The (Super Easy) Trick to Help Kids Get Ready for School Independently

School day mornings can be crazy…but there’s a really easy way to help your kids get ready for school independently with no nagging from you. 

School day mornings can be crazy...but there's a really easy way to help your kids get ready for school independently with no nagging from you. #morningroutinechecklist #gettingreadyforschool

“We need to leave in three minutes!” I called out to my daughter from the first floor. “Wait – have you brushed your teeth yet?”

“No….” she said sheepishly.

“What?! I asked you to brush them 10 minutes ago!” I responded, exasperated.

And so went our typical school morning last-minute dash to get out the door.

Each time it was the same: after breakfast I’d remind my daughters what they needed to do – bathe, get dressed, brush teeth, etc. – and then they scurried off to do it.

Except often they just scurried off and did half of what I’d asked. Three minutes before departure time I’d walk by their bedroom door only to discover they were half-way dressed or hadn’t brushed their hair.

In this crunch for time, my voice would rise to a steep pitch. Sometimes they protested back. “But you didn’t tell me I need to brush my hair!!” And all too often, we’d find ourselves driving to school angry at each other.

Hardly the best way to start our morning.

There has to be a better way, I’d think.

And then it dawned on me.

I had to stop managing the school morning checklist myself

In general, my kids are fairly independent in the morning. They’ve learned to get themselves out of bed, make their own breakfast and pack their own lunches.

But when it comes to managing time and making sure they’re completely ready for school, up until recently the burden was on me to make it happen.

Every morning I kept a mental checklist of what needed to be accomplished and to make sure everyone was following through with enough time to spare.

As I ran around trying to get ready myself, I’d check in every 10 minutes: “Have you made your bed?” “Do you have socks on your feet?”

I wanted to hand this responsibility over to my kids but I didn’t know how.

The trick to getting kids to get ready for school without nagging or reminders

So as our summer came to a close this year, I was determined to find a better way.

Somehow I needed to get out of the driver’s seat of our morning rush and let them feel a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for getting themselves dressed and out the door in the morning.

And that’s when the simplest of ideas occurred to me: instead of keeping a mental list in my head of what needed to get done, I could instead write it down and give it to my girls. So now a printed list hangs in their bathroom to serve as a visual reference. As they go about their morning, my girls can check it see if they’re on track to be ready for school.

Sign up for my email list and get a copy of my Morning Checklist as a free gift (click on the image below). The printout includes a copy of our family’s morning checklist and a blank sheet you can customize to your family’s needs. Click here or the image below to get the checklist.

getting ready for school checklist

What if my kids get up too late?

For many kids, it’s more natural to sleep in in the morning no matter what time they fall asleep at night. (To see if your kids are getting enough sleep, click here). For these kids, there just isn’t enough time in the morning to make lunches or pack their own bags AND get to school on time.

In these cases, the trick is to make sure as many tasks are complete the night before so that only essentials are taken care of in the morning. Try a night-before checklist and a shorter morning checklist.

Also, consider time-savers such as having ready-made healthy breakfast options to save time but still ensure kids get the most important meal of the day.

More pleasant rides to school

The night before the first day of school, with the list in hand, I talked to the girls about how this school year would be different. I would no longer be giving out orders in the morning. Instead, it was their responsibility to check the list I’d made to make sure they were ready for school.

They liked the idea. No surprise, since giving kids more responsibility boosts their self-esteem.

The next morning, I stumbled downstairs to find both girls in the midst of eating breakfast and making their own lunches.

As the morning progressed, they ran upstairs, referred to the checklist, and to my delight, began taking care of each task, one by one.

Showers were taken, beds made, and hair brushed…all without a single reminder from me.

“Mom, I checked the list!” my oldest exclaimed as she put on her shoes and packed her bag.

That morning the girls were ready with at least ten minutes to spare. And each morning since has continued to be stress-free as they check the list to make sure everything is complete.

And the best part? Instead of bearing the weight of trying to remember each task that needs to be completed before the start of school, now I simply say: “Have you done everything on the list?”

Somehow this question feels like less of an accusation to them and more of a we’re-in-this-together inquiry.

As we hopped into the car those first few days, discussions were about school and not time management.

We’re only a few days into the school year, so I’m not ready to declare complete victory yet. But so far so good.

Calm your crazy mornings (and afternoons, and evenings!) with these routine cards for kids. ⁠These cards allow kids to independently check what they need to do and in what order – so you don’t have to remind them! ⁠Click here or the image below to learn more.

routine cards for kids

See also:

15 Life Skills Kids Need Before They Leave Home

Teach Your Kids to Make Their Own School Lunches

How to Raise Responsible Kids – Not Just Obedient Ones

What to do next…

1. Subscribe to Self-Sufficient Kids’ email list.

Like what you read here and want to learn more? Every Thursday I’ll send you one parenting tip about raising self-sufficient kids and creating the peaceful relationship you yearn to have with your child. Click here to sign up.

2. Take one of my quizzes!

Find out if you’re raising a self-sufficient kid (click here) or if you’re doing too much for your kids (click here). At the end of each quiz, you’ll be asked to provide your email address to see the results.

3. Get your kids started on chores.

Learn how to get your child started on chores (& keep them motivated + avoid power struggles) by enrolling in my Get Your Kids Successfully Started on Chores course. Click here to learn more and sign up.

About Kerry Flatley

Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.