Today I’m sharing the best hacks for getting out of the house on time for preschool. These simple tricks can help you create a stress-free preschool morning routine with your toddler!
I pinky promise I am going to try extra hard not to get all emotional and cliched in this post, but I mean, come on. Preschool?! It honestly feels like just yesterday I was writing about how to get this baby to breastfeed and now I’m sharing how to leave the house on time for Preschool?
I honestly used to loathe when people would say “it goes by so fast!” Because when you’re in it, and I mean in it (endless diaper changes, breastfeeding struggles, sleepless nights) your only response to that statement is “excellent, where do I sign up for the expedited version of this?”
But it’s true what they say, whether you’re watching the clock or not, the time does go by so fast. Quite possibly one of the most “cliche but true” quotes I have ever heard regarding motherhood is this:
“The days are long, but the years are short.”
Okay, I promise I am done now. I’ve got that out of my system. My oldest is officially a preschooler. Moving on.
Have you ever tried to get out of the house (on a time crunch) with a toddler? It’s not unlike herding a cat who would rather stay in pajamas and eat banana muffins on the couch.
Toddlers have a very limited concept of time. The terms “in a rush” and “we’ve got to leave now” really don’t mean much in their world.
Add to that mix a 1 year old baby who actually never stops moving, 2 dogs who actually never stop following around said baby AND I have to get this circus on the road by 7:30 AM?? Pinterest, help me. Because I am going to need all of the hacks I can get my hands on.
If you’re a type-A planner such as myself, I am going to warn you now. I never in my life, not when I was planning my wedding, in graduate school, or even teaching, did I ever think I would need to dedicate so much mental space to thinking about a preschool morning routine.
Now, maybe this is just me. Maybe not everyone puts that much thought behind this whole endeavor. But if you’re anything like me (and I think you are) you’ll want to be organized. I mean truly organized: nutritious lunches prepped, toddler in clean clothes, backpack packed, etc. If this sounds like your ultimate goal, then you’ll need to dedicate some time to make it happen.
Organized mom = stress-free mornings.
For 7 AM is not the time to suddenly realize you have nothing ready for lunch, your toddler can’t find her shoes and everything you own is stained (is this just me?).
It’s not surprising that one of the secrets to a smooth morning is preparing the night before. While nighttime is undoubtedly reserved for drinking wine and watching Netflix, before any of that can happen, I know that I need to do several things:
- Restock diaper bag for baby (diapers, wipes, snacks, replace change of clothes if needed)
- Pick out my clothes
- Pack lunchbox (except warm lunch)
- Fill water bottles (the girls each have a Contigo)
- Set up coffee maker / timer
It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. “Stress-free” is of course a relative term. To be certain, there are plenty of mom blogs out there that promise magical solutions to momlife’s most common problems. But my goal is, and always has been, to share real tips from my real life.
I have always openly and honestly shared my struggles (see: Toddler Won’t Poop & Toddler Won’t Nap), and today I hope I can help at least one other mom out there to get her child off to preschool in the most stress-free way possible.
My Stress-Free Preschool Morning Routine
5 Hacks for Leaving the House on Time
1. Morning Routine Chart
It’s no secret that I love routines. Routines are what keep stay at home moms somewhat sane. Babies and toddlers thrive with an age-appropriate routine. When they know what to expect and what comes next, it can truly help to minimize tantrums and power struggles.
I’ve shared several different daily routines on the blog that are easily adaptable:
The best $6.99 that I ever spent was on these printable routine cards. <— There are a lot of cards in the set, so you can customize what your morning routine looks like.
Our 3 year old picked up instantly on her new preschool morning routine and even started following her cards on the weekend!
To put this together you don’t need anything fancy. Here’s what I used:
- Melissa & Doug Art Easel
- Melissa & Doug Daily Calendar (I used the blank side, but you could use any magnetic board)
- Magnetic Tape
After printing out the routine cards, we laminated them, cut them out, and used the magnetic tape to stick them to the white board. We keep the routine chart displayed where she can see it every day. She loves to run over to her chart and point to each item to show us that she knows what to do, and what she’s already done.
To avoid power struggles in the morning, it’s also helpful to say:
“What’s next on your routine chart?”
Rather than saying a million times:
“Get your shoes on, we’re going to be late!“
This way, I’m not telling her what to do. The routine chart shows her what needs to be done.
2. Mom’s Command Center
As a stay at home mom of two kids, I typically try to take it slow in the morning. I don’t really have anywhere to be, and trying to get two kids out of the house before 10 AM feels like life’s greatest accomplishment.
But part of creating a stress-free preschool morning routine means getting my mom stuff together so we can get out of the house quickly and efficiently.
With so many things to get done and so little time, I found that it was really helpful to create myself a little command center of sorts.
- I keep my mom bag out on one of our bar stools, where I can quickly refill any essentials for the day.
