08/27/2014 01:28 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

How to Get Young Children to School... On Time

Darcy Shapiro

It's that time of year again -- back to school time! And the battle with the morning routine begins yet again. Confession: I am notoriously late. In my world, "on time" for work is any time up until 20 minutes after the official start of the work day. I am even worse for parties, when I will allot myself up to an hour of official lateness to be considered "on time." I come from a long line of dawdlers and latecomers before me, and it has made me realize that our own bad habits are surely passed on to our children as they learn from us as they grow.

It thus makes sense that my preschool-aged son is sllllllloooooowwwwww. Painfully slow. However, I do understand that this might not be a unique trait, despite all of the genetic cards being lined up against him. In fact, a frequent complaint among my friends is that they are constantly underestimating how much time it takes to get out the door with their children in tow. I am no exception. Last year, despite the fact that we did the school drop off routine every morning, we were consistently 15-20 minutes late. (In case you are wondering, we live just a three-minute walk from school.) My son loves his school, so his lack of urgency to get there is not a reflection on the school itself. I could tell him that Batman and the Power Rangers are outside of our house handing out swords and ice cream cones, and it would still take him forever to get out the door.

Unfortunately, I don't have the answer for how to get your child to move faster. But, in the interest of turning over a new leaf at the start of a new school year, I have put together a time budget to make the mornings run a little smoother. I share this careful time budgeting with you in the hopes that you, too, may get your slowpoke to school on time.

Getting Out Of Bed

Time Estimated: 5 Minutes
Actual Time Taken: 25 Minutes
Reason: Sure, we all love a good stretch and to lay in bed after the alarm goes off, but with young children, getting out of bed is an art form. They need time to stretch, roll around a bit, pull all the bedding off of their beds, throw stuffed animals around and finally jump around the bed screaming in a sudden fit of energy before they actually disembark. There is not enough coffee in the world to artificially boost your energy level to the heights your child's has reached by the time he has sprung out of bed and started his morning. If only that energy could be harnessed for good instead of unbearable distraction.

Using the Potty

Time Estimated: Up to 5 minutes (depending on the nature of the visit)
Actual Time Taken: 15 minutes
Reason: Well, I am the mother of sons. My older son likes to "rest" on the potty. It's only a matter of time before I walk into the bathroom to find him reading the sports section and the transformation into his father will be complete.

Getting Dressed

Time Estimated: 10 minutes
Actual Time Taken: 20 minutes
Reason: I was advised last year by my son's school that my son needs to work on his "dressing skills." They weren't kidding.

Eating Breakfast

Time Estimated: 10 minutes
Actual Time Taken: 30 minutes
Reason: Many young children take their meals like they are eating canapés at a cocktail party. My son will take a bite, engage in some witty repartee with his toddler brother, take another bite, get up to circulate around the room, take another bite, enter into a discussion with his father about what's on his schedule for the day, take a sip of juice, recount the best parts of the Lego movie mostly to himself, take another bite, etc., etc., etc. When he has finally finished his piece of toast and banana, he declares that he is "STILL HUNGRY," and we start the long and painful process again.

Brushing Teeth

Time Estimated: 3 minutes
Actual Time Taken: 10 minutes
Reason: Preschoolers love mirrors, and they particularly love looking at themselves in the mirror. This is the time of the day my son dedicates to self-admiration. He makes muscles, practices smiles and tries out different facial expressions, does some martial arts moves and brushes his teeth for a grand total of 15 seconds. What can I say? He's a model of impeccable dental hygiene.

Physically Getting Out The Door

Time Estimated: 2 minutes
Actual Time Taken: 20 minutes
Reason: You see, even once the jacket and shoes are on, the book bag is in hand and lunch is packed, there will be several items that a preschooler will realize urgently need his attention. For example, my son will need to make sure his toys are still in the toy box, he will need to double check that no one has touched his Lego masterpiece, he will need to go to the bathroom (again), he will be struck by a Sahara-like thirst for water, and he will also realize that he is STILL HUNGRY. That Power Ranger, who is now giving out chocolate bars in addition to ice cream cones, is just going to have to wait. We're not on regular time, we're on Preschooler Time.

The Morning Routine

Time Estimated: 35 minutes
Actual Time Taken: 2 hours

So, as you can see, based on the above schedule, you should budget approximately two hours in the morning to get your child ready and out the door. Of course, you may also want to shower, dress and eat some breakfast yourself, so why not set that alarm three hours before you have to leave the house? You have additional children, you say? Best get up four hours early. Who needs sleep, anyway? You're a parent!

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