It’s the middle of August. That means I have just a few short weeks left before everything changes: my biggest little girl will be off to start reception class at school. And for the last six months I’ve been dreading it. Mostly for fear of how on God’s green earth I’m going to manage to get my two feral children fed, cleaned, dressed and out of the house on time. I needed some serious back to school hacks.
Why I’m Anxious About the School Morning Routine
I love my daughter fiercely, but Pixie can sometimes exhibit extremely challenging behaviour which does not lend itself at all to life on a tight schedule. Call me ridiculous, but this issue has been a genuine source of stress for some time. I’m totally serious: I’ve given this a lot of thought and I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time collating tips and practicing. I need to have this nailed ahead of time.
After I’d finished writing and was nearly ready to schedule this post, something occurred to me:
The responsibility of getting Pixie to school on time – which is basically a legal requirement – is solely mine and falls squarely on my shoulders.
Dan will be long gone for work, so this is my challenge to overcome. That’s probably where a lot of the stress comes from.
But I will, I just have to get into the stride of things and find a routine that works…
Below I’ve listed a couple of back to school hacks from my personal repertoire which have been making our trial runs a little smoother than I’d dared hope. I’ve also included tips from fellow bloggers who have already been there and worn found their kids’ t-shirts in lost property a bazillion time…
Back to School Hacks for a Smooth Morning Routine
1. Get Up Early
It may seem obvious, but leave more time than is necessary. Like, way more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught out with this, it’s like Sod’s Law and Murphy’s Law got together and ganged up on me to ensure I’m always late, irrespective of how organised I try to be. Everything can be going according to plan, and all it takes is for Pixie to get into one of her fits and… DOOM.
So, leaving plenty of time is paramount, and in our house getting up early is not difficult thanks to our very effective, very early alarm: Elfin. She rarely wakes up at 6am; 4.30 or 5am is more usual.
Which brings me onto my next point:
2. Get Shit Done While the Kids Sleep
Alas given above this one is basically impossible for me unless I start my day before even the birds. I a little bit want to punch (in an affectionate way) the people that say ‘set your alarm for an hour before your children get up’. Seriously? I’m not starting my day at 3.30am.
I get around this ridiculousness by getting shit done while one of my children sleeps.
It’s not a quite perfect solution, but it definitely helps. It also means I rely on the iPad to be a babysitter to my two year old while I shower, dress, and cover my big black under-eye circles. It’s not ideal, but needs must and as far as back to school hacks go, it’s sound because it helps. Plus it means there’s less time for fighting – or what inevitably turns into fighting and refereeing.
3. Don’t Go Downstairs Till You’re Dressed
My poor sleep-deprived brain resisted this one so hard, but ultimately it works. If I go downstairs for coffee and breakfast in my dressing gown, the whole morning gets thrown out.
Inevitably one of the girls will lose their mind over some pointless nonsense which can’t be predicted, except for in its reliable lack of logic.
If I’m dressed and ready then everything else becomes less of a battle because I can focus solely on the girls.
More Back to School Hacks
Over to my comrades for their tried and tested back to school hacks…
I have all of our clothes and bags organised the night before. If something ends up going wrong or Erin decides to take forever doing something it’s one less thing to worry about.
I used to let my girls choose a teddy/toy to take with them. Not only did it give them something to look for while I got ready, but it entertained them on the journey.
I make sure that everything is ready the night before – clothes laid out for all of us, food made. Sometimes I will put out cereal bowls and spoons etc too. School shoes lined up by the door (why do they always disappear?!).
I also get up before my daughter so that I am showered, dressed and have eaten before she is already up.
My husband bribes with pink wafer biscuits for whichever kid can get ready the fastest. Not a tactic I agree with really but it gets results! Personally I try not to look at my phone until I’ve handed the kids over at school so I don’t get distracted.
Shower the night before, get up twenty minutes before they do to have a wash and get dressed etc, all clothes laid out and no TV until all three are dressed. They go to breakfast club so don’t have to have breakfast but we have to be out for 7.30.
If you have a friend at school or your child has a good friend in school, try and arrange to meet them at the school gates!
My daughter can be very reluctant to go to school in the mornings and therefore it slows us down too. So we started arranging to meet her best friend from school at the gates. It’s been a win win because I can say “ohh, we need to get ready on time because your friend will be waiting for us so you can play”, and secondly because they are both happy going into school as they have each other!
I just want to be the voice of reality… sometimes, even if you have everything else down, you’re super organised, it’s all flying as it should… you’re all going to arrive at school/nursery ON TIME!!… but then… sometimes your toddler still needs a poop just when you’re strapping them in the car seat. And that’s life.
(I’m not sure that was actually intended to be included; but it’s totally true and it made me laugh, so it stays.)
Keep everything the same everyday so the children know what is expected of them. If needed you could use a visual timetable.
We always get dressed upstairs and tell our three yr old twins that if they get dressed quickly, they can have 5 mins on their kindles which allows us five mins to tidy up. Kindles stay upstairs.
Then once downstairs, it’s breakfast time and straight into the kitchen. Whoever finishes first, gets a sticker on their sticker chart (or a Smartie). Then it’s shoes on and out the door!
If they are super quick eating breakfast they get a five min play, but must have their shoes on first.
Can I say shouting orders?! No honestly, my smaller one will actually play next to the shower and usually pushes the door open to put his hands inside. Yes everything gets wet but it means I can watch him and have my shower. I get ready first then get the older one upstairs to start getting himself ready and then I do the smallest. It’s the same every day so they all know how it works too.
I have this post. I’m still sticking to getting up before the kids 6 months in, everyday I appreciate the change to our routine from it.
A friend of mine has a set of drawers for each child labelled with each day of the week.
Every Sunday she puts their clothes and anything they need for that particular day, extra clothes for clubs, a book, homework and so on. Bloody genius!
- The Relentless and Intolerable Pressure to Fundraise at Preschool
- The Loophole That Means Preschool Can Steal Your Child’s Funding
- Term-Time Holidays for School Children: Where Do You Stand?
- Starting School: Summer Preparations, by Parenting Phils
I wouldn’t say we are particularly organised in the mornings, but a few things that work for us are:
Getting up before the kids to get ready; getting up really early so we have plenty of time for dragging feet and tantrums; sometimes we give Alfie “challenges” and time him getting ready etc to see if he can beat his time. I often have to forgo breakfast at home and just have it at work. The thing that definitely helps the most is there are two of us so we can tag team. We leave the house at 7.20 every morning and I’ve not missed my train yet!!
Military precision timings.
Train the children to know what happens when, what they need to do and what you will do. Set out and prepare as much as possible the night before. Remind the children the night before what they need to do when they get up in the morning. Then work to it.
Children will get used to the routine, and even if you need to chivvy them along (mine takes several attempts to get socks and then shoes on/putting breakfast things in the dishwasher), you’ll still be out on time. (Oh, and only have one child. So much easier!).
With thanks to all of the ladies who kindly offered their back to school hacks and advice!
I have very mixed feelings about this impending next phase of our lives. I find myself swinging dramatically between relief and sadness: Pixie will be just about the oldest in her class (very possibly the actual oldest), so she’s more than ready – we both are. But it also means everything changes, and it’s the beginning of unravelling the apron strings. Sob.
Hopefully by implementing the above back to school hacks, the practical aspects of starting reception class will be one less thing to worry about – so I can focus all my energies on being the obligatory emotional wreck at the school gate, along with every other parent dropping their big-little ones off!