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8 school morning hacks for a stress-free routine

Ah, the school morning routine – a bit like a china shop full of hippos, there's a high probability of chaos in a very short window of time. So we've asked parents to share their advice on how to get ready for school without the drama, and we're already taking notes.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jun 7, 2021

School Run

When it comes to school morning routines, a little planning can go a long way. With most families reporting a chaotic and far-from-ideal morning schedule, we’re all for any life hacks that can help to ease the stress.

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So get your game face on and take heed from Mumsnetters who’ve been there before. Here are eight simple life hacks for stress-free school mornings.

1. Sort your storage

If there’s one thing any parent will tell you, it’s that storage is key. Whether it’s plastic boxes in the hallway, separate coat hooks for each child or a handy shoe rack behind the door, having everything you need in one place, especially uniforms, will help make weekday mornings much easier all round. Throw the odd colour-coded label in there and it might be as close to school morning perfection as you’re ever going to get.

What parents say

“We're fairly organised in the morning. We have wall-mounted plastic baskets in the hall that have hats, scarves and gloves in the winter and sun cream and sun hats in the summer. Everything has a home so we don't waste any time looking for stuff.”

“I have five stackable storage boxes on our landing – a full uniform for my son goes into each one.”

“All bags are sorted the night before. In the hallway we have a set of low coat hooks. Everything the kids need for the next day is hung on their individual hooks so they just grab whatever is on there.”

“We have a storage bench in the hallway with hats, gloves, bags, slippers etc in it, which also doubles as a place to sit to put on shoes.”

2. Make breakfast a breeze

Whether it’s preparing part of their breakfast the night before or finding other ways to smooth out this all-important mealtime, having a plan of action when it comes to breakfast will vastly improve your mornings.

What parents say

“We’ve got those plastic cereal storage boxes to hold several types of cereal – my children use those colourful plastic cups to scoop out what they need. Stops them shouting for me when I’m having a quick shower.”

“Find a breakfast they can make for themselves as early as possible and get the children to take responsibility for something new every term. Even if it's just putting their own socks on. Makes life much easier for you!”

Mum making Packed Lunch

3. Prep packed lunches

No one wants to be rummaging through kitchen cupboards at 7am. As they say, it pays to be prepared, which is why parents on Mumsnet believe that sorting out packed lunches (and, well, just about everything you can possibly sort) the night before is the secret ingredient to a stress-free school morning.

When it comes to creating healthy packed lunches without having to draw up an entire menu, choosing to add pre-prepared, school-compliant snacks will save you even more precious time.

What parents say

“Make packed lunches the night before, get all clothes ready, everything labelled, and make sure all events are on the planner!”

4. Opt for staggered starts

Having a perfectly synchronised school morning may seem idyllic, but when there’s only one loo and far-from-ample sink space (no all-family toothbrushing here), things won’t quite go as planned.

While we’re not ones for getting up at the crack of dawn, staggering wake-up times, with parents getting up first, could be the difference between a blissful school morning and a manic one. Plus, just think about those glorious 10 minutes you’ll have for yourself.

What parents say

“Staggered starts, otherwise everyone ends up in the bathroom at the same time. Partner gets up first, wakes kids, gets breakfast going, then I get up. The kids appear just as I've finished in the bathroom, heading to the kitchen to eat. They eat while I'm getting dressed, then they get dressed while I'm getting my bag together.”

5. Keep it repetitive

If there’s one word that should be synonymous with school morning it’s this: routine. While having a set routine can seem a bit boring, Mumsnet users say it’s the golden rule to keeping things stress-free.

Whether it’s getting dressed after breakfast or cleaning teeth at the end of their favourite TV show (if screen time in the mornings is your thing), having a set routine is not only good for you, it’s good for your children as well. Routines help with calmness, offer stability and set them up with good habits for life.

Using visual cues, such as notes or pictures on a kitchen whiteboard, can also help to set a solid morning routine.

What parents say

“Make sure that the routine is the same daily and stick to it. Even DC2, who is notoriously grumpy first thing, has learned the art of sorting themselves out. I wake everyone up and sort out coffee (for the grown-ups) and breakfast, but otherwise they know what they need to do.”

“Routine, routine, routine. DC are too young to tell the time, but know that teeth are done at the end of Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom and shoes are put on when Peppa Pig finishes.”

“Breakfast in jammies, then dressed and teeth done. I keep an extra toothbrush and paste in the kitchen for this.”

“Always write everything on the calendar (Book Day/school trips/non-uniform day/one-off things they need to take in etc) then make a habit of checking the week ahead every Sunday.”

“Once you have their schedule, make a large weekly planner that they can see with their activities on it. That way they can become responsible for knowing which day is PE, football, tennis etc and what kit they need that day.”

Family Dancing

6. Get ‘em dancing

One way to make the school morning routine more fun and, crucially, to get everyone moving is to blast a few lively tunes through the house.

While we’re not suggesting you play them so loud that you have the neighbours knocking angrily at your door, music can be a great way to improve mood and start the day on a high.

What parents say

“The mornings that seem to go better for us are when we have lots of music on in the background. It seems to help my kids to get along and move from one part of the morning to the next.”

7. Set different alarms or timers

This may sound like some sort of intense bootcamp, but we promise you it’s effective. Using alarms or timers that go off throughout the morning will not only save your voice, but it’ll mean that the kids know exactly what’s coming next.

Using specific apps or setting phone reminders can also be really handy when it comes to themed school days, such as World Book Day, and more general appointments.

What parents say

“Breakfast cannot take longer than 15 minutes. I set a timer and they know that when it goes off they have to shovel in the last mouthfuls and get upstairs. It sounds cruel, but they actually find it quite funny and it works.”

“Set reminder alerts on your phone when a letter comes home needing something to be done or taken into school at a later date.”

“From day one, set your leaving time in the morning to be 10 minutes earlier than you actually need to leave – and stick to it!”

“You can never have too many alarms. Alarms to get you ready to get out of bed, one to get you out of bed, one when you should've finished breakfast, one when you need to be dressed, one when you should be in the car and ready to go.”

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8. Final check as you leave the house

School bag? Check. Packed lunch? Check. Both socks present? Check, check. Whether it’s a checklist on your phone or an ‘out’ tray at the front door (one Mumsnetter’s Holy Grail), doing a final check before you leave the house is always a good idea.

What parents say

“Put everything needed for the next day in the ‘out’ tray so it can be grabbed on the way out the door.”