A morning checklist

Some mornings everything runs smoothly -- books and homework are ready and waiting in book bags, no milk gets spilled at breakfast and there's no surprise announcement that your eight-year-old needs enough cupcakes to feed the entire class. But most mornings, we rush to get the children dressed and fed in time to get to school or daycare. We spend too much time looking for book bags and car keys. Then, we discover at lunchtime that our socks don't match.

Dr. Sylvia Rimm, author of "How to Parent So Children Will Learn," says nagging is a poor way to get kids ready for school. But all parents wonder how children will ever get out the door without our help -- especially if we struggle to leave on time ourselves. How can we be sure they will remember to wash their faces and brush their teeth if we don't remind them?

If your mornings tend to run like mine, a few tips and a morning routine that starts the night before will help you get through school-day mornings with a minimum of stress (and nagging).

Some things you can do right away:

  • Establish a place for book bags and diaper bags. Let everyone in the family know where that spot is and place the bags there immediately, if possible. You might choose a countertop or shelf near the door, or hang a few hooks or pegs for these items. Don't wait until school starts. Do it NOW.
  • Plan a time each evening to prepare for the following day. Decide when you will read school or daycare correspondence and fill out forms and permission slips each day. Establish a time each afternoon or evening when children can do homework and study, even if studying just means reading for fun, if there isn't too much homework that night. Let children know that there is time for homework, and they just might remember to bring it home.
  • Get up on time. Purchase an alarm clock for each bedroom, if you don't have enough, and show the children how to use them. Start using them. Get used to getting up at the same time every morning.
  • Cook ahead. Start freezing leftover breakfast items when you have extra pancakes or waffles. Pancakes go in the microwave for about two minutes, and waffles go in the toaster for a quick, hot breakfast.
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