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For moms with young children, getting out the door in the morning can be the most challenging part of the day. But what if there was a way to remove the stress and streamline your morning—simply by changing what you say?

The power of positive parenting (and a great pair of shoes your kids love) can get you there. We partnered with Rack Room Shoes and Wendy Snyder, founder of Fresh Start Family Online, a Positive Parenting teacher and family coach, to create these 15 phrases that can help avoid morning clashes, finally get their shoes on and get you all out the door in peace.

WATCH: 5 easy school morning hacks

1. “Team __________, Unite and Engage!”

Take a break from: "Get in the car, NOW!"

Example: "Team Snyder Stars, Unite and Engage! The time to conquer on time arrival to school is now!"

Explained: In a calm time (not when you're rushed), explain how your family is a small, but mighty team, who together can accomplish anything you set your minds to. Then choose a fun team name and reference it to get everyone fired up to contribute and succeed.

2. “Remember our agreement about our morning plan?”

Take a break from: "I am so sick of having to do everything for you, get up and make your bed or else... !"

Example: "Hey guys, remember last night when we agreed we'd all do our part to have a peaceful morning instead of a stressful tear-filled start to our day? What did we all agree to do this morning?"

Explained: Kids do really well with agreements, especially if they have a strong need to feel powerful (a healthy human need that many strong-willed kids have). Involving our kids with agreements helps them to feel valued and feel like they belong (2 basic human needs). Positive parenting curriculum, like that found in The Foundations Course, teaches parents that when our children's basic needs are met, their desire to misbehave decreases.

3. “I need your help! I can’t do this alone. Can you please give me a hand?”

Take a break from: "There is NO WAY I'm going to raise entitled kids who don't do their part. Get up and do what you're told now."

Example: "Kiddos, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now and need everyone to chip in and help so we can have a peaceful departure."

Explained: When we are honest with our kids and let them know that we NEED their help to get out the door on time, we help them understand what true teamwork looks like. Most kids respond incredibly well when they are asked in a kind way to help. The key is to kindly ask with a vulnerable heart vs. demand with rigidity.

Another way to help them feel ownership without added pressure? Let them pick their shoes. With Rack Room Shoes' assortment of colorful styles your kids will love to put them on each morning, Choose a style like slip-ons or with closures like elastic laces or velcro) that they can do themselves—one thing off your to-do list, mama!

4. “Everyone has a job, let’s do this family... we’ve got this!”

Take a break from: "I'm so sick of doing everything, why can't you just do what's asked of you, so we can get out the door?"

Example: "Stella, you are great at encouraging us to not be late and Terrin you are always good at keeping us laughing. Mom will pack lunches, Dad will walk the pup, Stella, you watch the clock and Terrin, please be the music DJ. We need to be pulling away at 7 am family—we've got this!"

Explained: Helping kids feel powerful causes them to cooperate with us because they want to, not because they HAVE to. When we explain how they each add unique value to our family, our kids feel empowered and capable of helping the family reach goals (like getting out the door peacefully!).

5. “Stop, breathe, now try again, what do you need support with?”

Take a break from: "Stop whining and just get your shoes on so we can leave! I can't understand you when you talk like a baby."

Example: "Michael, let's pause and breathe together (actually pausing to model deep breaths)... now tell me what you need support with so I can help you."

Explained: Getting out the door each morning can be stressful for us all, so take a moment to slow down and use empathy to imagine what it must feel like to be your little person who is seeing the world as rushed, overwhelming, frustrating and hard. Offer support to guide them onward so they can move through the steps necessary to get out the door on time!

To avoid morning meltdowns, give them a choice between two things (like their sandals or their sneakers). They still feel some control over getting out the door, but it will take a lot less time than rifling through their entire closet. Plus, with Rack Room Shoes family friendly prices, it's easy to give everyone a few options.

6. “Would you like to sit down now and have time to eat breakfast at the table or continue to play for 10 minutes and eat your breakfast in the car?”

Take a break from: "I'm not going to tell you again, sit down and eat NOW or no screen time tonight!"

Example: "We need to leave at 7 am AND we need to eat breakfast, so you can either eat your breakfast at the table or in the car, which one do you choose?"

Explained: Kids have lots they want to do before school or camp, so use this opportunity to teach them about time management and also about being flexible with the rules. Putting breakfast in tupperware or giving them a simple granola bar and banana on the way to school can save you from a lot of "trying to force a sit down breakfast" power struggles!

