How You Can Create an Amazing Before & After School Routine For Your Child

As we all know, the before-school routine can feel almost impossible at times, and the only thing that can rival it is the after-school routine! Getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and out of the house for school in the morning can be stressful, especially if you’re also rushing around to get yourself ready. However, you will be happy to hear that it doesn’t have to be.

By simply implementing a good before-school routine, you will find that not only your children’s, but also your whole family’s, mornings will run much more smoothly. 

The same applies to your after-school routine when kids return home with homework to be done, and empty tummies to be filled. In some cases, this can be as difficult to navigate as the morning routine, although with slightly looser time restraints.

This raises the question of “what does a good before and after school routine actually look like?”

To help you work out the right answer to this question for your family, we have put together some tips to help you create your own morning and after-school routines that will get your family through the day with minimum fuss, and help to keep your stress levels down.

A good time to start implementing these routines is when your children are transitioning back to school after a long summer break or after a smaller school break like winter break. But don’t let this keep you from starting to implement them anytime!

The before-school routine – Methods to master the mornings!

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when creating your own stress-free morning routine:

Tip 1: Prepare as much as you can the night before.

It may sound obvious, but preparation the night before really is the key to making sure you’re able to leave the house on time in the morning.

A good before-school routine helps you reduce how much you have to do before rushing out of the door, especially the more difficult tasks like ironing school uniforms or preparing school lunches. Consider doing the following tasks as part of your evening routine:

  • Pack lunches: Prepare and pack their lunch bag the night before and keep it in the fridge overnight, then all you’ll have to do is grab it and go. If you know your child has a favorite sandwich or lunchtime meal, you could also consider bulk preparing a few days worth at a time to save time. If you are already slicing cheese for one sandwich, you may as well slice it for 2 or 3!
  • Prepare school clothes: Wash and iron any items that are needed for the next day, and either hang it or lay it out somewhere in your child’s room where they can easily reach it, so they can quickly get themselves dressed in the morning. If you have the time, hanging a week’s worth of shirts/pants/skirts in the wardrobe so that they are ready to go can be a real time saver on a busy school day morning. You can then mention to your child that their clothes are ready for the entire week, and this will help them to be prepared too!
  • Organize the essentials: It can be helpful to have a dedicated box, hook or shelf in your hallway or another area of the house to store all their school essentials. Knowing where everything is kept will help avoid the dreaded last-minute searches for backpacks, lunch bags and school folders in the morning, just as you are about to head out of the door. This tip applies to your belongings too. It’s hard to encourage your kids to keep all of their things in a designated place if you are guilty of spending every morning shouting “where’s my phone/wallet/keys?” to your partner!
  • Prepare breakfast: If you can, try to prepare breakfast the night before, even if that just means putting cereal and bowls on the table. Having breakfast items ready to go will help the morning run more smoothly.

Tip 2: Create a checklist of a morning routine for school

A checklist is a great tool to help everyone remember what needs to happen in the morning and in what order. If you have younger kids, use pictures instead of words in your morning routine chart and include all of the things that need to get done, such as:

  •     Get dressed
  •     Eat breakfast
  •     Brush teeth
  •     Wash face
  •     Comb and tidy hair
  •     Put on shoes and coat
  •     Grab backpack and lunch box
  •     Go to school!

If you’ve got older children you might want to include some of the following, as older kids often eat more quickly than younger ones. It’s amazing what they can then fit into their extra 15 minutes. Things you could add to the list include:

  • Music practice – 10 to 15 minutes a day at elementary age is all it takes to get started.
  • Any responsibility-based chores such as making their own bed, or loading the dishwasher after breakfast to help out.
  • Homework time – if you make it a habit, they’re less likely to complain.
  • Additional math or English support – lots of parents also take this time just to do a little math or English boosting such as doing some vocabulary work (find a word, work out its synonym, antonym, and then a sentence using it) or mental math or arithmetic work. If you are looking for somewhere to start with this, Third Space Learning has lots of free home learning resources on the Math Hub
  • Reading – don’t underestimate the importance of reading at all ages; if it’s not already part of your children’s lives, make time for it in the before-school routine.
  • A moment to relax and prepare for the day ahead – As much as this post is all about helping you create a routine and plan your day out, it is equally as important for your child to do the same. If you have some spare time during your morning routine, sit down with them and discuss what is coming up in their day and help them plan it out. Talking to them through their daily routine is a great way to open a dialogue and discuss any worries your child may have.

