Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

breakfast before school

Allison and Shayna, with sons Jonah, 11, and Eli, 5, stick to breakfasts that require minimal prep. Photo by Joshua Huston

Breakfast before school: How busy families get it done

We surveyed parents to find out what happens in the morning rush.

What were our old routines? Five families give us a look at how to get everyone fed and out the door in time for in-person school. 

What do your kids eat for breakfast?

“They go through phases. Currently it’s cereal and milk. Other trends have been cinnamon toast, yogurt, English muffins, ube bread and bagels with cream cheese. I’ve added turkey sausages in the past, but they haven’t been popular lately. All are minimal prep in the morning.” — Allison, South Seattle; two boys, 5 and 11

“For my 7-year-old, usually cereal for a quick breakfast or if we are in a super hurry, it’s an apple or a Zbar as we walk to school, 2½ blocks. My 15-year-old is not a breakfast person, so she usually doesn’t eat before rushing for the bus.” Janey, Capitol Hill; son, 7, and daughter, 15

“Yay for yogurt bowls! Plain yogurt with swirl-ins, typically jam and Marge granola. Or oatmeal with peanut butter.” — Noelle, North Seattle; two boys, 4 and 6

Cereal, fruit, pancakes, waffles, croissants, French toast, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal – we try to mix it up to keep it interesting, but we allow them to choose!” — Bothell mom; two kids, 5 and 7

“We make breakfast in the morning. Sometimes I’ll make a breakfast casserole so they can eat it for a few days or for snacks, but typically they eat frozen waffles, fruit, sausage or bacon and a milk/fruit smoothie. My youngest will also eat eggs if I’m making them.” — Jana, Queen Anne; three kids, ages 15, 13 and 4

What do you wish they would eat?

“For my 15-year-old, I wish she should have some kind of energy bar or something! But she has always been my stubborn eater and has never been a fan of easy protein snacks – no cheese sticks, granola or energy bars or yogurt. … My 7-year-old is a little easier, so I’m just happy he eats cereal. (We do negotiate the ratio of low-sugar Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch in his bowl each morning).” — Janey

“We are always trying to get more protein in our kids, so it would be awesome if they’d do eggs, but sadly they’re not into them anymore.” — Noelle

“I wish there was more protein in their breakfast. Something like an egg sandwich.” — Allison

What would your kids choose for breakfast, if given a choice?

“Blueberry pancakes and sausage for my 7-year-old. Crispy bacon and a croissant for my teen.” — Janey

“Doughnuts and chocolate milk.” — Jana

“Doughnuts. Waffles.” — Noelle

The highest-sugar cereal money could buy.” — Allison

How do you eat?

I either sit with them (usually with my cup of coffee) or putter around the kitchen. Occasionally we have ‘toast for the ride’ when we’ve run out of time.” — Allison

“I unload the dishwasher … drink my coffee, pack lunches and eat standing up while they both sit at the breakfast bar. Makes it easier!” — Bothell mom

Do the kids need wake-up calls?

“They are usually up but slow-moving. Occasionally they need to be woken up.” — Allison

“My middle-schooler is often up and ready. Her big and little brothers take some serious rousing.” — Jana

“One is up and at ’em early, the other would prefer to sleep, and though he is awake, isn’t typically ready to dive right into getting dressed and eating.” — Noelle

How much time does getting ready take?

If we are super late, we have done it in 15 minutes! On a non-late day. usually 30 to 40 minutes.” — Janey

Forty-five minutes to an hour. I’m working from home so my getting ready is minimal.” — Allison

“Hour and 15 minutes, give or take.” — Noelle

“I try and prepare backpacks at night and keep it simple in the morning.” — Allison

“They eat school lunch. I’ve packed in the past and probably did it at night about half the time.” — Allison

Readjusting to the old normal

“Pandemic mornings where only a few family members might leave the house are way easier than the ‘normal’ of all four of us (two adults and kids) leaving at the same time. We will try to keep adding in as much night-before prep as we can.” — Noelle

“They returned to school full time in the spring but with a later start time. The normal early start to the day is going to be challenging. We are all late sleepers by nature, and we all loved the late start with online school. So imagine there will be struggles to get to bed early and to be up and ready on time in the morning, especially with the two teenagers, since they have really shifted to staying up so much later.” — Jana

“I will give us an extra 30 minutes at first, and I think a new routine typically takes a couple weeks to get used to.” — Bothell mom

Tips for others

“The key for us seems to be to double- (and triple!) check that lunches, clothes, sports gear and backpack are ready before the kids go to bed. It only takes a few minutes, but seems to add on 20 minutes of scrambling if we wait until the morning.” — Jana

“Routine. Routine. Routine.” — Bothell mom

“Night-before prep, for both kids and adults. Our old nanny called not prepping beforehand ‘a failure to plan is a plan to fail’ ethos.” — Noelle

What about lunches?

“I would not call myself that organized. I just can’t bring myself to get lunch ready the night before, so after taking the youngest to school is when I usually deal with the aftermath of breakfast and lunch-making in the kitchen.” — Janey

“Dad makes the kids’ lunches. [He] usually does it in the morning, but it’s less stressful when it’s the night before.” — Noelle

“They used to eat the cafeteria lunch until they returned to school after the pandemic. Then they had to eat in their classrooms and they didn’t care for the prepackaged salads and sandwiches that were delivered to the classroom. So we started doing meal prep and making big batches of pasta, yogurt parfait containers, etc. on Sundays. So there wasn’t too much prep in the morning, more just throwing everything into a bag.” — Jana

The easiest part of getting ready

“Having the kids pick breakfast from a limited list of options.” — Allison

“Absolutely nothing.” — Jana

“Pouring cereal in a bowl.” — Janey

They have three things after breakfast they know they have to do: Get dressed, make their bed and brush their teeth.” — Bothell mom

“Snuggling on the couch.” — Noelle

The hardest part

“Physically getting out of bed, myself included.” — Jana

“Getting the little kid dressed.” — Allison

“Making a balanced lunch that isn’t the same thing every day!” — Janey

“Being on time if they are in a cranky mood or slept too late.” — Bothell mom

“Getting all the things for all the people out the door at the same time.” — Noelle

For fun: The history of breakfast in the United States

More on getting kids ready for school:

Three tips for easing back-to-school jitters

How to get ready for kindergarten, from a Seattle mom who’s been there

Help your child get ready to head back to school

Breakfast-before-school idea:

Make-ahead and freeze: Blueberry cornbread waffles

About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor is managing editor of the Seattle's Child print magazine. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.