7. “We need to kick it into high gear, should we move fast like a racehorse or speedy like a fire truck driver?"

Take a break from: "Why do you dilly dally so much? Stop dragging your feet, you are driving me nuts!"

Example: "It's 'go time' family, do you want to be a racehorse or fire truck driver to get us to the car fast?"

Explained: Children absolutely love playful analogies so use animals, race cars, fire trucks, athletes & cartoon characters to motivate them!

8. “Have you finished your chart?”

Take a break from: "Put your shoes on, brush your teeth, make your bed, fill up your water bottle, pack your bag, pick up your room, etc."

Example: "Please go check your morning chart and see what you still need to do."

Explained: Studies have shown that by the time kids get to elementary school, they often are given up to 1,000 compliance statements a day. This definitely wears on kids, especially kids who have a strong desire to lead. In a calm time, make a "morning routine chart" with your kids and use pictures or writing to list out the steps necessary for everyone to get out the door each morning on time!

9. “It’s important to me we are on time, so I need everyone to do their part to help us be successful.”

Take a break from: "If we're late one more time, I am NOT going to be happy!"

Example: "I care about arriving to school before the bell rings because I feel embarrassed when we have to go through the office, so I need your help so we can be there on time."

Explained: When we honestly share WHY we have firm rules around morning departure times, our kids are more likely to respect our boundaries and requests. Take the time to explain to them why being on time is important to you and respect for the timeline will come more naturally!

10. “I’m going to start the car and get the Moana soundtrack going. Grab your shoes and meet me there!”

Take a break from: "If you don't walk out the front door right now, so help me, things are going to get really ugly!"

Example: "I'm all ready, so I'll meet you in the car. I'll get the music and A/C going."

Explained: Oftentimes, more action, fewer words will get us great results with getting our children to get out of the house. This can work really well when you feel yourself butting heads with your child and want to avoid a full-blown power struggle with them. This takes patience, but it's a great way to get kids to move without nagging, yelling, threatening, or forcing them to comply.

11. “Can you please be in charge of the clock?"

Take a break from: "I have to do everything around here and I'm sick of being the time police, I said NOW!"

Example: "Mary, you love being on time as much as me, could you please be the boss of the clock and give us a whistle or chime the bell when it's 6:55 am?"

Explained: Putting kids in charge and giving them big jobs causes many kids to listen better and cooperate more. Children love to lead and when given the opportunity to help, they love to do so!

12. “Shoes, please,” (with kind physical touch & friendly eye contact), then, “car, please

Take a break from: "I've asked you three times now to get on your shoes... why can't you just put on your shoes like a big boy, you're 5 years old and should be able to put on your shoes without me asking you a gazillion times."

Example: "Breakfast." or "Teeth."

Explained: Reducing our verbal communication and combining our words with a neutral tone and soft physical touch often does wonders to inspire our kids to take action!

13. “Do you guys think we can beat our 'out the door time' from last week?”

Take a break from: "Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!"

Example: "I'll push go on the iPhone timer, do you think we can all get in the car faster than we did yesterday? Under 5 minutes after we finish breakfast?"

Explained: Kids love games and learn incredibly well through play! Without creating competition amongst one another, time yourself as a team, then try daily to beat your own time.

Looking for more advice? Step into a Rack Room Shoes store near you or shop online. With a "Buy One, Get One 50% off" policy, you can make sure the whole family will put their best foot forward this back-to-school season.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and moms.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I can still remember bringing my first newborn baby home, even though it has been over a year now. And let me be clear—I don't remember it because it was blissful and euphoric. I actually remember it so vividly because it was close to the most anxiety-ridden, stressful, emotional day of my life.

The two previous days spent in the hospital were everything I hoped they'd be. Sure, I was getting virtually no sleep, and my body ached from all it had just been through, but I had an abundant amount of help at my fingertips. I didn't yet feel overwhelmed or inadequate and I was fully confident that I could handle this whole mama thing. Excitement was my overarching emotion.

And then we got home.

It didn't take long for the crying to start. And once it started, there was no end in sight. My sweet baby boy just kept crying, and crying, and then crying some more, and I longed to have a "call nurse" button to press for a little relief.

