Get Out the Door On Time with Less Stress

Morning Map: Getting out the Door on Time with Less Stress | Twin Cities Moms Blog

When my kids were little we had a morning routine that got us out the door on time every day without fail.

I’d wake the girls at 7 a.m., we’d snuggle in our king-size bed (which was the best part!) and watch the first half of Arthur on PBS. Then, during “intermission” they’d race to their room, get dressed and screech back to watch the 2nd half of the show. I’d sneak downstairs to get breakfast ready and they’d have 15 min. to eat, 5 min. to brush their teeth and hair, and 10 min. to grab their backpack, jacket and shoes. Then, we’d walk to the bus stop.

How about you? Do your kids cooperate or drag their feet in the morning? Are you often repeating the same commands over and over again to get them out the door on time? Do you leave the house feeling frazzled or calm?

If you start your days stressed because your kids can’t seem to cooperate in the morning, let me share the best tool in my parenting tool kit for getting kids out the door on time in the morning.

It’s called a morning map.

This is how you create one: First, sit down with your kids and ask them, “What are all the things you need to do in the morning when you get up?” Write them down. Then ask, “What order do you want to do them in?” List the items sequentially.

Next ask them, “How much time do you think it should take to do each of these tasks?” Kids don’t have a good concept of time until they’re about age 11 so work together to figure out the right amount of time to leave for brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating, etc.

Then you add up the total time needed to complete all the tasks. Somewhere around 45-minutes is typical if you make sure your kids eat breakfast daily (unless, of course, you’re watching Arthur and snuggling which can add a little more time!).

Then have your child pick an image to represent each task. The child could draw a picture of each task, find an image on the internet or you could take a digital photo of your child doing each task.

Next, put the tasks in order with a visual for each task so it looks like a cartoon strip. (See sample below.) And voila, you have a morning map for your child to follow.


Get Out the Door On Time with Less Stress | Twin Cities Moms Blog

In the beginning, you’ll want to hand your child the map and say, “What’s first on your map?” then set a timer so they’ll be held accountable for completing each task. Praise your child as they complete each task and ask, “What’s next on your map?” This will require a combination of hovering close enough to hear the timer but providing enough independence to let your child get each task done.

Using the morning map requires some time and attention on your part to start with, but soon enough, your child will follow the map on their own. Parents I’ve worked with have been creative in making the maps. Some parents laminate the map, others put it on a clipboard, others have the kids check off each task as they go on a dry-erase board. Just involve your child in the creation of the map to get their buy-in.

Also, try to be as organized the night before as you can. With your kids, check a weather app to see what the weather will be and have them help select the right clothes to wear and lay them out. Have your kids pack their snack and put their back pack by the door along with any equipment for activities the next day (i.e. an instrument for band).

One other very important thing I should mention… Please make sure that your kids are getting enough sleep or it’ll be very hard to get them to cooperate and complete these tasks on time.

Here are sleep guidelines to check if your kids are getting enough sleep:

Sleep Guidelines:

  • Toddlers: 12-14 hours (including nap)
  • Ages 3-5: 12 hours of sleep (including nap)
  • Ages 6-12: 10-11 hours of sleep
  • 13-19: 9.25 hours of sleep
  • Adults: 8.25

Source: Sleepless in America, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Good luck with your morning map! I hope you can start your day with less stress now!

Toni Schutta, M.A., L.P., is known as the Parent Coach who Gets Results. Toni has two teenage daughters. She’s an author, national speaker, and parenting expert with 21 years experience helping parents find solutions that work so families can be happier and more peaceful. Toni can be found at

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