Making the School Run Simpler

second graders on the first day of school

It happens every single morning, and yet every single morning it’s an epic battle to get your child fed, dressed and standing ready by the door in time to make the mad dash to the school and get them through the doors for the register. It should be routine, but often than not the school run feels like bouncing through a series of carefully choreographed disasters.

This advice will make that process easier. Not easy, because there’s very little you can do to avoid the carefully concealed letter from school that has forms that need filling out that morning, or the show-and-tell that your most precious will decide to tell you about five minutes before heading out the door, or that other completely unforeseeable catastrophe that strikes at the worst possible moment (you’ll know it when you see it). But it will help:

Keep Track of the Clothes

I don’t know why this is, but children treat their school uniforms the way squirrels treat acorns. Behind the bathroom door, in the play tent, under the sofa, or just wherever they happened to be standing when you told them it was bath time — children’s creativity in hiding their school uniform knows no bounds.

To avoid the desperate scavenger hunt around the house to find that one school jumper that doesn’t have paint on it, get them out of their uniform as soon as they’re home. As soon as it’s off, put it on a quick wash and hang it on the radiator. Remember that you did this, and Future You will thank you. While they’re doing that, you can root through their book bag for that essential letter home that will otherwise turn up at the worst possible moment next week.

Fuel Yourself

Once you’ve made sure in advance that everything you need is in an easily grabbable place, you have to get through the actual morning itself. If you’re a morning person and wake up with a song in your heart and a smile on your face then congratulations, also I hate you. The rest of us have to get about halfway through the morning before we can form a complete sentence. Your priority is going to be getting your child ready, feeding them, cleaning them, dressing them and so on, but it’s easy to forget that you’re going to need a bit of self-care to remain functional.

I find that it’s important to make sure the first thing – that is, the very first thing I do when I get up is make sure to put some coffee on. Then, eat breakfast with your children. Yes, I know there are other urgent things that need doing and the brief period when your children are stationary is your best time to do it, but that slice of toast you’re planning on grabbing later isn’t going to happen and will leave you hungry and groggy until lunchtime.

Also, frankly, it’s a good time to actually speak to your kids. Depending on their age and bedtimes the time before school can make up about 50% of the time you’ll get to see them on a weekday, and you don’t want to spend the entirety of that time barking orders and rushing around in a panic. Take fifteen or twenty minutes to sit down, eat breakfast, and talk. Besides, this will also save you from walking in on them half an hour later to discover they haven’t touched their cereal.

No Netflix in the Mornings

I sometimes wonder how our parents coped in a world where cartoons where only on for a brief couple of hours between school and the 6 o’clock news, and Netflix or Amazon can be godsends in all sorts of other situations, but you can’t underestimate how useful broadcast television is to a morning routine. Check your phone every five seconds to see what time it is, set yourself alarms, but nothing quite galvanises every member of your household like knowing which cartoon you need to be out of the door for (in our house it’s the end of the second episode of Super 4 on CITV).

Walk Where Possible

This depends very much on your circumstances, timetable, and location, but if you can manage it, walk to school. Not only is it healthier for you and your kids, and better for the environment, but it’s also the least stressful way to get into school in the first place. You might think you need that extra twenty minutes or half an hour to get everyone in your family ready to face the public, but it’s worth it. Walking saves you the trouble of trying to find a parking space on the already packed curbs around your child’s school, but it also gives you and the children important time to depressurise before starting school and work. It will help calm you all down and be ready to focus on the day ahead, and it can also be valuable time to talk without the usual distractions of Spongebob Squarepants and your child’s over-ambitious Marble Run project.

Plus, if you keep the car as a backup option if gives you a valuable way to shave some minutes off the journey when that inevitable unforeseen disaster happens.