Friday, September 30, 2011

How I Do It: Get Children Ready

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Before my children were in school and had places to be in the mornings, getting them ready was a relaxed process overall. We had a fun, long bath each morning. Then I dressed them, did hair, and we moved on with our day.

But now getting them ready means we have a time deadline along with gathering everything they need for the day. Here is how I do it.

What: Get children ready
When: Morning
Where: At my house
Why: Because it seems to be what you do ;)
How: Prepare/chore cards

What: Get Children Ready
I am talking about bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, doing hair, and gathering all necessary items for them to leave the house if they are leaving.

When: Morning
We do most of our getting ready in the morning. I do some preparation the night before (see the How section below). We do baths and all in the morning. That is just the way I operate.

If you have to get out of your house quickly in the morning, taking baths the night before can make it so much faster. We try to do this Saturday night since our church starts at 9 AM. Our Sunday morning is much smoother if we do Saturday night baths. I know a lot of people like to do baths at night. I just don't want to end our evening activities earlier to fit a bath in. 

I used to do baths in the morning also because I like bath time to be playtime. Most days, we don't have time for bath time to be playtime. I get a couple of days a week in for the girls (which they love--it is extra special now). 

Where: At My House
We get ready at our house.

Why: Because It is What You Do
I don't think it would be too acceptable for me to send Brayden to school each day in his pajamas :) We get ready each day. However, I do think it is fabulous to have lazy days every so often. If we have nothing to do of importance on a Saturday, we don't get ready. The children usually change into play clothes. They don't much care for playing in pajamas most days. 

Last Saturday, we decided last minute to plant a couple of new trees in the yard. We wanted to get to the nursery as soon as they opened. Brayden had changed on his own. We changed Kaitlyn because she was wearing footed pajamas. We took McKenna in her pajamas. So I am not against the lazy day every so often, and I am not so concerned about perceptions that I make sure my children are all pristine before we leave the house. I think it is good for the soul to deviate from your routine some days and just take it easy. 

How: Prepare/Chore Cards
This is the real gem of this post. There isn't much interesting in the what, why, where sections. When can be of interest, but when you do it really just depends on family life and preference. The how is where we make our time smoother!

I have two key ingredients to making my how possible. One is to prepare anything I can the night before. Two is my chore cards. These two items make it possibly for my children to be as independent as they can in the process of getting ready. It also helps everyone be efficient. I prepare what I can so they are never in need of me doing something for them while I am in the middle of something--when that happens, they have to wait a couple of minutes for me to get to a stopping point and I get slowed down. You will remember that I am often getting ready as Brayden and Kaitlyn are starting to get ready. 

For some of you, preparing might include bathing the night before. 

For me, preparing means making sure the bathroom is ready for the next morning. We have a dual shower head in the children's bathroom and one of them is on a hose and can come down. I love this by the way! It makes washing them so easy. It also makes it very easy for Brayden to wash himself. AND you can have two children in there showering and both be in the warm water. So I make sure the shower head is down and towels are in place.

Another step to my preparation is to lay out the children's clothes the night before. This way they can themselves dressed without waiting for me. I lay each piece of clothing on the floor in the child's room in the order they put it on. So underwear, then shirt, then pants, then socks. They can deviate from that if they have a preference too--other than the underwear and pants thing. 

A third step in my preparations is to make sure backpacks are ready to go the next morning. I make sure homework is in there, library books, show and tell type items, etc. I try to do this with the child so they can learn to be personally responsible for it. For Brayden, I ask, "Is your homework in your folder? Is your folder in your backpack? When is library day? Where are your books? Put them in your backpack." I ask him questions to guide him through it. Brayden's teacher is great and sends home a paper of everything they are doing, but they have a pattern to it and I want him to be able to know what he is doing that day at school and what he needs to do to prepare for that. 

Kaitlyn is young and needs more direct guidance, "Tomorrow is sharing day in school. You are supposed to bring something blue. What would you like to bring? Okay, now put it in your backpack." 

If my next morning is going to be hectic, I also make as much of Brayden's lunch as I can the night before. I can easily gather his drink, his fruit, his vegetable, etc. in his lunchbox and stick it all in the refrigerator. Then the next morning I can finish up the rest of it quickly. 

My final step in preparing is to mentally run through what I need to do the next morning. I think about what each child needs done, what needs to be gathered, and what I need to do before anyone leaves the house. That way I am sure to do whatever I can the night before and I have a game plan for the next morning.

