How to Get Out the Door on Time (Even with Young Kids)

How to Get Out the Door on Time (Even with Young Kids)I’m not a morning person. Before kids, I would wake up at the earliest 8am to get to work by 9. Now that I have a kid, waking up at 6:30am every day hasn’t exactly been one of the perks of motherhood, and this is only worsened when we leave the house by a certain time.

These past few months, our toddler hasn’t been too difficult about leaving the house, give or take a few trying episodes. Whether we drop him off before work or attend an event or play date, he has been obliging with leaving the house. We’ve relied on several tricks to ease the morning madness. Here’s how to get out the door on time with your kids:

  • Get enough sleep in the evenings. Funny how morning madness can easily be avoided by simply getting enough sleep the previous night. I notice that I’m crankier in the mornings when I stayed up a bit later than usual. It’s difficult to wake up on time and therefore feel rushed the rest of the morning. To avoid all that, I make sure to sleep by 10:30 at the latest so that I won’t hate my alarm clock at 6:30 the next morning.
  • Similarly, allow plenty of time for everyone to wake up and play or get ready. Even though we don’t leave the house until 8:20, we wake our toddler at 7am so that he feels he has enough play time in the morning before leaving. He’s a homebody and could easily stay home all day if he had a choice, so prying him away from a brief play time to leave is a challenge.
  • If possible, pick a good time to leave, such as after a snack. On days when we don’t drop him off, I tend to go with the flow and run our errands when I find a good opportunity to do so. This is usually after he’s had plenty of play time, a ton to eat and a clean diaper. He’s more willing to leave when the environment and situation are conducive for him.
  • Eat breakfast, preferably together. I can’t imagine rushing out of the house on an empty stomach, so every day we all have something to eat. We also eat together as often as we can so that the day starts off positively.
  • Wake up earlier than the kids. Like I said, I’m not a morning person, but even I heed this advice. Sure, we’ve gotten away with waking up when we hear our little guy babbling (or crying) in his room, but to avoid feeling rushed, we wake up 30 minutes before we plan to rouse our two-year-old.
  • Allow your kids a special toy or item to take with them out of the house. For my toddler, this is often any toy he’s currently into: Legos, crayons, even acorns and nuts. He’ll then have something from home to take while he’s away.
  • Give enough of a head’s up. We let our toddler know when we’re about to leave and say, “In twenty minutes, we’re going to…” and continue doing this at certain intervals, “In ten minutes, we’re going to…”
  • Keep optional outings to a minimum. To keep him from feeling overwhelmed, we usually keep our outings to two per day.
  • Break it down step-by-step. I notice that my toddler has an easier time transitioning when I give the exact next step instead of simply saying where we’re going. For instance, I’ll say, “Let’s put on your shoes,” instead of “Let’s go to the park.” After putting on his shoes, I’ll say, “Now let’s go to the elevator,” and so forth.

What are the worst days and times for you and your kids to leave the house? What factors make leaving the house more difficult? Easier?

Nina

Nina is a working mom to three boys—a five-year-old and toddler twins. She blogs about parenting at Sleeping Should Be Easy, where she writes everything she's learning about being mom and all its joys and challenges. She also covers topics like how kids learn and play, family life, being a working mom and life with twins. Download her free ebook, "Time Management Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom" for more tips.

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  1. Steph says

    My daughter’s a little social butterfly so the way we leave the house most easily is not to tell her too soon or she’s begging to leave right away. Very occasionally (usually if she’s overtired) she wants to stay home but otherwise she’s up for an adventure. The best way to leave the house smoothly on my end is to get things packed and ready to go either the night before or at nap time so I’m not spending the few minutes before we leave frantically running around looking for something.

  2. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says

    i like the idea of telling the child that we’ll be leaving in 20 minutes, or whatever. My husband gives me a countdown too, and it works for me.

  3. Joy says

    We’re very similar with Steph, I try not to tell my toddler that we’re leaving too soon or he’s going to run and get his shoes and beg us to leave right away. I try to have everything ready the night before or few hours ahead of time because otherwise, we’d surely be late (or forget stuff) to wherever we’re going!

