Ok, first of all, let’s all stop laughing at that joke of a title. Because let’s be clear Morning +Toddlers ≠ Organized. Ever.
I feel like it doesn’t matter how organized I am, the morning can still go south with a simple, “He touched my toy” and then we’re all tantrums, and tears, and late. But I have found little tricks that help our mornings go a bit smoother. Some days they work, some days they don’t. I still find it’s worth it to try. So, while I cannot guarantee a stress free morning, or being on time anywhere ever again, I can say that these small tips can help make mornings less chaotic, a tad less stressful, and possibly save you a few minutes in your morning.
Avoid the “Night Before” Pressure
The biggest tip I always see for an organized morning is to prepare everything the night before, but this tactic doesn’t really work for me. See, I’m not a night person. I’m a morning person.
Things I want to do the night before:
- Load, and possibly unload, the dishwasher
- Prepare the morning coffee
- Tidy the living room
- Clean kitchen floors
- Fill my obnoxiously huge water bottle and place in the fridge so I have a full, cold bottle of water in the morning
- Wash my face intentionally, not just wipe a makeup remover towelette across is as I brush my teeth
Things I actually do the night before:
- Pass out on the couch, typically still clutching my half finished glass of wine.
You guys, once the boys go to bed, I am done. My brain is done. My body is done. I do not have the energy to do anything productive or even fathom getting prepared for the next day. This is my realistically organized truth.
But, feeling organized can actually start with the day before. Instead of waiting until the kids go to bed to find their shoes and pack their backpacks, try to have a space where they can put them right when they walk in the door. So when they come home from school or program, they immediately put it on their hook (just like they do at school) and put their shoes in a basket, that way it’s already there for the next day.
Note – This will not work perfectly everyday. Some days J insists that he wears his shoes to bed. I choose my battles. But having a dumping space can help tremendously in getting out the door faster.
One thing I try to do before the kids wake up is limit distractions for when they come downstairs in the morning. I’ll put toys away, make sure the TV is off, hide the remote, my computer, the iPad, and any other electronic that distracts them. When my kids come downstairs to a tidy (not clean, per se) but tidy space, they’re more focused and somewhat less rambunctious.
I sometimes even leave out toys that I know they play with nicely (HA!) or at least, “nicer-ly”. They still get to play for a bit but it’s not as chaotic.
Try to build into your morning time for cuddles, stories, play, just a time to reconnect with your child. They’ll be more willing to listen, follow direction, have less tantrums, and fewer meltdowns. Ask about their dreams, talk to them about what you’re excited about for the day.
For me this is always a good time to remind my 2.5yo of what’s on the schedule for the day. It can help manage their expectations. Imagine going though a day having no idea where you’re going or what you’re doing, but being expected to just be happy about all of it. So we talk about the friends he’ll play with at his pre-school, and the activities we’ll do.
Set Positive Tone
Find ways to empower them and set a positive tone. Like pouring their own cereal, or picking out their breakfast. Have them pick out their clothes. I’ve found it’s easier to just give 2-3 options with clothing. Holding up two shirts and having them pick which one, then the same with pants, socks, etc.
So I try to empower him in little ways, like asking to get his shoes, or water bottle, or backpack. Or one of the items I know he’s able to get on his own. I typically limit it to one or two items to have him help with in the morning. I think more than that can be asking too much from him, and he’ll get annoyed and rebel (this is my child though, it may work better for yours!).
Note – He’s in a helper phase right now. I can sense it’s actually ending soon, but I’m trying to make this more of a habit. And by the way, this does not mean it works beautifully every time. But for the most part we’re able to get out of the house with minimal meltdowns.
Say “Yes” more than “No”
This is something I’m really trying to work on. I have found I’ve almost gotten into the habit of constantly saying “no” to my boys. Even if it’s done in a nice tone, “No, I don’t think it’s such a good idea to dive head first off the couch.”
I’m trying to rephrase it in a way that still communicates no, without actually saying it. “Oh wow that does sound like such a fun idea, however, you can break your neck and mommy doesn’t really have time to take you to the ER today. Let’s do something else.”
Because imagine if people are always telling you no. It may make you upset, mad, sad, hurt, frustrated, any one or more of these things. So how willing and excited are you going to be when that same person asks you do put your shoes on? I’d be really likely to say, “No”.
The Fewer Options the Better
So J only has 4 pairs of shoes to choose from each day. 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of nice/church shoes, rain boots, and Crocs. Any more options and it would take twice as long for him to pick a pair. Given, J is a boy and I feel like for some reason boys just don’t acquire as many things as girls, but try limiting the options for school days to help get out the door faster.
Bag for Everything
Have a bag for each activity. Swim bag, ballet bag, school bag ect. Have it always ready and packed and right there ready to grab and go.
We use a timer app. This isn’t an everyday thing yet, it’s just on the days when we’re having a really hard time moving things along. It’s a very basic app called Children’s Countdown, and a kitchen timer would probably work just as well. But the app has a bright color dial that reveals a random picture as the timer counts down. There can actually be a ticking sound as well but I took that feature off because sanity is important to me.
Seeing the color go down is really helpful, versus a digital clock, especially since most toddlers can’t read the numbers yet.
Note – sometimes J and N just want to look at the app and watch the timer count down. Backfire. It doesn’t work perfectly every time, but most days when we’re really struggling to move, it helps. And it helps to say, “if you hurry and get ready we can watch what the picture is!”
There’s always going to be a morning when everything is going wrong, it seems. You’re going to be running late, kids won’t be listening or helping. It’s important to prioritize your time on days like this. Don’t be ashamed to feed your kids breakfast in the car. Or comb hair in the car, or not comb hair at all. It’s ok if their clothes don’t match and aren’t perfectly pressed. They’re toddlers, and from the information gathered at preschool orientations, anything they wear is going to get ruined anyway.
Mornings with kids is straight up survival mode – don’t try to be a hero. Do what you can and what is necessary. There’s no need to push yourself beyond that. Be prepared for everything to backfire. Even when you do everything “right”, you’re in a great mood, you’re chipper, you’re rested, you’ve had your coffee… but that doesn’t mean you’re child feels the same. So try to have a little extra patience, remember that kids are human, and just that, kids.
Note – I was asked to speak on this topic at our MOPS meeting several weeks ago. On that particular morning, J did not even make it to school because I was running so late I wouldn’t have time to take him and get to the meeting on time. This is real life. Prioritize. (and yes, my bi-monthly MOPS meeting trumps my child’s 3’s program every time, it’s called self care.)
What’s one thing you do to make mornings run smoothly?
Thanks for visiting!