When I ask my mums which is the most stressful time of the day, it always comes down to one of two times. Either leaving the house with kids first thing in the morning or the bed and bath time routine.
Today we are going to tackle part of the morning routine. This is especially important for those of you who have toddlers and preschoolers and you need to leave the house on time.
As you have probably discovered, toddlers or often fiercely independent and that means getting out of the door can be really difficult first thing in the morning.
In The Wonder Mom Success Club we go into the whole morning routine but as I am a fan of tackling things in baby steps, let’s do exactly that… and just pick one bite-sized section to tackle.
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One: decide on outerwear before you leave the house
How many times have you tried to leave the house and the battle has been over which shoes to wear? Or which coat or jacket? To cut this off at the pass, decide which shoes/coats are going to be worn before you even get to the front door.
Make this part of your breakfast routine by simply asking one question.
Which shoes/coat are you going to wear today?
This is assuming of course that there is a choice to wear. Maybe if your kids have a school uniform then there is no choice or if your child gets through shoes as quickly as my son did (seriously, at one stage we seemed to be buying new shoes every 6 weeks!) then this is a moot point and you can skip to the next step.
If your child does have a choice, then bringing the weather into the conversation would be a good idea at this point.
Look outside the window and ask them what the weather is like. Maybe check the weather on the news or phone app to see whether later in the day it’s going to rain. And then talk about which clothes are suitable for the weather.
Get your child to commit to what they will wear that day, whilst they’re still at the breakfast table. Finish the sentence by asking them an “okay” question for example
“Today you decided to wear your wellies, okay?
“Today you decided to wear your yellow coat, okay?
“You decided” is putting the decision and outcome on them, they feel like they have control of the situation.
The Okay, tagged to the end from you, is requesting a response, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a positive one.
Two. Fastening practice
Another situation that happens when you’re trying to leave the house with kids is that your child will suddenly decide that they want to put the shoes/coat on by themselves and no, you absolutely cannot help them.
This is often a problem when it comes to toddlers because they go through an independent stage and they want to learn how to do it by themselves.
One way to help the situation is by having them practice fastening their shoes or putting on their coat at other times of the day, not just when you’re leaving the house.
In the Montessori classroom, they use dressing frames like this… (available from Amazon here)
For tying laces, my son’s kindergarten had a novel idea. Kids in Japan often don’t have laces on their shoes because if they need to leave the building quickly in case of an earthquake, they have to be able to put their shoes on really quickly. That means often kids grow up to be adults you can’t tie shoelaces
To give the kids time to practice, in the final year of kindergarten the kids had to have a specially made Bento bag which had shoestrings to fasten it.
When I first got news of the new bag I was somewhat confused because the previous year the kids already had a bento bag that worked just fine.
Then I learned that the specific pattern that we had to follow to make the bento bag was designed to help the kids learn to tie laces. By the end of the year, all the kids in the class knew how to tie the bento bag and had plenty of practice, so now they can all tie their shoelaces.
What I love most about this is that it is an out-of-the-box solution to a problem that will help kids in the future.
You can replicate this by setting up something to help your child practice the skills they need to get dressed. Whether that be fastening laces, using a zip, buttoning and unbuttoning, or using velcro and poppers.
For example, one of my quilt covers had buttons to fasten it, so I delegated the task of fastening the buttons and undoing them when it came to bedsheet laundry day, to my son.
Three. When leaving the house with kids, give them time
The final step when it comes to helping kids to leave the house easily when it comes to getting ready is making sure that they have enough time to actually get ready.
What often happens is that you’re leaving in a rush, you might be able to slip your shoes on within five seconds but preschool is still practicing and learning needs more time to do it.
So it’s really important to build extra time into your morning routine that coupled with practice to get ready will make your mornings run smoother.
Sometimes when you’re not busy, get your child to practice. Make a game of it.
How fast can they put on their shoes?
Can they put on their shoes, go out the door. Come back in the house and take them off their shoes in under 10 seconds or 20 seconds or 30 seconds whatever it needs and challenge them to beat their previous time, make it fun, make it a game.
Obviously don’t do this thing in the morning when you’re leaving the house with the kids by a specific time!
Another trick is to get them to show Granny or their uncle or another friend/relative how quickly they can put on their coat and shoes – do it over Skype or facetime.
This post has a great ninja toddler coat trick, I have taught it to loads of moms and they always come back and tell me how proud their kids are when they do it!
A pitfall to be aware of…
Something that we all do at some time or another is to do the task for the child.
The problem with this is that yes, you may be saving time on that particular day. But in the future, the child will believe that it’s easier and quicker to let mummy do it. And so the task of putting on their shoes it’s always going to be mummy’s job because it’s easier if we just let mommy do it.
The child starts to believe that they can’t do it and that is a big battle to come back from.
Whenever you find yourself in this situation I find it helpful to come back to Maria Montessori “help me to do it myself.”
To wrap up…
To have a morning where you are leaving the house with kids with a smile on your face and not like a bunch of tantrum-throwing, screaming loonies, which is just a bad way for everyone to start the day start implementing these 3 simple steps.
1. Over breakfast decide which outerwear is needed for the day, build this into your daily routine.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
3. Schedule in enough time. However long you think it’s going to take, triple it.
And if you want to get the rest of your day ticking over smoothly, then I invite you to join us in The Wonder Mom Success Club.