  4. Kerry says

    Oh sister, you’re singing my song! We used to be consistently late. Some due to little ones, some due to our utter exhaustion from not enough sleep (read: up too late)!! So of course we’d sleep until the last possible minute. We’re much better at the on-time thing now and I love it. It just means… yes! mom forcing herself to get out of bed before everyone else and keeping spirits light. 😉 Oh, and laying outfits out the night before and anything else we may need in order to walk out that door flawlessly.

    • says

      Kerry, thanks for adding the tip about already have clothes laid out the night before. We do this too, and imagine that it’ll come in very handy in the older years when kids start having opinions about their clothes.

  5. says

    Steph and Joy, thanks for sharing another side of getting out of the house. This *hardly* happens to my homebody toddler unless he absolutely loves what we’re about to do, and even then there’s no begging or cajoling to leave right away.

    I didn’t even know kids do this lol 😉

  6. says

    I am not a morning person much either and I definitely relate haha. I also relate to the idea of keeping a limit on outings in a day. My kiddo doesn’t always need to take his naps at the same time every day, but if we are out too much during the day and he doesn’t get any structure around naps, he is one unhappy toddler. I usually try not to do things really early in the morning so that he can have his morning nap at a regular time and then find flexibility with his afternoon nap.

    • says

      That’s a great tip on not scheduling too much at a given time of the day. I remember when LO was younger, afternoons were preferred just so that his naps were out of the way. Now that he’s down to one late nap (if that), mornings are our preferred time to be out.

  7. says

    Good ideas! The waking up 30 minutes before the kids is a must-do! Unfortunately, my kids are early risers (6:30 am or earlier sometimes!) and sometimes inconsistent (my 2-year old will wake-up anytime between 6:15 and 7:15). But I still commit to getting up by 5:45 (eek!) If I have enough time to get ready before they get up, we will generally have a successful morning!

    • says

      5:45?! Okay so far I think you are the earliest riser out of everyone here. Man, I can’t remember the last time I intentionally woke up that early.

      Thanks for stopping by, RJ! Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  8. says

    Great suggestions, as always. We do most of what you do as well. Since Livi is only interested in her books these days, she gets to pick a book or two every time we go somewhere. It’s become somewhat of a ritual and so she knows that we are about to leave. The toughest one on your list is getting up early, I am not a morning person either. Livi on the other hand is ready to start the day within seconds of waking up. :)

    • says

      Thanks, hnMom!

      What is up with kids and waking up ready to go? For me, I need at least 15 minutes of snooze time, but my kiddo is up and ready the minute his eyes are open.

  9. says

    I prepare everything for the “outing” the night before: clothes, diaper bag, lunches, snacks, the car.

    I typically leave a half-hour after breakfast. This gives Oster a chance to run around a bit and me time to pack the cooler or lunch bag, start the car (if it’s too hot outside), bring in the dogs from outside, and change Oster’s diaper one last time.

    This has worked well for me and it’s quite amazing how long it actually takes to do these simple steps that would have taken 5 minutes to complete before child :)

    Your suggestions are fantastic. I preferably like the one where you state to wake up earlier than the child. Once in awhile I sleep in with Oster but I always regret it. I really need that time (even if I’m so tired) to take a shower and enjoy a cup of coffee.

    • says

      Every morning, it takes us 10 minutes to get from the door, down the elevator, and settled inside the car. It’s insane that it takes us that long for something as simple as getting in the car! I always add in an extra 10 minutes from the time I prefer to leave for this very reason.

  10. One Mother's Notes says

    Great tips. Like you I was never a morning person, leaving it until the last possible minute to get out of bed. Now I too am regularly up at 6:30 and it hurts. The biggest struggle for me is going to bed early enough…here’s to trying tonight.

    • says

      Thanks, One Mother’s Notes!

      Ladies, based on One Mother’s Notes comment, I have an idea: let’s all go to sleep early tonight! Even if it’s just 15 or 30 minutes earlier, so that we can wake up earlier and hopefully more refreshed to tackle the day. I’m going to try this tonight because I also struggle with going to bed early, even if I’m yawning my face off.