School Drop-Off/Pick-Up: How to Make it Suck Less

By now, most of us have survived the first week of the school year. With tears in my eyes, I took my oldest to kindergarten and my youngest will go back to preschool in one week. Whether you are crying or clicking your heels together, I hope you weren’t guilty of any of the drop-off or pick-up faux pas this week.

School Drop Off and Pick UpDropping off and picking up your darling children from school may seem like a mindless task that requires no planning, but parents must do their homework on this one! There are rules and courtesies that should be followed to ensure a safe and happy environment for everyone involved.

Here are my tips for school pick-up and drop-off that will make everyone’s mornings and afternoons run a bit smoother.

Know your school’s rules and procedures!

Schools go over drop-off and pick-up procedures at orientation, open house, and in e-mails and letters to parents and typically include maps showing the route. From my experience, I’m assuming a lot of parents don’t hear or read any of this because they seem to drive into the parking lot without the foggiest idea of where to go and what to do.

Typically there are rules and routes for walkers as well as those using the car line. Study the map, know what car tags you need to hang up, whether you should pull around once you have your child, what time you should arrive, etc. Lyla’s school has two different pick-up times, so they tell you not to come early or you will interfere with the other pick-up.

So what happened the first day? A lot of parents came early, and this created confusion and pick-up took an hour to two hours for some parents. Talk about a headache! I was ready to homeschool after the first day! The second day went much smoother after the Principal corrected this problem with yet another e-mail with more emphasis on “do not come early!”

Stay off your cell phone!

Moving cars, lots of children, and parents on cell phones (driving or walking) don’t mix. Being on your cell phone while driving is never safe, but especially in the school parking lot. Your attention should be 100% focused on pedestrians and other cars. It’s also frustrating when a parent doesn’t move up in the car line because they are staring down at their phone. Most importantly, don’t be on your phone when your child gets in the car or as you are walking in to pick your child up. You have not seen your child for several hours, and they need to know that you are happy to see them.

Don’t cut in line or take short cuts!

Guess what? Every parent is anxious to pick up their child and get out of the car line. Just because you know a short cut or feel that it’s ok to go around and squeeze in between cars, to quote my five-year-old, “that’s just not fair!” The people in that line have been waiting longer than you and you are no more important than they are.

School Drop Off and Pick UpDon’t get out of the car in the car line!

I understand that it’s your child’s first day of school, or you may want to strap them in their car seat before driving just one foot, but if the rule is to stay in your car or pull up before buckling them, then DO IT! You are holding up possibly hundreds of cars when you get out and imagine how long the car line will be if everyone gets out in the line to talk to their child and buckle them in. Our preschool suggests pulling up out of the way before buckling your small child. If your child is in kindergarten chances are they can buckle their own seat, just be sure to turn around and check their buckling.

Pull up to the first spot even if you see your child

I see it all the time, a parent sees their child and slams on the brakes, not caring that there are four open loading spots in front of him and he should pull up to the first empty spot. Because you stopped, now they are only loading one child and not five simultaneously.

Make sure your child is ready to go, on the correct side, with her backpack on!

Our preschool and elementary school require the kids to exit on the passenger side of the car. It takes a lot more time for the staff to walk around the car and some schools have traffic moving on the other side. Have your child unbuckled, backpack on, kisses and hugs done and ready to hop out when that door opens. I always have time to put the car in park while waiting in the line and help my girls with buckles and backpacks.

Drop-off and pick-up is NOT the time for parent-teacher conferences!

These days teachers are reachable by e-mail and cell phone. If Billy didn’t finish his book report because of this and that, e-mail the teacher, please! His teacher has a room full of students to start teaching and doesn’t have time at that moment to have lengthy discussions with parents.

Slow down!!!

I see this especially at pick-up when parents are running late. Most schools charge a small fee if you pick your kids up late. However, it’s much smarter to pay the five dollars than to speed in a school zone and possibly hit a child or parent. On the same note, always look back when leaving your parking spot. People are constantly walking in the school’s parking lot, so wait for them to walk a safe distance past your car before backing out. On the flip side, don’t let your children run wild in the parking lot. I see this happen too often while parents are chatting.

School Drop Off and Pick UpBe patient, polite, and smile

When in the vicinity of your child’s school and especially while at the school, please harness your road rage no matter how difficult it is. I’ll admit I honked my horn and mouthed a stern “no” to a dad the first day of kindergarten pick up. I had already been waiting for 30 minutes, heart pounding because I wanted to see my daughter so badly, and a man turned right from a straight lane and tried to cut in front of me. I realize now I should have been the bigger person and stayed calm, and will try and refrain from horn blowing the remainder of the year. You don’t want to be the one honking at a parent and later find out your kids are in the same class. How embarrassing!

I hope I haven’t scared any moms who are new to all of this but trust me–I know what I’m talking about. On day three of kindergarten drop off Lyla and I actually heard “Wow, you and mommy have this down” from the lady who opened the car door. I drove off giving a mental fist bump to my type A, rule-following self.

Please share with our readers some of your tips or areas you feel parents should improve upon. I hear bus stops have their own set of rules. I’d love to hear those as well.

{Like Lyla’s First Day sign? Check it out HERE!}


Liz Morrow is a stay at home mom and wife to a US Navy helicopter pilot. Their Naval family will live many places, but have been fortunate to have a longer than expected eight-year stay in Jacksonville. Liz is a mom of two sweet little girls who look like twins except they were born 2 ½ years apart. She worked as a Certified Public Accountant for seven years before trading her briefcase for a way too big diaper bag. In her spare time, Liz loves to workout, run, cook, blog, and sip wine. She never turns down a date night with her hubby and also loves Girls’ Night Out. She is active in her Officers’ Spouses’ Club (Navy wives) and her Mom-2-Mom group at church, and you will frequently find her helping with the babies and preschoolers at church on Sunday morning.


  1. The car rider lane at my son’s school is so insane that I resorted to just parking a short distance from the school and walking up to drop/pick him up each day unless it’s raining. These are great tips and I wish other parents would read them.

  2. Another strategy is to time your arrival to just be at the end of the line. My kids like the extra time to hang with their friends from other classes when I am “late”! 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here