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  • Writer's pictureChickadee Contributor

How to Make Mornings Smoother When Packing for Daycare


Photo by Juju_ a_la_bougeotte on Unsplash

Weekday mornings are notoriously difficult for most families. Everyone needs to be fed, clothed, and packed up within a relatively short period of time. Here are a few tips to streamline the process, to keep your morning smooth, and make sure you’re not making a second midday trip to daycare with forgotten items.

Set Up a Routine

Pack things up in the same order every day.

Routine is everything, and the more you can embrace the same process every morning, the more likely you are to be able to remember everything that needs to get in the daycare bag.


Put a packing list on the fridge or by the door.

This will help you get everything checked off the list. It can also provide a reference if different people help pack up on different days (grandparents, babysitter, or older siblings).


Pack similar items together.

When you’re doing one thing at a time, you’re more likely to complete that step thoroughly. For example, if you have multiple kids who need lunch, pack all the lunches at the same time. Then move on to outdoor gear or other items that need attention.


Prep Ahead

Anything you can get done before the morning rush, the better. Some of the most common things parents prep the night before include:

  • Clothes. Whether you pick them out, or your child does. Having weather-appropriate clothing all picked out and ready-to-go can help get out the door with fewer discussions/tantrums.

  • Lunches. Meal prep is huge for smoother mornings. Whether you prep the night before or pack a few days’ worth of snacks and fruits/veggies, by doing lunches in advance it’s one less thing to prep in the morning.

  • Breakfast. Make some overnight oats, portion out jam and yogurt, or slice and cover fruit for an healthy, grab-and-go breakfast. If those foods aren’t your favorite (or your kids’ favorites) bare minimum, make a mental note of what breakfast will be in the morning. It’ll make breakfast happen much smoother—especially when you haven’t had any coffee yet.

Get Your Kids Involved

This only works if your kids are at an age where they can reliably help. That said, you may be surprised by what young toddlers can help with.


Let them dress themselves.

If there are clothing items they can put on themselves, like slip on shoes, easy pull up pants, or a coat, let them do that. Bonus if it takes them a minute to get dressed, by having them do it, you’ll get an extra minute to gather other things.


Make a matching chart

While it takes a bit of pre-work, you can make a picture chart of what needs to go in their bag. Stack the items next to their bag and let them cross off the items as they put them in their bag. Just pay attention to items that need special care when packing, like anything liquid or that could spill.

Get Two of Everything

Feel like you’re always running around the house looking for your toddler’s shoes, socks, sleep sack, or lid to their water bottle? For all the things they need for daycare, that they might also use while at home, get two.


Some things may be easier to just keep packed up for daycare. Toddlers usually need a few pairs of extra clothes, underwear, or weather-appropriate gear for daycare. Keep those things packed and ready to go, and don’t take them out of their bag at the end of the day. Only update their bag only when things come home dirty, used, or daycare activities demand a different type of packing.

Give Yourself Enough Time

Kids. Take. Time. Don’t fight it. If you can give your family enough time to get each task done, there will be less rushing which leads to less anxiety and probably less meltdowns.


This might mean you get up earlier than they usually do. While it may hurt to set an alarm, it may also help smooth things out; if you can pack a few things up before your kids wake up, you’ll be able to spend focused time with them instead of rushing around barking orders.


By building in some cushion time to the morning, you’ll have more space to focus on one task at a time, and the more likely you’ll keep the anxiety level in your house low. This can lead to more cooperative kids, and generally less stress for everyone.


Put a Time Limit on Tasks

Kids love to know what to expect. If you can give them a very concrete set of instructions, they are more apt to follow your lead in times of transition.

If you know there are specific tasks that your kids linger on, help them out by setting a timer.

State very specifically what they need to do in the time allotted, and what happens next (or when the timer goes off.

“After I put your lunch in your backpack, it’ll be time to put your toys down, put shoes on, and get in the car.” is a lot more helpful than “I’m setting a timer, when it goes off it’s time to go to school.” The specificity will help them understand what’s expected.


Give Incentives

A little motivation can go a long way—for your kids and yourself.

Choose an incentive that will really light your kid up. Make sure the task they need to accomplish to get the incentive is very specific and within their reach. Keep in mind that any reward system should be age appropriate. If the assignment is too difficult or the reward too far out of reach, everyone will only be more frustrated.

Some incentives that may work well for toddlers:

  • Getting to pick music in the car on the way to school.

  • Screen time once they’ve completed the tasks you’ve asked of them.

  • A stamp or sticker on a chart (or even just a sheet of paper taped to the wall).

  • Cherished snack or beverage in the car.

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