Of all the old-school parenting tricks I learned from my grandmother, who raised eight kids including me, one stands out as a lifesaver: Set the table before going to bed at night. This way, when anyone in your household wakes up, even if at staggered times, they'll have their place at the family table waiting for them — no need to crash around the kitchen opening every cabinet and drawer looking for a spoon, a mug or Grapenuts.
Taking this idea a step further or two is quick and easy, and buys everyone more time during the morning crunch:
Prep the tea pot and kettle, or coffee machine, so it's ready to go
Pour kids' cereal into bowls and cover with a small plate or lid, so it won't go stale overnight
Set out favourite breakfast items like honey and fresh fruit, left whole so it won't spoil. (In our home, pears and bananas are constant favourites.)
Fill a water pitcher with a lid, and serve shelf-stable juice or chocolate milk boxes.
Measure out the dog and cat food and have it at the ready on the counter, checking one more thing off your morning to-do list.
And on hump days, hard days, or as a surprise, fresh flowers, a note of encouragement, a balloon (which I keep in our kitchen drawer), or a special treat like banana bread can help start the day off with an extra warm, fuzzy feeling before you all hustle out the door.
For families with babies, whose hands are often full holding hungry, squirming offspring in addition to being super pressed for time, simply setting up the highchair with the baby bowl, spoon, bib, sippy cup, and jar of mush can make a huge difference.
When I take the time to do this, I'm able to feed my little one while enjoying a cup of coffee and my own breakfast, too — a real treat. When I don't, not only do I generally miss a meal, I barely manage to sip half a cup of much needed caffeine; I waste precious time looking for things which are suddenly not where they should be, or not clean when I need them immediately; and I start my day off hangry, with a budding headache. A recipe for dysfunction, without a doubt.
Setting the family table each evening not only makes mornings less stressful and more enjoyable; it also ensures that everyone will sit down and fill up before facing their hectic day, and have a chance at two family meals together, now and then, as well — and what can beat that?