There are lots of great free printable morning routines online on Pinterest, or you could get your kids involved and make your own. Once you have designed a before-school routine that works for your family, go through all of the steps with them, talking about each step as you go.

morning routine checklist 1
An example of a morning routine checklist from Pinterest.

morning routine checklist 2
Morning and evening visual example checklist.

Doing this may help you recognize the need to re-order some of the steps. You could aim to include 5-10 minutes of free time as a reward once all the steps have been completed. Give it a try at your house – you’ll find that using family routines is a great way to get organized!

Tip 3: Get up before your kids

This may sound easy in theory, but can be harder in practice. No matter what time you put them to bed, we all know some kids are up and bouncing around before the crack of dawn, and this can put a dent in even the most well-organized morning routine!

However, in an ideal world, you will be showered, dressed, and packed up for the day by the time your little ones awake. Aim to set your alarm for at least 15-30 minutes (longer if possible) before your children usually wake up, to give you a few precious moments of “me time”.

If you’re feeling really organized you might even be able to fit in having a peaceful morning coffee, doing ten minutes of yoga, reading something inspiring, listening to a podcast or writing in a journal. You’ll feel so much better for it and once a week or even once a half term is better than nothing.

The after-school routine: Helping with homework and hunger!

Okay, you’ve made it through the school morning routine – so the question now becomes how best to navigate the after-school routine?

The following tips aim to help you put in place a flexible after-school schedule or routine that allows your kids some time to wind down after a big day at school before moving onto the homework and activities that follow.

Tip 1: Prepare for school pick-up

Again, preparation for after school is key! Your kids are likely to be tired and hungry after a long school day, so consider packing a couple of after-school snacks for the journey home. A banana, a mini box of dried fruit or a low-sugar cereal bar should fill the hole without filling them up too much before dinner time.

Walk home if you can, as this will give you time to chat about their day and give them a restorative blast of fresh air (while hopefully leaving them worn out enough for a good night’s sleep!)  

Some children might emerge from the classroom with a ton of pent-up energy to burn off. A quick race around the park or biking home should keep that post-school “need for speed” in check and calm them down by the time your key is in the front door.

If you are feeling very adventurous, why not squeeze in a race with your child on the way home? After all, it’s never too early to begin preparing for the parent’s race on field day…

Tip 2: Create an after-school routine chart

As with the morning routine, consider creating an after-school checklist or chart that works for your family. This could include the following tasks:

  • Hang up coats and bags
  • Unpack school books
  • Get changed out of school uniform
  • Eat a healthy snack
  • Do homework
  • Have family time during dinner
  • Help with cleaning up after dinner 
  • Take a bath
  • Have some quiet time to unwind and relax before bed time

Something as simple as having a designated place for coats, bags and school books can be helpful, as this avoids them getting dropped in random places around your home!

If your kids have after-school activities, such as sports or other clubs to go to, encourage them to get changed into their gear, and if they haven’t eaten on the way home, offer them a snack and a drink.

If your kids are anything like mine, they probably won’t be excited to answer lots of questions about their day after a long day at school. They will have done so much, so instead of “what did you do today?”, specific questions such as “what was the favorite part of your day?” or “what games did you play at lunchtime?” can work well and get them talking in their own time. 

Tip 3: Make time for homework and additional learning

Having a set time for homework can be helpful, whether this is before dinner or after dinner, so decide what works best for your family and stick to it.

After a hard day of being an elementary school student, often the last thing your child is going to want to do is more work, so by adding a dedicated time period in which they should do home learning to their after-school routine, it will become part of the day and much less of an issue.

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The content in this article was originally written by primary school teacher Sophie Bartlett and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary math teacher Christi Kulesza.


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