It’s amazing how being late or on time can set the tone that rules the day.
Telling everyone to hurry and scolding them because they can’t find their shoes or don’t know where they set their homework down isn’t fun. Nor does it feel good to get the kids into the car or out to the bus stop only to later realize their half-finished breakfast is sitting on the table. Of course you worry that they are hungry, but you also know it might reflect in their schoolwork.
After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as noted by a Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study: “For school performance outcomes, evidence suggests a positive association between habitual breakfast frequency and quality on school grades or achievement test scores.”
As a professional organizer who loves to work with families and their routines, I know teaching children responsibility is a win-win situation for both parents and child. Working on getting out the door on time includes lessons on organization, time management and personal responsibility.
My favorite routine trick to share with families is setting up a “launch pad.” This is a spot in your home where you can place everything that must launch out the door with you in the morning. It’s a big help to parents to have their own belongings in one spot as well.
Create a launch pad in your home with these easy steps:
1. Pick Your Spot
A launch pad is there to make your life easier, so you want it to be in an easy, accessible location, not hidden away. The best place for a launch pad is close to the door you commonly use to enter and exit your home. In this way, the spot you choose also becomes a landing pad, where everything lands as you come in the door. The front foyer, the back door, the mudroom or a laundry room near the garage door are all good choices.
2. Be Small-Home Savvy
If you live in a smaller home or an apartment and don’t have a mudroom or foyer, you can still create a launch pad and a new routine. Choose any location by the front door. Or, you can even use your breakfast table. Assign each child a seat. They can put their backpack under their chair and hang jackets or other items on the back of the chair.
3. Create the Launch Pad
An ideal launch pad has a place for backpacks, shoes, jackets and sports gear. You can easily create a launch pad area by adding sturdy coat hooks to the wall and placing a bin below each hook to hold items that can’t hang, like library books. You can also use a plastic or wicker tub for each child.
Rearranging so you can add a dedicated piece of furniture for your launch pad is a good long-term solution. There are plenty of mudroom pieces such as locker storage, cubbies with bins, and benches with hidden storage that brings organization to your launch pad area.
4. Add Labels and Lists
Be sure to label the launch pad so each child has their own clearly marked spot. Add a small wipe-off board for each child with a list of things they need to have each day. For non-readers, you can draw a simple picture of a shoe or other symbolic items.
5. Build a Routine
The key to success is making it a routine to put the things on the launch pad and check the wipe-off board each night.
“A routine is especially important during particularly difficult times of the day,” writes Lisa Medoff at Education.com. In “Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started,” she notes, “When there is a routine in place, there can be little argument because the expectations for behavior are taken for granted. Therefore, a major benefit of establishing routines is that you will cut down on stress for yourself.”
6. Ask, Don’t Tell
As a parent, I know it is really easy to become a reminder service. Yet as an organizer, I know that doing so teaches kids that you will remind them of everything they forget.
Try to transfer the responsibility. Instead of telling them to get their soccer cleats, ask them, “What are you missing?” Ask them to check their wipe-off board. Keep guiding them to figure out what they are missing.
Sure, you’ll have to make sure the wipe-off board has everything listed each day and check the little ones’ backpacks before they leave, but this is a great foundation for teaching them how to be responsible. The more you work on this lesson, the more it will pay off.
Lea Schneider is a professional organizer who provides advice to families, including how to create a launch pad with everything you need to get out of the house on time. Lea has great tips on making different pieces of furniture a dedicated spot for your launch pad. To see furniture options that could work for your mudroom, visit The Home Depot.
More from Make It Better: