical pencils and imposing more productive habits for the entire family. We asked our mummy panel for their smooth morning hacks.

Start the night before. Make sure you don’t sit down for the evening before everything is done. Karen.

 Ok Karen, steady on. We can’t all be Organised Ollie at the click of our fingers. But most of us had this one figured out after a disastrous morning where nothing went to plan and everyone (including you) cried on the way to school.

Making the lunches and having their showers the night before will save you the most time. Making sure the right uniform (if you have the misfortune of having a uniform policy in your child’s school) is laid out. Finding the PE gear at the bottom of the laundry basket at twenty to nine in the morning is hell for everyone. It is a well-known fact that parents are infinitely more patient at every other moment of the day except the hour before school starts. Every detail you can take care of in the evening will save you precious time in the mornings. Waking up to a tidy house also works wonders for the mind. No matter how tired you might feel in the evening, your future morning self will thank you for stacking and setting off the dishwasher so everything is chaos-ready come 8 am.

Everyone functions better with sleep. I try to get a good night’s sleep so I have a lot more energy to handle the mornings.  Sarah

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 Sarah clearly hasn’t been binge-watching Line of Duty every night until midnight like some of us, but being cranky and low-energy means your fuse is a whole lot shorter. Children at primary school age need about 10 hours of sleep every night. If they are fighting it after the 10pm bedtimes you’ve indulged over the summer holidays, try putting them to bed earlier by 15 minutes every night until they are getting the sleep they need.  Mornings are better for everyone once you have all had enough sleep.

It can get quite tedious to be constantly chasing them around the house nagging about teeth and shoes, I’m going to try and make things a little more fun in the mornings with a playlist. Joanne.

 Music is like magic for my children. A certain beat of a song in the car can make or break any journey. Ed Sheeran is my saviour for this very reason. And although we are all feeling pretty maudlin when we arrive at our destination, we’ve had a very pleasant, thoughtful and most importantly quiet trip without any Chinese burn incidents, Match Attack cards jumping out windows or tears over getting a puppy.

A lot of the parents we spoke to agreed that creating a fun, upbeat playlist to play in the mornings kept everyone in better form and distracted from the usual ‘do I have to?’ whine that drives us demented.

Respect breakfast. It is so easy to just grab and go. It is a good opportunity to sit down together. Molly.

So many families rarely share meals together these days but once you are more organised and up earlier, you can ensure your children eat a healthy breakfast while having some family together time. It also gives us a chance to chat about what’s coming up, what everyone has going on. It doesn’t have to be a major event, but even 10 minutes sitting around the table together can be quite grounding for everyone. Creating this habit every single day means we are also more likely to remember things like distributing daily vitamins, drinking enough water and ensuring that the children start the day with a good meal.  If everyone gets ready at different times, prioritise breakfast first in the routine so everyone starts their meal at the same time and then disperses to gel their hair/play pokemon/find their shoes/down another quick coffee.

Visual aids have helped our family a lot. I now draw every step out so they can tick the task when it is done. Vera

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This probably applies more for younger children, but talking through everything and then making a picture chart for your child with the morning routine will be really beneficial for everyone. You can draw tooth-brushing, breakfast, getting dressed etc. We are all trying to teach our children to be independent, so encouraging them to do things themselves won’t just free us up, it is aiding their natural development.

I don’t want to be the Get Ready Police. I’ve started implementing natural consequences and my son has never been ready so quickly. Ann

There is nobody as scary as my son’s school principal. He knows that if he is late he will have to face her wrath. Sometimes not nagging them allows children to develop their owb natural sense of responsibility. If my son is dragging his heels when it comes to putting on his shoes or getting his bag together, I simply remind him about having to see Mrs Kelly and he speeds things up pronto. Natural consequences are sometimes a better teacher than you can ever be. Taking too long to get out of bed? No time for pancakes. Won’t get dressed? They’ll have to arrive at school in their PJs.

These are not punishments but things that will logically happen if your children don’t do as they are asked by you, their guide. (Obviously, this step is dependent on the age of your child).

Mornings start of your day and having a bad one can really affect your attitude for the rest of the day. There is nothing worse than ranting and raving and then feeling terrible about it once you have dropped your little ones off. The kitchen is a bomb-site and you feel frazzled, under-prepared and like a failure.

As parents, we have to remember that every moment spent together should feel precious – especially when we might not see our children for hours until the evening time. When things start to feel more like a whirlwind, it is time to tweak the routine, put in place some organisational tools and dance our way through those mornings.

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