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We’ve reached the point in the school year, where it’s harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. It’s dark and chilly outside. It’s warm and cozy in bed. Everyone wants to sleep in just 10 more minutes. Including me. And of course, that “just 10 more minutes” somehow turns into 30 more often than it should.

On that topic, I thought I’d share simple tricks and tips that help things run a little smoother at the start of the day. At our house, when it’s one of those days where the kids are dragging their feet, I have a few tricks that help them stay on track and get us all out the door a little faster.

The first idea is something you can customize for your own family. At our house, we have a simple question/chant/verbal checklist that each of the younger kids gets asked a couple of times during morning prep. Sometimes it’s Hands-Teeth-Hair? Other times it’s Hands-Teeth-Hair!! As in wash your hands, brush your teeth, and do your hair.

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What we’ve found is that making the morning routine feel simple (even if it’s not) is key. There are a lot of things your kids might be asked to do in the morning. Get dressed, do their hair, eat breakfast, make their bed, make their lunch, pack their backpack, brush their teeth, maybe they have a household chore like emptying the dishwasher, or maybe they have to fit in music practice. The list can get overwhelming! Especially for young kids. And it can end up feeling like the mornings are just this everlasting session of nagging. Which nobody wants.

Our kids happen to be quick to do some things — like getting dressed and making their lunches. But other things, like washing their hands, brushing their teeth and doing their hair, can get pushed to the last possible minute. So we made a little chant, or verbal checklist, focused only on those 3 things.

At your house, depending on your kids habits, you might say, “bed, breakfast, lunch” — as in make your bed, eat your breakfast, pack your lunch. Or you might say, “sneakers, trash, backpack” — as in put on your sneakers, take out the trash, and find your backpack. Of course, the kids will still need to brush their teeth or eat their breakfast, even if it’s not part of the verbal checklist — the checklist just helps them complete the tasks that might not get done otherwise.

We’ve found that keeping it simple in the morning so that the list of tasks doesn’t seem too long has been really helpful. The kids know the “hands-teeth-hair” question/reminder is coming, and they do their best to get all 3 finished right away so that they can answer, “Done!” when we ask.

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We’ve also come up with some simple hacks to make each of those three tasks — hands, teeth, hair — go a bit faster for our kids. For hands, what works best at our house is to move the soap to the front edge of the counter and set the hand towel right next to it. Why does this matter? Because soap typically lives at the back of the sink, next to the faucet handles. And that’s a perfectly good place for it to live, until you’re dealing with a toddler or preschooler. They often can’t reach the soap. Even when they’re standing on a stool. And if the hand towel is hanging on the wall next to the sink, they probably can’t reach it either.

So as you walk by the bathroom, bring the soap forward, and set the towel down next to it. Make it easy. Those movements will take you seconds, but they take a young child much longer — even minutes. It’s a little thing, but it speeds up the overall morning routine.

For teeth, try this: while kids are eating breakfast or getting dressed, set out their toothbrushes and add the toothpaste to the brushes yourself, so that by the time they arrive at the bathroom, their toothbrush is ready and waiting for them. No toothpaste tube to squeeze, no caps to fiddle with.

Putting on toothpaste can be a tricky thing for little ones, so having it ready for them can make the whole process go considerably faster. The bonus part of this tip, is that it’s also easy to see at a glance if one of your kids hasn’t brushed their teeth yet, because the toothpaste will still be on their brush. : )

For hair, we’ve found the key is having lots of brushes. We used to have what I thought was a pretty normal amount of hair brushes for the kids: two. But it turn out that only having two brushes ends up causing a lot of drama in the mornings. Because at our house, hair brushes migrate. A hair brush might find itself in the family room, while someone brushes their hair and watches a movie at the same time. Or a hair brush might move to the dress-up bin, if someone needs a princess hairstyle to go with their afternoon costume. Or a hairbrush might end up in a back pack, destined for some unknown purpose at school.

These are all good reasons for brush migration, but the result was that a hurried morning would come, and one of our daughters would reach for a hairbrush, and there would be none in the drawer. This would trigger frustration, a panic-ed brush hunt around the house, some blaming of fellow siblings, and good dose of yelling just because.

So, we upped the amount of inexpensive hairbrushes by a bunch. We now have 6 to 8 at any given moment in the kids’ hairbrush drawer, and the result? We haven’t had a stressful “where in the world is my hairbrush?!!!!” moment in ages. No matter how busy the morning, there is always a hairbrush right at hand.

How about you? What have you tried lately to improve your morning routine? What slows you down the most? Do you have any tricks or tips that have worked for you? 

P.S. — As I write this down, it occurs to me that Oscar and Betty could use an updated little chant, though “hands-teeth-hair’ is still the right focus for our youngest, June!