Chore Cards
Heaven! These things make getting ready in the morning so much easier. I have done a post on chore cards in general in the past (see Chore Cards). They were working nicely, but I still had to get every card ready the night before. I will be dedicating a post just to this, but I changed it a bit. I made an "early morning pack" for Brayden and for Kaitlyn. It has a chore card for each step each morning. Then I laminated, punched a hole, and put them on an o-ring. Fabulous! I love it. The same cards on on the ring each day. I have included every little step--even lotioning. They know what to do and what order to do it in. The last card is a picture of my shining face so they can come check with me to see if they did it all. 

This does a couple of things. One thing is it gives the child the simple steps each day. I don't have to list them off, I don't have to remind them, I don't have to re-order the cards each morning...They have their list each day. It also seems to drive them. They have a goal before them, and that is to get through their tasks. Once all tasks are complete, they can have free time until school. So they do things as quickly as they can. I don't have to nag and we don't have to panic because there are only "10 minutes left before you leave!"

Hair Tips
One thing to do each day with a girl especially is to do hair. If you think I like variety with my own hair, you should see my girls. I love trying different hair-dos and keeping it fun. They love getting their hair done. 

It can be hard to do hair on a busy little toddler. It does get easier. You will get better at doing hair on another person and more able to make straight parts on a head that shifts often. Some people put their girl in front of the television to hold her still. I have my girls stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom. It is a fun time. We talk, we look at each other in the mirror, we is fun (admist the "hold still--don't move--the more you move the longer this will take" comments). Kaitlyn (4) is very good at holding still. McKenna (2) is pretty good, but she has her moments of wiggles, and she hasn't mastered the way to look at something by just moving your eyes and not your whole head.

You can give young toddlers a cracker. You can also give any child a toothbrush and have them brush their teeth while you do the hair. Kaitlyn loves to play the game I describe here:

It can also be hard to either think of cute hairstyles or figure out how to do hair styles. I have a blog I turn to whenever I need a new idea. It is So great for endless ideas. When I first found it, she didn't have much more than styles for long hair, but since then she has babysat babies and toddlers and added ideas there. Her daughter also donated her hair to Locks of Love so she had some shorter styles going on for a while. But a little tip, at least if you are like me, don't try a brand new hair do on a day when you are in a time crunch. I try my new styles on days we can take it easy. It is always easier to make a style after you have done it before. Then it just becomes part of your basics. 

That reminds me (train of thought), I want to take a picture of each style I do and then print out (and laminate of course because I am currently obsessed with laminating) a flip chart or something of hair styles I do. I sometimes draw a huge blank when I am in the moment. 

I love to use bows and flowers to finish it up. You can buy them all over the internet, but they are also quite simple to make. You can see what I have made here: My craft blog is basically just a photo log of things I make, but if you want to know how to make any of them, let me know and I will take picture the next time I make them and post a tutorial on the craft blog. 

That is how I get my children ready while A) maintaining my sanity and B) remaining a nice mother. As always, please share how you do it! Any tips on how you get your kids ready for the day as easily as possible? Any favorite blogs or things for inspiration? Please share!


Melissa M said...

I am really liking this series.

At what age have your kids been ready for the chore cards and the early morning pack?

Kim said...

I would love to see a tutorial on any of the bow or flower clips. My daughter is about the same age as your McKenna and has long hair that she doesn't like much done to except sweeping it to the side with a clip. They get rather expensive when you have to buy them. Thanks!

Kendall said...

My 3 year old and 1 year old share a room. My husband gets up at 4:45, and the alarm or his movement wakes up the kids. The second my 3 year old is awake, he starts talking and singing and wakes up his younger sister. They both start talking to each other and get each other excited, so there is no way the will go back to sleep. But my 1 year old really needs to sleep till 6:30 or 7, otherwise by 8 o'clock she needs a nap. Do you have any suggestions for me?

Cozy's Cuts for Kids said...

Great post about time saving tips for the morning! I love the multitasking tips--brushing their own teeth while you do their hair--genius! I own 3 kids hair salons in NYC, and just blogged my quick morning tips. Check it out, from one mom to another:
--Cozy Friedman

Plowmanators said...

Melissa M,

I would say a three year old.

Plowmanators said...

Kendall, I would suggest a humidifier or sound machine in the kids' room so it will muffle your husband and each other.

Plowmanators said...

Thanks Cozy!

Kelly said...

I have been thinking of switching my children to morning baths because I find our evenings are too hurried and chaotic. How do you prepare your children for bed (i.e. get them sufficiently cleaned up enough to get into their beds) if you don't do baths at night? Just hoping to get some tips for making this a smooth transition.


Plowmanators said...


We just wash hands, wipe face if needed with a washcloth, and brush teeth. I braid Kaitlyn's hair at night because it is so long. They change into clean PJs (and typically wear a new pair every night).

If they were outside and got super dirty, we would do a quick wash in the shower.


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