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The first week back at school is often the most organised in many homes, but you can ensure everyone gets out of the house on time year-round with these seven time-saving tips.

1 The early bird Once small kids get up it can be impossible to find a quiet moment. So get up 15 minutes before everyone else and use the time to enjoy an uninterrupted shower and to do your hair or make-up in peace.

2 Routine & ritual Children love routine, so make mornings as predictable as possible. Ensure everyone is washed and dressed, with their shoes on, before they eat breakfast. Keep toothbrushes in the downstairs WC so last-minute cleaning can be done with ease.

3 Be prepared Take a half hour in the evening to organise everything you'll need in the morning. Pack creche bags with nappies, wipes and changes of clothes. Ensure school bags contain all homework. Check your kitchen notice board to see if any sports gear is needed. Set the table for breakfast. I hate day-old sandwiches but recommend preparing everything else for the lunch box, though.

4 Manage housework Empty your dishwasher every night so it's ready for dirty breakfast dishes. Load your washing machine before going to bed -- you may have time to hang out a wash before the school drop-off. Have a place for everything and encourage your kids to familiarise themselves with these spots. This will prevent a mad scavenge for missing shoes, coats, bicycle helmets, or car keys.

5 Project catwalk Leave your child's uniform on a single hanger every night so they don't have to rummage for missing ties or a clean shirt when they're half asleep. Leave out underwear and socks for younger kids, too. Apply this organisation to babies' and toddlers' wardrobes, and have your little creche-goer's ensemble picked out. You'd be amazed how much time can be lost trying to locate a matching sock!

6 House rules Children have little concept of time and get easily distracted. Television may seem like a good way to keep the kids quiet but more often than not it sucks them in and drowns out your request for them to put on their coat, grab their school bag or clean their teeth. (Stick to the radio for your news updates.) Computer games and handheld consoles are just as bad and should be banned in the morning rush.

7 Cheat the clock Tell yourself you need to be at the school 15 minutes earlier than you do. This 15-minute cushion will prove invaluable when you encounter those last-minute inevitabilities that can make everyone late.

Think dirty nappies, spilt juice on a clean uniform, baby's breakfast on the floor, lost car keys, missing shoes or an early morning tantrum.