Friday, 8 February 2013

Making school mornings easier

In the post the other day, I got a nice package from Warburtons, enough to raise a smile on a grey February day.

A nice set of breakfast products. The purpose was to raise the profile of a new handbook that they are putting together with tips for making the morning rush easier. This comes alongside new findings tha show that mothers have to juggle twice as many tasks in the morning as executives in their first hour of work and that 27 % of mothers find mornings more stressful than parents' evening or a visit from the in-laws. In my case, I'd say so but that's because neither of those things particularly bother me. Mornings in our house aren't too bad; they've definitely got better as the children have got older. And yes, I get help - husband takes the children to school about half of the time. 

They've asked me if I could share my tips for making the mornings before school easier. Here are mine. 

1. Work out a comfortable leaving time and try to stick to it. This should be at least five minutes earlier than your "Oh my God we really have to leave" time, if not ten. Knowing that time in your head will help focus your mind, and that of older children. Set an alarm to go off just ahead, so that everyone knows it's time to get ready. 

2. Get as much done the night before as possible. Really, I cannot stress this enough as it helps to keep the to do list down in the morning. Here's what we do:
  • On Sunday night, I make sure that the children have uniform out and every night, they put what they are wearing, including underwear, on a chair in their room. (And I check it!) 
  • After Sunday bedtime, I get out toast money for both. Actually, I do this every day (well, most) for Monkey as he buys his - I just have to send it in weekly for Missy Woo. 
  • Any money that needs to go to school is by the door, partly because I don't take them every day. The children have school lunches so I make sure I send in money in bigger chunks so I don't have to do it every week. 
  • If you have packed lunches, get as much ready beforehand - get all the things that don't need to be kept in the refrigerator in their lunchboxes, make their sandwiches and place in a freezer bag and put in the fridge next to anything else that has to be kept cold so you can just grab and pop into the lunchboxes in the morning. 
  • Keep a list of things they need for school on different days so you can check what they need.
  • Place bags and other equipment needed for school by the door. If it's cold, check that hats, gloves and scarfs are with their coats. If it's not, caps and suncream. 
  • If you are going straight to work, choose your outfit the night before too. (I pack my gym bag ready for gym days!)
  • Check the children's bags for notes from school before they go to bed in case they are asking for extra things to be sent in. 
  • And of course, make sure homework is done in the evening.

3. Limit screen time in the morning. The TV or game console goes off the second it slows them down. We have banned it but that tends to improve things. Definitely do not let them watch and eat - try and get them to eat at a table away from a television. In reality, mine only watch telly once they are dressed and have come out of their rooms and before they have breakfast. I can live with that.

4. Keep things to hand. The children have a set of toothbrushes and toothpaste in the downstairs toilet so they don't disappear upstairs for minutes on end, plus we can keep an eye on how long they are brushing for.

5. If you are struggling to get the children to co-operate, set up a reward chart for the tasks they need to do in the morning. The more co-operative they are, the faster they earn treats.

6. Don't fight food battles in the morning. Research some years ago shows that the most important thing for performance in school is that children eat breakfast; any breakfast. If your child wants something that you perceive as unhealthy and won't eat anything else, let them have it (provided it's easy to prepare!). Hell, we've had cake for breakfast on the odd occasion before now! So shoot me.

What are your tips for easier mornings?

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