Getting the kids to school on time

Tips from Amy Graff

When I found out that my daughter's kindergarten starts at 7:50 a.m., I was worried. For the past several years, my kids and I enjoyed leisurely mornings: cuddle sessions, pancake breakfasts, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and lots of playtime. How would I get her to school on time? By setting up a routine and sticking to it, I organized our mornings-in a relaxed and stress-free manner. We're going on our third week and we have been late only once. For us, that's remarkable! Here's a rundown of my best tips for getting the kids out the door on time:

Set up a routine.
This is the key to a successful morning. You and your child need to come up with a schedule and write it down or put it on a chart. I highly recommend that you have your child get dressed before eating breakfast. For my daughter I purchased a product called a product, On Task On Time For Kids ( This giant timer helps my daughter follow her routine and stay on task.

Let your child take responsibility for tasks.
Kids in kindergarten or above? They should be dressing themselves, as well as brushing their teeth, washing their face, clearing their breakfast dishes, putting their lunches in the backpacks, and remembering to bring their homework. These habits need to be established early.

Do as much as possible the night before.
Your children should pick out their outfits before going to bed. You should take breakfast and lunch box orders; I actually have a special notepad for this and write down my daughter's order at bedtime. I also start to put her lunch together the night before.

Get to bed on time.
Sunday through Thursday are school nights and your children should be in bed with the lights out at roughly the same time every night. Lights are out in my daughter's room between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Consider setting up a nighttime routine to ensure an early bedtime.

Invest in an alarm clock.
Let your child pick out his own alarm clock. My daughter chose a pink princess Disney castle alarm that projects stars onto the ceiling and plays songs from the movie Cinderella when it's time to rise and shine. You can pick one up at Target for $24.99.

Put together an emergency pack.
No matter how hard you try, you will run late some mornings, and your child won't have time for breakfast, brushing teeth, or braiding hair. For those situations, create an emergency pack filled with a sports bar, hairbrush, barrettes, sugarless gum (cleans teeth), and a few dollars for lunch money.

Take breaks.
Skip the routine on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday and Sunday mornings. Let the kids stay up an hour later (but not much beyond that), and sleep in. And once in a blue moon, especially on the mornings after a difficult night, show up to school late. A few tardy slips never hurt.

For more tips and advice, visit Amy Graff's blog on SFGate at

About Amy Graff:
Amy Graff is the community manager for Bay Area Moms, a place where moms from around the Bay can seek advice, trade tips, brag (and kvetch) about their kids, and catch up on the latest news from the parenting world. A true Bay Area gal, Amy grew up in Los Gatos, went to college at Berkeley, and now lives in San Francisco with her husband, Anthony, and her two kids, 5-year-old Paris and 3-year-old Dante. A longtime magazine writer and editor, Amy made her blogging debut with the launch of The SF K Files, the story of her search for a kindergarten for Paris. Amy's also the family travel spokesperson for Best Western; check out her blog at

Thanks to the polar opposite natures of her kids, Amy's first-hand experiences as a mom have run the gamut: Paris was two weeks late and finally extracted with a vacuum; Dante was two weeks early and popped out in an hour. Paris was colicky; Dante slept through the first year of his life. Paris craves sugar all of the time; Dante can take one bite of a cookie and set it down. Paris is terrified of dogs; Dante crawls around woofing. Luckily, opposites attract and at night they fall asleep holding hands, leaving Amy free to share her latest local discoveries and head-scratching dilemmas with you.

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