Ask the Experts

Q: “How Can We Streamline Our Morning Routine with an Eye to Fall?”

Is your morning routine ready for the return to in-person school? Could your get-out-the-door plan use a refresh? Follow this advice to build better habits well before the first day of school.

Mother Getting Children Ready To Leave House For School

Q: “I’m worried about the Fall, when we my girls will go back to in-person school and need to be on a morning schedule. They will never get out the door on time! My younger daughter gets caught up in the mornings, always going back to her room for her socks or shoes or something else. I’m looking for help to get our morning routine down so we’re not in crisis when school starts up again.” – MorningMom

Hi MorningMom:

Brava to you for focusing on the morning routine now, while you have the luxury of time. And that is the key. Mornings are always stressful because, unfortunately, they come with a deadline. So best to solidify those routines when you’re not feeling the pressure of a clock ticking down.

My rule of thumb about mornings is this: Anything you can do the night before should be done! Since I don’t know your current morning routine, I’m going to offer a few general suggestions to help create a smooth morning by preparing the night before.

1. Lay out clothes and toiletries for the next day — including everything from accessories (like the shoes and socks for which your daughter returns to her room) to undergarments to toothbrushes. But here is the key: Take tomorrow’s outfit out of the bedroom and leave it either in the kitchen or in the bathroom closest to your kitchen. By removing the clothing from the bedroom, you’re also removing the temptation for your daughter to make time-wasting trips back there. This goes for the toiletries as well. Set up a toothbrush and washing station either in the kitchen or in the bathroom nearest to the door you use to leave your home.

And a tip within a tip. To minimize your daughters’ footprints in the morning, keep everything they need in one small space. In other words, once she leaves one room, she should not need to go back to it.

[Read: Morning (and Evening) Routines to Reinforce Calm]

2. Get breakfast ready. Most of us know to make lunch the night before to save time in the morning, but preparing breakfast is a time robber, too. Set out dishes and utensils. Lay out vitamins or other medications. Pre-measure cereal. Cut up fruit. You will shave minutes off the morning if you have everything set out and ready to go the evening before.

3. Set up a launching pad. This is where the magic happens! My children are flown and grown, and I still use a launching pad to help me on busy mornings. This is a designated place in your home to keep the belongings that go back and forth to school every day. It removes the morning stress of “I can’t find my binder” or “Where is my clarinet?” Pick a heavily trafficked location; it could be your front door, the mudroom, or even outside your daughters’ bedrooms. Backpacks with completed homework, library books, gym clothes, and musical instruments should all be stored here.

4. Make a reminder checklist. List items such as keys, lunches, homework, sports equipment, and musical instruments that you know your daughters need to take to school. (Pictures work perfectly for younger children.) Tack the list to a corkboard or clipboard and hang it right by the launching pad for them to see.

5. Practice. Practice. Practice. I would suggest practicing the routine now. Parents always ask me if they should practice during the summer when school is not in session. I feel it is difficult to get that same momentum going when school is out for the summer, but you can use this spring to work out some kinks while the pressure is less.

[Read: The Secret to No-Nag, Never-Late Mornings]

Preparing for the morning the evening before allows children to make decisions without feeling overwhelmed or pressured. For a 10- and 13-year-old, that’s a wonderful way to promote self-sufficiency and problem-solving skills.

If you are looking for more tips and tools for smoother mornings, please check out our website at

Morning Routine: Next Steps

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