My amateur mama skills seemed futile as I rocked, shushed, snuggled and nursed my baby. None of it helped; my sweet son wanted nothing to do with this world and was begging to be put back in the warm and comfortable surroundings he had just emerged from.

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And so those first couple of months were a fog of diaper changes, feedings, nap time, crying (so much crying for both of us) and an endless amount of pleading prayers.

I didn't love my new role of being a mom yet. Although I had been dreaming of this calling my whole life, I decided I clearly wasn't cut out for it and figured the rest of my days were surely going to be full of hardship.

My hope and excitement for the future were at an all-time low, which could partially be thanks to those pesky postpartum hormones. This period of life was hard. All-consuming and so hard.

So I'm here to tell you, brand new mama, if you don't love being a mom yet, that's okay. Because here's what's going to happen.

One day, after weeks and weeks of having a fussy baby, that little bundle of joy is going to crack their first smile, and your heart is going to absolutely burst with happiness as you quickly grab your phone to capture a picture.

And then your sweet little one is going to start cooing and oohing and aahing, and you will feel like they're telling you all about their day, which is going to simply melt your soul. It definitely melted mine.

And then feeding the baby is going to get easier, and their nighttime sleep stretches are going to get longer, and taking them out and about isn't going to feel so overwhelming.

And then, mama, one day you're going to look at yourself in the mirror when you get a spare second. You'll see spit-up on your shirt, dark circles below your eyes that not even the best concealer could cover, unwashed hair tucked under your favorite baseball cap, and you're going to say to yourself, "I love being a mom. This is me now."

And you might no longer grieve the old life you once had. You'll stop wishing you could go back to your carefree youthful days, and you'll instead start looking forward to all the many fun family memories that will soon be made.

One day, you're going to love being a mama. I did.

Hang on tight to any little joys you can find during this in-between time and give yourself grace. A lot of grace. You're doing the best you can, and that's all you need to do for now.

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The summer season is the perfect time to get creative and enjoy fun projects around the house with your little ones. Some of the most memorable family moments can start with a piece of construction paper or end with a table covered in shaving cream.

While you're having fun, just remember that being creative is about the process, not the result. Your kids' artwork may not be museum-worthy, but that's okay! Embrace the fun of the creation and not necessarily the end result.

First thing's first, get organized.

before you can begin any project, it's important to start on a clean surface. A fresh canvas sets the stage for family activities and DIY projects so I always put away clutter and clean the surfaces to prepare for new activities.

I always recommend creating or purchasing organization bins or spaces for each activity or categories of items. For example, a container specifically for crayons, markers and colored pencils. Then when it's time to clean up, everything has a specific place. Make sure to clearly label the bins so everyone can easily determine what each container contains. This is a great way to exercise good organizational habits from an early age. As soon as they are 2-years-old, they can play a part in cleaning up and putting things away. And, if you have systems set up for them from the start, it makes it much easier for them! Kids also love to help clean counters once you've put everything away. Whether it's after you've cooked a meal together or exhausted all of the glitter glue, they love wiping down counters with wipes. Set the expectation that kids who craft are responsible for cleaning up their supplies when they're done. It's crucial to start the healthy habit of tidying up after yourself early on.


Ask your kids for their input.

Imagination runs wild, so take advantage of their creativity. Ask them what type of art project or fun family activities they want to prioritize. If you have multiple kids, create a "suggestion jar" they can continually add and pull from when they are looking for an activity to do.

It's important to embrace collaboration. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the (crafts) work. Encourage your kids to work together and call out ideas for each other's artwork.

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Here are a few of my favorite craft projects:

  • Flipbooks: Have each kid create their own flipbook full of creative crafts, poetry, or other fun moments they want to capture.
  • DIY dollhouse: Make a custom dollhouse filled with handmade mini furniture to decorate it in their own way.
  • Out-of-the-crayon-box crafting: Challenge your kids to craft with creative elements around the house—whether it be clothespin snowmen or sponge sailboats, there are endless possibilities.
Garner even more excitement by making the prep part a project itself! Have your kids help create a fun workspace for food-making, craft-building, or DIY science-slime experimenting. They can pick a color scheme, help find the right organizing bins, or decorate the wall with art projects from this past school year for inspiration.

Try DIY projects.

Kids need to get out their creativity and energy so hands-on projects are a fun way to put their growing brains to work while they do it.

