6 am: Face the Day
Plan to rise and hour or so earlier than everyone else. That way you can quietly enjoy a cup of coffee, get showered and dressed, and review your schedule so you don't feel frazzled when you're trying to get the kids out the door. Now is also the time to exercies—even if you're tired. Doing so now gives you more energy to tackle the day ahead.
7 am: Wake Them Up
A light back rub might do the trick for some children, but kids who beg for “just five more minutes” probably need a loud alarm. Consider one that requires the child to perform a small task. The Puzzle Alarm Clock app (free, Android) makes kids solve puzzles to turn it off.
7:05 am: Get Them Dressed
To make things easy, pick and lay out complete outfits with your kids the night before. Or put together a week’s worth, using hangers and clips, and arrange them in the front of the closet. For little ones, try hanging a shoe rack over the door as a sorter; fill lower pockets with socks, T-shirts and similar items
7:15 am: Morning Tasks (Including Making the Bed)
Don’t skip morning chores. Even little kids can pull up a comforter and set their pillow on top. Tip: Use task charts to show kids how to get ready, step by step. Picture charts are best for little ones; you can make short lists for older children. Keep one chart in the bedroom for tasks that need to be completed there and one in the kitchen for all the rest. This strategy will help keep your brood from returning to their bedrooms and dawdling once they’ve dressed and come to breakfast.
7:25 am: Serve a Simple, Healthy Breakfast
Put out a few grab-and-go options ahead of time, such as cereal, fruit and yogurt, or things that kids can quickly fix themselves. Good choices include toaster waffles, instant oatmeal and toast spread with almond butter or cream cheese.
7:40 am: Break the Bathroom Bottleneck
Place toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes and hair accessories in easy-to-reach cups and baskets in the bathroom, labeled with each child’s name. When the items are clearly marked, kids won’t end up squabbling over what they need.
8 am: Leave On Time
Put up a list in the foyer with all the items your children need to remember to take with them each school day: backpack, lunch, gym clothes, musical instrument. Have the kids check off each item prior to leaving
3 pm: Unpack the Minute They Get Home
Have them empty and sort their backpacks and place their action folders in an in-box near the door. While they’re doing homework, go through each folder, marking upcoming school events on your calendar and checking for permission slips that need signing. Tip: Buy each child a plastic two-pocket “action folder.” Label one side take home and one side take to school. Make sure that you deal with all papers in the first pocket, that everything that needs to go back to school is placed in the second pocket and that the folder is stowed in the backpack before bedtime
3:15 pm: Get Them Fueled Up and Wound Down
Have a snack such as string cheese, trail mix or apple slices topped with a tablespoon of peanut butter ready to pass out once they’ve unloaded their gear. Give them time to nibble and chill out before making them dive into homework. Save chores for later, too—like right before and just after dinner.
3:45 pm: Tackle the Homework
Try to have kids start their assignments at the same time each day. Designate a quiet spot where they can work away from the television and other distractions, and check in to see that they’re staying on task and taking breaks. If your kids resist, remind them that once the work is done the evening is theirs. But until then: no phone, tablet or computer, no playing with friends, no watching TV. Now is also time for them to tell you about that extra-credit project
5 pm: Make Dinner
Have everyone pitch in with meal prep—it's a great time to share your day with one another while getting dinner on the table in less time. Remember to keep the conversation going once everyone is at the table, too. Come up with a question of the day to ask everyone, or have each family member describe a daily highlight.
7 pm: Organize Their Backpacks
Ideally the packs should be placed or hung near the door so they can be grabbed on the run. Consider putting shoes (with a sock in each) beneath each bag. And be sure to pack a “go bag” with breakfast bars, hair accessories, sugarless gum (“Mom! I forgot to brush my teeth”) and some small bills in case of emergency.
7:15 pm: Schedule Bath Time
Having kids bathe or shower before bed takes some of the stress out of the morning crunch. If space is tight in the bathroom, consider giving each child a shower caddy labeled with his or her name to carry back and forth from the bedroom.
7:30 pm: Power Down
An hour before bedtime, turn off computers and TVs and store phones outside of kids’ bedrooms. Research found that children who sleep near small screens sleep 21 fewer minutes at night than those who don’t.
8:30 pm: Prep Lunches
Before you go to bed, pack easy snacks—such as grapes, plums, clementines, cut-up carrots, chips and cookies—in ziplock bags so they are ready to pick up and toss into the kids’ lunch boxes. But don’t make the sandwiches until the morning; otherwise they might get soggy.
9 pm: Establish a Bedtime Ritual
Lay out pajamas and make sure teeth have been brushed. Then spend time reading aloud with them; even older kids enjoy the tradition. Tuck everyone in, and then it’s lights out!