- I have my planner open on the kitchen counter so I can glance at my meal plan to see if I need to take anything out of the freezer for dinner, etc.
- I’ve learned to create a general play-by-play for my morning that is broken down by time slot.
Hack # 3 is particularly important in my book. There are so many things to think about: getting dressed, making breakfast, heating up lunch, feeding the dogs, packing lunchboxes, etc. I found that once I wrote everything down, my mind stopped bouncing all over the place and I was able to just quickly glance at my game plan and see what task I needed to complete at that moment in time.
3. Prep Ahead & Lunch Rotation
Ever since having kids I am all about creating an easy meal plan and prepping foods in advance.
At my toddler’s preschool, a snack is provided but we need to send her with a nut-free lunch every day. Since I obviously don’t have time to be cooking lunches in the morning (see 7:30 AM departure time above), I have dedicated some time to prepping and freezing foods in advance that can then be reheated in the morning just before leaving.
I wrote down a list of lunch ideas in my planner that I can keep on rotation. No need to reinvent the wheel here. Just simple preschool lunch ideas I know she’ll like. Then I write down my plan in my weekly meal planner.
Below are some of the lunch foods I have prepped in advance:
- Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas (I assemble and bake on a sheet pan in the oven so I can make several at a time. Then I wrap in foil and store in the freezer)
- Pinto Beans (I made dried pinto beans in the slow cooker. Then I separated into toddler-sized lunch portions in glass containers and froze)
- Pizza Bagels (Dave’s Killer Plain Awesome Bagel, Newman’s Marinara, Organic Valley Mozzarella Cheese. Bake, cool, wrap in Saran Wrap, then foil, freeze)
- Macaroni & Cheese (Use Annie’s for a shortcut or make from scratch. Portion into toddler-sized lunch portions in glass containers and freeze)
Below are some of the breakfast foods I have prepped in advance:
- Oatmeal Waffles (I used the recipe in the Love Real Food cookbook. Let the waffles cool, then wrap individually in Saran Wrap, then foil, freeze).
- Banana Coconut Pancakes (Also from the Love Real Food cookbook. Same instructions as above).
- Breakfast Burritos (Scrambled eggs, shredded cheddar cheese and Applegate Organic Breakfast sausage wrapped in a Rudi’s Organic Spelt Tortilla. Bake, cool, wrap in Saran Wrap, then foil, freeze)
- English Muffin Melts (From this Pioneer Woman cookbook)
Favorite Preschool Lunch Gear
2. Skip Hop Thermos (I bought this at Carter’s using Rewards points)
4. Yumbox Leakproof Bento Box (shown below – I like to pack this with snacky food and then also send a warm lunch, like rice & beans in her thermos)
More on Toddler Life…
4. Getting Ready Station
In my Pinterest dream life my house has a mudroom with a long bench, tons of storage and hooks for days. In my real life, I have a coat closet, stairs, and some Command hooks.
The good news is, even if you only have a little bit of space by the door, you can definitely make this hack work for your preschool morning routine.
What You’ll Need:
- Toddler Backpack
- Command Hooks
- Hat (if necessary)
- Shoe basket
- Toddler’s shoes
- On the inside of my coat closet door, I attached 2 Command hooks. One for her backpack and one for her hats. We live in the South where it is VERY sunny, so I never want my fair-skinned children to be without sun protection.
- Next to our stairs, we keep a decorative basket (from Target, obviously), with all of our toddler’s shoes. She can sit on the lowest step and easily put her shoes on herself.
In the morning, as she follows her preschool morning routine cards (see hack # 1), she can put her lunchbox in her bag, grab a hat, and then sit down on the steps and put her shoes on.
Keeping everything at toddler-level is one of the foundations of Montessori education. By arranging things so that they are accessible to your toddler, you are promoting their independence as well as teaching them how to do life’s daily tasks all by themselves!
5. What Should I Wear?
In keeping with Montessori practices, we have taught our toddler to dress herself and we keep all of her clothes: socks, underwear, shirts, shorts, dresses, etc.) at her level.
In our master bedroom closet we happen to have a low rack where I hang all of my toddler’s clothes for preschool.
If you don’t have a lower rack in your closet, or theirs, you can purchase a tension rod and install it in their closet so they can reach all of their clothes and get themselves dressed!
Mom-to-Mom Tip: I have found that it’s very helpful to choose around 10 preschool appropriate outfits to put in this easy-to-reach location. While toddler’s love to be in charge and choose what they wear, presenting them with too many options can seem overwhelming, especially when the goal is to get out of the house fast!
I have realized that it’s also helpful for me to have my own clothes picked out the night before. 6 AM is decidedly not the time for me to stand like a zombie in front of my closet deciding which outfit will or won’t make me look like an overtired mess when I drop off my child.
Having my clothes and my toddler’s clothes picked out ahead of time has made our preschool morning routine go much smoother.
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