We know the switch from slow summer mode to busy school schedule can send a shiver down the spine of even the most seasoned parent. Getting into a morning groove without getting overwhelmed can be tough for everyone, but don’t worry, there’s hope. We’ve got 10 creative ideas for smoother, stress-free mornings. You’re welcome!

Weekly Chart_MadisonDesignShop_via Etsyphoto: Madison Design Shop on Etsy

1. Establish a routine & stick to it! Take a load off of your to-do list by getting your kids to manage their own routines. It’s easy when you use the time-tested parent fave for establishing (and maintaining) routines: the sticker chart. We love the artsy graphics of CreativiDee Workshop’s morning responsibility chart found on Etsy, as well as the equally adorable weekly chart from Madison Design Shop. Both are customizable (for an additional fee) and instantly downloadable so you can print them whenever and wherever they’re needed. Time to stock up on stickers!

2. Plan ahead. Nothing beats the tried and true method of getting homework done and planning the lunch menu the night before. It means one less thing to do the next morning, and when everyone’s in high gear, it helps preserve the flow—and your sanity. An old school fave, indeed!

dancing_snaphappymom_morningroutine_national_redtricyclephoto: Snap Happy Mom

3. Start off with a song. There’s something inspirational about theme songs. Just ask Rocky. Find your family’s Eye of the Tiger and blast it at o-seven-early to rally the troops. Use the same song every day or make a playlist to rotate favorites throughout the week. Let’s get this a.m. party started!

4. There’s an app for that! Leave it to the almighty app makers to find a need and fill it with colorful graphics and virtual rewards the kiddos can’t quite get enough of. Use technology to your advantage to jumpstart the morning with a customizable app from Morning Kids or Daniel Tiger’s Day and Night app from PBS Kids. Both are available at your local app store for just $3.99. A small price to pay for early morning harmony.

DaysoftheWeekClosetDividers_GinaMarieOriginals via Etsyphoto: GinaMarieOriginals Etsy Shop

5. Set up a weekly wardrobe. The last thing you need in the morning is your kid spending an enormous amount of time choosing between polka dots and stripes. Try picking out five outfits on Sunday night and placing each of them in a designated spot. Hanging clothes organizers for the closet work great, but we’re kind of in love with the simplicity of these days of the week closet dividers from GinaMarieOriginals on Etsy. Getting your school-aged kiddo’s daily duds set up and ready to go has never been more stylish.

6. Take up a collection. Every parent is familiar with those last minute necessities that always slow kids down when you’re trying to shuffle them out the door. Shoes, jackets, backpacks… the items that often take a search party to locate. Collect them all, once and for all, in cubbies, baskets, bins or lockers kept right by the door. They’ll be the last things the kidlets grab, before it’s off to school!

berry-cobler-overnight-oats-hemp-seedsphoto: Sophia DeSantis of Veggies Don’t Bite

7. Make a wholesome breakfast (without all the elbow grease). Starting the day off with a healthy breakfast is a goal most of us strive for. But who has time for cooking and baking first thing in the morning? Make-ahead breakfasts to the rescue! We love the ease of no-cook overnight oats. Or try making a tray of healthy mini-muffins one night and freeze them for the week ahead. And if you’re taking breakfast to-go, a smoothie is a great one that can be sipped on the way to school. Click here for our fave recipes the whole family will love.

8. Stick it to ‘em. Oh the many uses of craft sticks for organizing and motivating kiddos! Make them part of your morning routine by simply writing out morning musts, one on each stick. The kidlets then move each stick from a “Needs to be Done” container to a “Yay! I did it!” one as they progress through the morning checklist. Have them decorate the sticks with glitter, stickers and markers for a little extra buy in. That’s the ticket!

morningroutine_nycdeptoftransportation_getupandgo_redtricyclephoto: New York City Department of Transportation via flickr

9. Recruit the kids. Have you ever noticed how younger kids seem to be in awe of the big kids? Use that to your advantage. Find a responsible older child to be your kid’s morning buddy and hire them to wait with your child at the bus or walk them to school in the morning. It means more time for you and your kid will be delighted. Big kids for the win!

10. Give them five. A familiar concept from elementary classrooms, Give Me Five takes five simple tasks and associates each with a finger. It’s as easy as turning Thumbkin into the “get dressed” reminder and Mr. Pointer into “eat breakfast.“ By the time it’s Little Pinky’s turn, your mini-me should be ready to board the bus. Carry the theme through with a high five after each completed task and it’ll be smooth sailing for everyone!

What morning routine tricks do you use? Share them in a comment below.

—Allison Sutcliffe & Heather Dixon