Jessica Simpson, son Ace, Eric Johnson and daughter Maxwell the launch of Jessica Simpson Home at Belk Galleria Dallas on November 22, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.

Can’t seem to get your family’s act together before the school bell rings? Follow these steps to help everyone in the household get up and at ’em and on their way.

STEP ONE: DO A DRY RUN

Each new school year brings its own set of logistical challenges. So rather than wait for the first day back to master them — especially when your brains have gone soft with months of summer sun and relaxed routines — give yourself a dress rehearsal. To get your children on board, Asha Dornfest, author of Parent Hacks, suggests making a game out of it. “I have one friend who does a full dry run every August — they set the alarms, get dressed, load the backpacks, drive to school … the works. If they make it there on time, then they get to go out for doughnuts.”  

STEP TWO: RE-EVALUATE BEDTIMES

As your kids get older, it’s natural to expand their privileges — which often means gradually moving back bedtime. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. “If your kids are dragging in the morning and having trouble waking up for school, then they’re staying up too late,” Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and youth development expert, tells Us Weekly. “Make the expectations clear to everyone, then adjust accordingly.”

STEP THREE: SET THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS

“Anything that will have you scrambling around in the morning should be done in advance the night before,” says Dr. Marti Erickson, PhD, a developmental psychologist and cohost of the Mom Enough podcast. That includes having outfits picked out — socks and undies too! — and packing lunches. “Also, set the table for breakfast and put out the items that don’t require refrigeration,” Erickson tells Us. “If you haven’t already, put your children in charge of prepping their own school bags," advises Dr. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and author of The Learning Habit. “After homework time is done, they should put everything they’ll need for the following day — books, sports equipment, etc. — into their backpacks and place them by the front door.” 

STEP FOUR: OFFER A VISUAL AID AS THE FINISHING TOUCH

During the a.m. rush, it can be tricky for kiddos to remember what “ready” actually looks like. (Think: a missing windbreaker, that lacrosse stick they’ll need later for practice.) ML Nichols, director of the nonprofit group Parent Connection and author of The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten Through Grade 5, recommends creating a photo cheat sheet. Get your children fully dressed from head to toe — exactly as they should appear when they’re heading off to school — and snap a picture. “Have it laminated at an office supply store and post it somewhere convenient — like near their closets or in the bathroom — where they can refer to it and make sure they’re not forgetting anything,” says Nichols. Repeat as necessary when the seasons and gear change.