Switching the family schedule into overdrive after the long lazy days of summer can send a shiver down the spine of even the most seasoned parent. But, with a few tips and tricks, a stress-free morning can be yours. In order to help you and your crew, we found 10 clever ideas—keep reading to see them all!

photo: Alon Banks via Flickr

1. Make sure the kids get enough sleep. Simple fact—kids who don’t get the right amount of sleep aren’t going to be thrilled when the light pops on in the morning. Check out this handy chart from the Sleep Foundation to see how much shut-eye your little needs on a nightly basis.

2. Prep backpacks the night before. Nothing beats the tried and true method of getting homework done and in the pack 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 power jam. There’s something inspirational about theme songs. Whether it’s their current fave or a classic like Eye of the Tiger, simply 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 ($2.99) or Daniel Tiger’s Day and Night app ($1.99). A small price to pay for early morning harmony.

photo: Jessica Wilson via Flickr

5. Set out clothes the night before. The last thing you need in the morning is your kid spending an enormous amount of time choosing between polka dots and stripes. Add this task to your bedtime checklist, and you’ll save yourself the style struggle in the a.m.

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 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. Keep breakfast simple. 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? We love the ease of no-cook overnight oats, or you can prep make-ahead breakfast items for the week ahead. Another great idea is to keep grab-and-go stuff on hand—apples, peanut butter, etc.

8. Stick it to ‘em. Make craft sticks a part of your 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!” container 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

Feature photo Woodley Wonderworks via Flickr