1. Get organised
Everything that is needed for the following day should be prepared the night before and everyone, including partners and children, can be involved.
Encourage your children to write (or draw) their daily programmes (such as PE day or any afterschool activities like swimming or music lessons) on a colourful chart then stick it on the wall in the most visible place. Always keep uniforms all together, and shoes, in pairs, in the same place. If your child doesn’t wear a uniform, sort them what they are going to wear the night before. PE, book and lunch bags and musical instruments should be left right near the door so there’s no fear of forgetting them.
2. Get some sleep
Everything can seem more of a chore when you’re tired, so make sure your children – and you – get enough sleep. Whilst everyone differs in the amount of sleep they need, it is nevertheless recommended that children aged two to four should be having 12 to 13 hours a night, and children aged four to eight should be having 10–11 hours. Give your children a regular cosy bedtime routines – such as bath, story and cosy cuddle – to make it a pleasurable finale to the day.
3. Time for you
Aim to get up before your children, have a shower and coffee and ready yourself for the day. Put a smattering of make-up on and you will feel more human. Chivvy along two or more children by trying a fun competition like ‘the first one to the breakfast table gets a sticker’ or set a challenge like “I bet you can’t get downstairs in five seconds.”
4. Time for breakfast
Sit down together and make time for breakfast – the most important meal of the day. With ever increasing worries over childhood obesity, nutritionists at the Food Standards Agency suggest starting the day the healthy way with fruit juice, wholegrain cereal and toast spread with peanut butter or cream cheese. Don’t skimp on your own breakfast either. Sit down with them and start the day calmly.
If you find that you are really pushed for time, then check out whether your school has a breakfast club. Many now do, and they are an invaluable help to many working parents.
5. No television
This is subject to debate. Some parents find early-morning viewing a useful tool, especially with toddlers who really don’t want to get up and dressed. If strictly monitored and used for a short burst once everyone is ready then it can also be treated as a ‘reward’. Make sure your partner is consistent with enforcing the house rules.
6. Create a routine
Treat the morning like a military drill, especially for younger children, who crave familiarity and routine. If you stick to the same procedure every day – get up, get dressed, have breakfast, clean teeth and leave the house – then it can be done almost on auto-pilot.
Start from an early age and it won’t come as any shock when it is time for them to start school. Always keep a close eye on the time, and encourage children to help you make a poster showing the routine and a schedule, for example, draw a clock showing 7am with a picture of children getting dressed.
7. Lunch for a week
Make up a batch of sandwiches on Sunday night and freeze them. It really does take the pressure off having to do it the night before (just don’t forget to take them out of the freezer though!).
8. Time to leave
Always aim to leave the house at the same time. Setting an alarm clock to ring just beforehand can act as a signal (for toddlers in particular) that it’s time to go. Older children will be used to the sound of the bell from school.
9. Walk to school
Wherever possible ditch the car – it’s better for everyone. A recent Department of Transport survey of more than 1,500 parents revealed that 40 per cent of those who drove admitted that it would take them less than 20 minutes if they walked.
Use a buggy board if you have a baby and a toddler to take with you, and provide books and small toys to play with for the journey. Make the most of your journey by talking about the day ahead en route, and keep the mood cheery. If you have to drive then put calming music on and try not to let the traffic and delays increase your tension. Why not arrange a car share with another parent? Halve the load, and stress.
Congratulations! You’ve made it in good time. Give them a big kiss and hug, and watch them skip into school. Treasure these moments because they really won’t be little forever. Be proud of yourself, and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Mission accomplished. And if you don’t make it before the bell rings? Well, there’s always tomorrow…