Be sure to practice safe crafting. Store all scissors and other sharp objects in protected, designated places, make sure to read all directions for new craft supplies or projects, and watch out for slippery messes!

Stock up on these essentials:

1. On-the-go park bag: Parents should be ready to go to the park at a moment's notice. Have a bag pre-packed with all the essentials: a mini kite, a picnic blanket, a ball to toss around, sunscreen and more.

2. Chalk: I love bringing crafts outside whenever possible, and something as simple as colorful sidewalk chalk is an easy way to make drawings larger than life!

3. Contact paper: You can use contact paper to add temporary color and character to flower vases, glass jars or really any decorative container with a hard, smooth surface. As a first step, wipe the vases or jars down with a disinfecting wipe to make sure the surface is clean so the paper will stick properly.

4. Felt: Felt is one of my favorite kid-friendly ways to incorporate color into crafts. You can make fun flowers, finger puppets, or whatever your heart desires.

5. Bubbles: They provide instant fun for any age!

6. Instant camera: Capture all of your moments —happy, sticky, and everything in between. Let your kids get in on the action of capturing their favorite family moments and compiling them into an end of the year scrapbook!
Learn + Play

Is it too soon? I ask myself as you toddle in and chat excitedly about the baby in mommy's belly. "Where is she?" you ask. "But I don't see her," you insist when I tell you she's in there.

Will you miss our special time as a trio? I wonder, as we snuggle on your rug at night, you, Daddy and me, under a blanket too small to cover us all. But you don't realize, pulling it up over us anyway, feet popping out, giggling all the while.

Were we selfish? I worry as I rush to comfort you during the night when a fever spikes and you call out our names. "Mama!" "Daddy!" And we're both there in a minute.

How can I possibly love another child as much as I love you? I question myself, as you run into my waiting hug and beg for just a million more.

But I tell myself that we'll learn these new steps together in stride, just as we did when you found your way into the world and became all of mine. Because it was you, my sweet boy, who taught me how to be a mama.

It was you who, in those first weeks, rested your head contently on my chest, just when I thought nursing might be too hard to handle. And it was you who flashed your first smile as the washer broke, amid mounds of spit-up stained laundry.

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You were the one who settled my breathing, as it quickened and tightened during my first panic attack. And it was rocking you at night that saved me when my maternity leave came to an end.

When you brought your very first stomach virus home and we all got sick at the same time, it was the sound of your first laugh that saved us during the eleventh hour, when we were questioning what made us think we were strong enough to care for a family.

We learned together how to navigate pediatrician visits and shots, what rocks and rhythms made nighttime smoother, how to introduce foods and when to wean. After six months, it was you who gave me the signal it was okay to stop nursing. When endless pumping sessions at work had me in tears, you assured me you'd love me just as much if I picked up a bottle of formula, gulping it down with a smile, your hands resting on mine.

When I worried at work each day that you were bonding more with your daycare teachers in those long hours than we ever could at home, you shared your first word, reminding me how special our bond is in that sweet, jumbled "mama."

We did it all, together.

And even now, as I worry about transitioning you into a big boy bed, you excitedly accept the challenge and graciously tell us we can give your crib to your new baby sister–just not your blanket.

At daycare, you rock the baby dolls, and you tell everyone you pass what your baby sister's name will be. You ask to read about Daniel Tiger and Baby Margaret, making sure I know how to navigate what's on your horizon.

Because, baby boy, you've always been quicker to adapt than me. Sometimes I think it's you who is teaching us.

You see, baby boy, it was your encouragement and love all along that guided me into motherhood. And it was your hugs and kisses and "good job mama's" that told me I could do this again.

Life will change as our family grows, but we'll keep learning together.

It'll be you who marches into that Kindergarten class, head held high as you proudly wear the backpack you picked out yourself, reminding us that time stops for no one.

It'll be you who introduces us to practices and clubs, field trips and permission slips–I'm sorry in advance for the ones I'll forget to sign!

It'll be you who turns my grip white, as you tuck your permit into the glovebox and pull onto the street for the first time.

It'll be you we wait up for first, worried that you haven't called. And it'll be you who heads off to college, leaving the house that seems too small feeling much too big.

But before your baby sister comes, and time continues to carry us in its unforgiving pace, I'll soak up every undivided second of attention I can give you. I'll snuggle you close and savor our chats. And we'll follow each other's leads, continuing to figure out this whole thing called life together.

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A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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