Your eighth grader didn’t finish his project. Your second grader’s lunch doesn’t meet her exacting palette. Your toddler simply won’t wear shoes! And you’re racing the clock. Welcome to September! Getting into the rhythm of back-to-school season can be tricky for both parents and kids, especially when it comes to getting out the door on time each day. Try these simple strategies to simplify and de-stress your morning routine:   Plan ahead Let your nightly routine help your morning routine! Designate a set hour each night to prepare for the morning: go over the next day’s schedule and pack all necessary supplies, sign any forms or permission slips and prepare lunches. Check the next-day weather forecast and set aside things like scarves, umbrellas, and rain boots to avoid a mad dash to find them before leaving the house. *Bonus tip: Try keeping a special, go-to spot at home for all school-related items (backpack, homework, sports equipment, etc.) to boost efficiency and save time.   Prepare healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts Stock your fridge with healthy breakfast items that are easy for kids to grab and eat, like yogurt with granola or fresh fruit. Hard-boiled eggs can be made ahead of time for some quick protein. Muffins and scones can be made and frozen over the weekend to quickly reheat during the week. For more quick breakfast ideas, check out Parenting magazine’s 15 On-the-Go Breakfast Recipes.   Create a basic “must-do” checklist To keep distracted kiddos on task and ensure that they’ve covered the basics each morning, create a simple checklist of specific, realistic steps to complete before heading out the door. Examples can include anything from “get dressed” and “brush teeth,” to “eat breakfast” and “make bed.”  Don’t be overly ambitious with packing too many chores into the morning routine. Instead, prioritize your “must-do’s” to start the day off successfully. Check out resources like Pinterest for DIY morning routine checklist ideas and free printables, or hang a dry-erase board to check off tasks each morning. Post these in plain view -- on the fridge or on bedroom doors -- to help keep everyone on track.   Offer incentives A good incentive can boost motivation and keep everyone moving. Allow time for your kids to enjoy a favorite activity like watching cartoons or playing an iPad game, but only after they’ve finished enough (or all) of their morning “must-do’s”. To jumpstart your day, make your incentive clear as soon as your kids wake up. You can even create a contest to see who can move down their morning checklist the fastest. Winner gets to choose the carpool playlist!   Take time for yourself Ease into your day by waking up an hour early to take some time for yourself before the kids wake up.  Meditate, go for a run, catch up on the news, sip coffee, or enjoy any other activity that you love but struggle to find time for during the day. The idea of waking up an hour early may seem daunting at first, but eventually it can become a natural and peaceful part of your morning routine. Mornings can be chaotic but they don’t have to be. With a few simple strategies in place, mornings become manageable (even fun!) during Back-to-School season. Follow Van Metre Homes on Facebook and Twitter for more tips and fun ideas for home and family.