Building a simple, calming before school rhythm will help the rest of your day run smoothly. Here are 6 ideas to make your before school rhythm less overwhelming and more joyful.
Whether your child is starting school for the first time or your child is beginning a new term, there’s always an opportunity to start afresh with a simple, calming before school rhythm.
Establish a family rhythm is something that I feel very passionate about. Rhythms helped me go from overwhelmed and exhausted to feeling joy and connection.
Having a family of 5 means that mornings have the potential to be extremely chaotic. But I learnt that they don’t have to be that way. Calm, simple mornings can be achieved: you just need to be organised and start building habits.
Why is it important to build a before school rhythm?
- Mornings have the power to make or break the entire day. Starting off the day stressed affects the entire family.
- Being consistently late for school makes for an unsettled start. The first 10 – 15 minutes of the school day might not seem like a big deal, but being on time helps your child feel settled.
- Being organised means you have more time to connect with your child. Connection time – even micro moments – can make all the difference.
- Planning and organisation upfront means you’re less likely to forget events. Again, forgetting a library book in the early years might not seem all that important, but it can make your child feel like they are missing out.
Change always begins with an awareness that something isn’t working.
My moment of clarity came with the realisation that the stress, rush and chaos we all felt each morning before school was benefitting no one. My eldest son was 7 and his sister was just a baby. I was often tired from sleepless nights, which definitely affected my overall mood.
But with that being said, I didn’t want to be the ‘shouty’ mum who nagged the kids and told them repeatedly to hurry-up. I didn’t want my children’s lasting memory of the school morning to be one where they saw me stressed.
Start observing your current before school rhythm, without judgement
Whether you truly realise it, you probably have some element of rhythm already. It just might not be working for you.
When I first observed our mornings, I realised:
- TV time was too distracting. Whilst it felt like a good idea when my eldest son woke up early and I was exhausted from being up all night with the baby, it wasn’t doing us any favours
- My son struggled to find his backpack, shoes and hat because there was no organised system.
- I was often hurriedly checking the school newsletter for any important events
- Breakfast was rushed. My son couldn’t reach any of the plates, bowls etc because of the layout of the kitchen so he relied on me to do everything. This wasn’t always easy with the baby.
Change starts with small steps. So little by little, we changed our morning rhythm: simply starting with turning off the TV and replacing it with a morning basket.
6 simple ideas to make your before school rhythm less overwhelming and more joyful
Set reminders on your phone
As soon as you receive a school newsletter or calendar with key dates, get them in your diary! Make it part of your regular weekly rhythm. Set up repeated reminders for:
- PE Day
- Library Day
- Homework Day
- After-school club
I set notifications for the night before so that I can remind the children of any additional items they need to pack.
Prepare schoolbag the night before
Build habits that will help everyone. As soon as my children get in from school, they know they need to take their lunchbox, snack box and drink bottle to the kitchen ready to be washed.
After a snack and homework, bags get repacked. It helps to have a copy of your child’s timetable (especially for those in secondary school) so they know what needs to be packed.
I involve my younger children in this process so that when they reach the middle years, they can independently pack and check their bag.
Some parents find preparing school lunch the night before helpful, but I really think this depends on you and your schedule. I am an early bird, so I prefer to make lunches in the morning. Trial both and see what works best for you.
Create a simple school week wardrobe (if your child doesn’t wear uniform)
My children have attended schools where there is a uniform policy and ones where this is no official uniform. I honestly believe that a uniform is better because it takes some of the stress away from deciding! However, there’s no reason you can’t create a simple school week wardrobe for your child. Here are some ideas:
- Hang outfits together, clearly labelled with the day
- Remove all out of season or unsuitable clothing from the wardrobe
- Clear out a drawer and use it specifically for school clothes
With school clothing, comfort outweighs style, especially in the early years when your child will spend all day playing – which probably means getting messy too!
I’m not a parent who is anti-screen, but I don’t believe they do anyone any favours first thing in the morning. Watching fast-paced cartoons or being too engrossed in an iPad screen takes away from important connection time.
So what to do instead?
- Create a simple morning invitation
- Create a morning activity basket
- Provide an art cart
- Provide a selection of books to read
- Encourage independent play in the play space
Provide a buffet style breakfast
This doesn’t mean a banquet style breakfast worthy of a hotel, but simply placing all breakfast items (including bowls, cups, and spoons) on the kitchen or dining room table.
The problem with a lot of kitchens is that they aren’t geared up for small children. Reaching bowls, cereals and milk from the fridge can be hard – and sometimes dangerous if your child is trying to climb the kitchen counters to reach things. So until your child is tall enough, provide a buffet style breakfast.
Organise the entrance way
School mornings can often go smoothly right until the last minute, then disaster strikes! Your child simply cannot find their shoe! Cue frantically scrambling for the lost shoe and a mad dash out of the door.
It only takes one thing to throw the entire morning off track.
Organising the entrance way of your house so that you have dedicated cubbies or baskets for each child can help with this.
Again, build systems into your after-school rhythm to help with this. Get your child into the habit of putting their shoes in the cubby and hanging up their coat as soon as they get home for the day.
Journal Prompts to help improve your before school rhythm
- How do I want to feel each morning?
- How do I want my children to feel each morning?
- What elements of our morning routine work well? Why do they work?
- What elements of our morning routine cause problems? How can we eliminate or minimise those problems?
- What’s one slight change we could implement immediately?