This post is sponsored by the fine people at Wayfair who asked for some tips on making mornings more manageable as the kids head back to school. I’d suggest hiring a nanny and going back to bed, but I don’t think that’s quite what they were after.
Listen. I’ve tried all the things. Really, I have. And the thing is this: school mornings that aren’t crazy are totally outside of the norm. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve had those mornings where everything went smoothly and you ended up with extra time on your hands and your kids were early to school and all you could think was, “what did I forget?” I know you’ve been there.
The truth is, there is no magic formula to make mornings easier. For me, it’s about being organized and aware of my time. It’s about giving my kids enough time to (mostly) go at their natural pace (I’m totally one of those “hurry up! We’re late!” moms but my kids are more like “This LEGO car really needs a second seat so Batman can ride with Merida. Maybe if I just add a couple of things. Did I leave Merida in the kitchen? There she is, right by my art project. Hey, Mom? Where are the paints? I need to finish this painting so I can bring it to school today and give it to Jane.”) You really have to find the routine that works best for you AND for your kids. My husband has an entirely different approach to morning routine with the kids and they still make it to school, on time, with all their stuff, (almost) every single time. Whatever works.
Sometimes, though, you need a little inspiration. In case that’s where you are, here’s what works at our house when times get tough.
Number 1: Get up at least 30 minutes before your kids (earlier if you want to shower) and don’t check your phone until AFTER the kids are at school. Starting with your own agenda for the day is key to feeling less frazzled and distracted. Make yourself a cup of coffee (and breakfast, Mama!), get out a pen and notepad, and write down your to-do list so you can clear your head. Less distracted equals more efficient, but it also equals less grumpy, which always seems to help my kids get off to school more smoothly.
Number 2: Food organization makes lunch box prep so much easier. Keep your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocked by food category to make breakfast and lunch box prep faster. Store like-type foods in baskets and bins.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I’m a fan of the bento style lunch (I use Sistema split containers similar to these). I pack lunches by food category (Wendolonia has a great chart that I keep in my pantry for lunch box content ideas): main protein, veggie, fruit, crunchy/snack, and dessert. This is also how I organize my refrigerator and pantry. I know, I know. It sounds so pretentious and over-achiever, but trust me, I feel it the weeks when I don’t have veggies, fruit, and snacks prepared, cut, washed, and sorted before Monday morning. Bins in the refrigerator with serving-size snacks (washed and cut veggies, cheese sticks, zip locks of grapes, yogurts, etc.) and baskets in the pantry (granola bars, raisin boxes, apple sauce, crackers) make for quick lunch box packing. Glass jars are great for storing commonly used snack items (goldfish, nuts, cookies) so that you always know what you have on hand. You can also freeze extra baked goods (pizza rolls, banana muffins, waffles for sandwiches) and store them in bins together to grab for lunch. (Note: there’s no need to defrost those muffins. Just stick them in the lunch box frozen and they will defrost on their own before lunch time. Same goes for waffles used as sandwich bread.)
Number 3: Designate a specific spot for homework folders, papers that need to be signed/returned, and books in process. The kitchen counter is NOT the best spot for homework folders. Nor is the bedroom floor.
Somewhere during the middle of last school year, I discovered that my kids are more focused in the morning and therefore better at getting in their required 20 minutes or spelling word studying during breakfast than they are after school. The kids now read aloud to me (or I test their spelling words) while the waffle iron is heating or the eggs are scrambling or the toast is toasting. To make this easier (for me and the kids), we keep all homework, papers that need to go back to school, and books in progress in a magnetic magazine holder on the side of our washing machine, which is right off of the kitchen table. I can’t speak highly enough of this find. The kids can reach their homework, we always know where it is, and everything is handy to the kitchen but not cluttering up my counters.
Number 4: Waffles make the world go round. Ok, maybe not. But once you’ve started making waffles, you’ll find that they are really easy to make (it’s totally ok to use mix!!) and can multitask as both breakfast (with peanut butter and sprinkles) or lunch (waffle sandwich anyone?). Waffles can be made on the weekend and frozen for weekday use. Major bonus? Waffle faces with peanut butter, bananas, and chocolate chips make kids pretty happy.
Here are a few organizational items that I think are pretty useful for my kitchen (and, of course, my favorite waffle iron).
I’d love to hear any tips you have for making mornings easier at your house. Until then, good luck with back to school preparations!