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4 Ways To Ace Your Back To School Morning Routine

School... are you ready for it? It's just a few days until we're back to early morning wake ups, packing school lunches, and routines.

I don't mind the routines that much. In fact, over the years I've learned that routines help mornings run more smoothly and guarantee that we start off on the right foot. Here's 4 essentials to a back to school morning routine that might help you have your best year yet.

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1. Optimize your wake up time - for both adults and kids

There's morning people... and then there's me ;) If I had my choice, I'd sleep until 9am each day so having to be the first one awake to prepare breakfast, pack school lunches, and get my 10 year old Chloe out the door is not something that comes naturally to me. Chloe's got her own rhythm too. Like her dad, she barely sleeps past 7am and can be Cranky (with a capital C!) in the mornings when she's feeling rushed.

However, mornings became infinitely easier when we made one small change: shifted sleep and wake up times to fit our internal clocks.

Now, the early morning risers in our household get up first. The extra minutes of quiet time allow them to have a slow and easy start which keeps everyone relaxed and removes stress from our mornings. Chloe will get herself dressed, make herself some cereal or toast for breakfast, and watch some YouTube videos until her dad gets up at 7am. He'll cook her some additional hot breakfast foods if needed and will take care of packing up the school snacks. I'll get out of bed by 7:45am and take care of cooking any hot lunch items, help with last-minute review for any tests, making sure all school forms are signed, bags are packed, and Chloe gets out the door.

Staggering wake up times and dividing tasks has eliminated stress from our mornings and ensures nothing gets missed.

2. Pick out clothes the night before

Do you remember fighting with your parents about what to wear? We're at the age when Chloe has her own tastes in clothing and style. We'll occasionally degree on her outfit choices because things are not weather-appropriate, school appropriate, or because there's some clothes in her closet that are being ignored and I'd love for her to wear them before she outgrows them.

Having these disagreements on school mornings when we're all pressed for time was just not working for any of us. So now, Chloe will choose her outfits the night before and lays them on her bench. She'll take into consideration whether it's a gym day or not, and will put aside everything from socks to clothes to hair ties. This gives me the chance to give everything the once over before bedtime. As a final step, she pops outside in the morning before she dresses, just to see what the weather is like.

Tip: If Chloe stumbles on an outfit she loves, she'll take a photo of herself and save it for reference. Now we hardly ever hear "Mom, I don't know what to wear!"

3. Create Drop Zones and check in / out routines

The start of school always brings lots of "stuff": forms to sign, school supplies to buy and organize, new clothes, lunch boxes, coats and shoes. It's easy to lose or misplace things and forget items on your Must Do list.

Having dedicated drop zones can help reduce some of the clutter. Have a place to put back packs and school uniforms. Keep school forms in a tray or on a bulletin board. And set a 'check-in, check-out' routine early in the school year.

In our household, lunch bags get emptied and back packs are hung as soon as Chloe gets home. I'll check for forms or notes from the teacher and Chloe will do her homework, while I make dinner. Morning check-out has its own flow: packed lunch bags and water bottles are put in the same place, ready to grab and go; Shoes and coats and hats are stored by the door; and there's always a last-minute check to make sure teeth have been brushed, hair is combed, and we've gone to the bathroom.

The better established your routine and habits, the less likely you are to lose, forget or misplace things.

4. Organize Your Pantry and Meal Plan

Is there any task more unappealing than making daily school lunches? Truth be told, I don't mind it that much, provided I have lots of food options. It's when the pantry is empty and there are no leftovers to take that things get challenging.

Staying ahead of the lunch planning curve requires just two things: a well-stocked pantry, and some meal planning. I still use these meal planning tips to give me ideas and help me plan out meals for the week. A few changes I've made are using our Instant Pot more often (I like the recipes in this cook book) and not beating myself up for relying on some off the shelf favourites instead of making everything from scratch. 

Having an organized pantry is key as well. We tend to pack the same variety of snacks and lunch every day:
  • 1 sandwich or hot item (pasta, rice and meat, hearty soup or dinner leftovers) 
  • 2 pieces of fruit
  • 1 carb (granola bar or muffin)
  • 1 veggie snack (mini carrots or cucumbers)
  • 1 dairy snack (cheese or yogurt)
Sticking to the same kinds of items makes lunch packing and grocery shopping easier. I've also just started using this lunch container kit and found it perfect for our needs.

With these changes and some pre-planning, we've found our school mornings run much more smoothly. Do you have any morning routines that you rely on? I'd love to hear your tips!

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