Getting Out the Door With a Preschooler


It can be a nightmare to get kids out of the house especially if you have somewhere you really need to be!  As parents, we have had lots of practice with our own kids and as teachers, we have to get 10+ kids out the door at the same time.  We put our heads together to come up with our favorite tips and tricks for getting out the door without losing your mind.  The most important thing to remember is that it’s about you.  You need to be organized, prepared, calm, and authoritative.  Your children feed off of your energy and tone.

Give yourself extra time.  

You can’t focus on getting the kids ready if you aren’t ready yourself. If you need help getting out the door for school, get up before the kids to get yourself together; remember how much you can get done when no one is around? So, be sure you have your things gathered and ready to go by the door or even in the car before you start dealing with the kids.

Give them time.

If you give yourself time to prepare, you can focus your energy on your kids.  It’s important to make time to engage with your kids as they start their day. Snuggle in bed for a few minutes as they get up, read a book together, play for a few minutes, sing some songs, anything to connect with your child.   This is especially important if you have more than one child.

Prepare in advance.

Make it easier for you to be prepared by prepping the night before when your kids are asleep. Check the weather forecast then help kids pick out outfits and find appropriate shoes. Check your schedule for events to be sure you have what you need such as gear for swim lessons, etc.  Get lunchboxes out and ready to fill in the morning.  Don’t forget to check to see what you have on hand so that you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to find something they will actually eat.

Make a plan and tell your kids.

Kids want to help and aren’t great with surprises.  Be sure to tell them what is happening that day and give them an idea of how long they’ll have before you have to leave the house.  List off what you need them to do to get out the door: get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, make bed, pack backpack, etc. Be sure to remind them of the regular events such as school day, gymnastics class, etc. Some parents find it useful to use a chart to check off the chores completed.  Visual reminders are great!

Enlist their help.

Kids are capable!  They can make their own beds (it doesn’t have to be perfect). They should dress themselves, sit at the table for breakfast without getting up, and put their lunches into their own lunch boxes.  Please supervise teeth brushing and eating.

Keep it simple.

Breakfast does not need to be elaborate when you have to get to school.  You can get dishes done, dinner planned, or lists made while the kids eat their breakfasts.  Instead of flipping pancakes and cleaning sticky syrup or scrambling eggs, serve easy foods like toast, fruit, yogurt, cereal, muffins, etc. which require less of your hands on time.

Do NOT turn on the TV!

Even if your child gets up 2 hours before you need to leave, don’t do it!  It is a hard habit to break and it’s nearly impossible to turn the tv off in the middle of a show or get a child to do anything while watching without a battle.

Keep kids busy with open ended activities.

If your child has time to play before you need to leave or you want them to be safe and independently occupied while you shower or tend to other children, set them up with an open ended activity.  Be sure to tell them that once X happens (X= you finish your shower, the timer goes off, the baby is fed, etc.) it will be time to stop and get ready.  Some easy activities include: blocks, legos, coloring, playdough, and imaginary play.  Otherwise, if your timing isn’t spot on, you’ll have to pull kids away from an almost done puzzle, the last 10 minutes of a show, or the middle of a board game.  When it is time for the kids to stop, be firm.  Don’t let them manipulate you with “But wait…” or “I just need to…”.

Listen to music.

Music can set the tone for the day.  If you need to get everyone going, play something lively.  If you want to calm things down, find a song that fits.  You can use music as a timer, too. Tell the children, “At the end of the song, it’s time to…”.

Use visual cues and photos.

Visual checklist and photos can be an invaluable tool to help kids get ready independently.  If they are ready for school, they should match a picture of themselves with their coat, backpack, lunchbox, hat, mittens, etc.  You can change up the picture so that it is seasonally appropriate.  They can see what they need to have since they can’t read a checklist.

Make it a game.

To get kids to do things they don’t think are fun, turn it into a game. They love a challenge!  Say, “See if you can (or I bet you can’t) insert desired 1 step activity before insert timeframe such as: this song is over, timer goes off, I finish doing…,  the dog barks again.”  Get creative!


When you have moments when you get out of the house smoothly, celebrate!  When everyone is buckled into the car, praise the kids for their efforts with specific comments; “You got your coat on all by yourself and that helped us to get ready on time.” Give three cheers, honk the horn, sing a silly song, or play a favorite song on the radio to celebrate this success!

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