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It’s no secret I am NOT a “morning person”. And my little apples did not fall far from the nocturnal tree. When we start our days following our regularly scheduled morning routine, we tend to have far less eye rolls, arguing, panicky running out the door with one shoe, threats to take away things that will probably make mom more miserable than the kid.
Why have a morning routine?
Creating and establishing a morning routine helps everyone feel calm, organized, and starts the day with an “Ok, we got this!” spirit that can set the tone for the rest of the day. Knowing what to do and getting it done kicks the day off with everyone feeling confident and productive. This can carry over into other areas of life and help kids face challenges during the day. Routines also provide a sense of structure and predictability, which can be reassuring for kids.
Creating a morning routine
There isn’t a magical schedule or order of activities that works for every family. It does take some trial and error. Think about what all needs to get done each morning, the location of items, the areas you will be in, which activities or areas need to be on rotation (like the bathroom). Jot down some of those ideas and add to them as we work through other things to keep in mind and incorporate.
Mornings are a group project
As you create a routine that fits your family, it’s important that everyone clearly knows what’s expected and what’s next, both in the planning and implementation. Ask everyone in the house for their ideas or suggestions as you map it out. They will think of things you didn’t. It also helps get everyone on-board when they’ve had a part in the planning.
Morning routines actually start the night before
Handling a number of things, really as many things as possible, the night before will make your mornings run smoother.
-Lay out clothes for the next day including underwear, socks, and shirt. This will help avoid any last minute choices in the morning that could delay getting dressed. Make sure to keep in mind the weather forecast and any activities happening that day as you pick out clothes.
-Pack a lunch and snacks if needed.
-Set out backpacks and school materials such as homework, notebooks, and textbooks. This will save time in the morning looking for these items.
-Make sure there is enough money in the child’s lunch account if they have one at school.
-Double check that all homework has been completed. And put back in their school bag.
-Get together any items needed for afternoon activities. Do they need to grab their baseball bat to leave in the car? Does the flute need to go with them today? Or at our house, “Do you have a clean leo?”
-Triple check and restock the diaper bag. Diapers, wipes, extra clothes, etc.
Get some sleep
Make sure that your child gets enough sleep so they are well rested for the morning.
In order for kids to get the most out of their school day, it’s important that they get enough sleep. Most kids need about 8-10 hours of sleep a night, but many aren’t getting that much.
There are a few things parents can do to help their kids get enough sleep on school nights. One is to have them do a relaxing activity before bed, like reading or writing in a journal. Another is to establish a regular bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. And finally, parents should avoid having their kids use electronic devices in bed.
The Actual Morning Routine
Okay, so now you have a list for the night before. But we’re talking about mornings here. So let’s get to the actual morning part of the conversation.
Keep it simple
Simplify anything and everything possible. You’ve already simplified a good bit by getting it done the night before. There are a few other ways to help out.
You can simplify the process by designating specific areas for specific tasks. For example, have a spot for getting dressed, one for brushing teeth and hair, and another for eating breakfast. That way, everyone knows where they need to go and what they need to do. I know that sounds like something that should be just kinda understood. But you’d be surprised how far and often kids can wander and how it can throw off a routine. Kid 1 assumes they do all of these things in the bathroom and holds everyone up. Kid 2 grabs a bagel and starts drifting towards the living room TV. It can get scattered. Simplify and clarify.
You can also simply the process by having specific spots for specific items. Backpacks always go on the hooks by the door. Packed lunch boxes are always on the 2nd shelf in the fridge. Hair brushes stay in a certain drawer. Again, simplify and clarify. This saves the mad rush of looking for the lost item(s).
Eating breakfast is an important part of having a smooth morning routine. A healthy breakfast give kids energy for the day ahead.
Here are a few ideas for a healthy breakfast:
1) Oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts. This is a quick and easy breakfast that will give you sustained energy throughout the morning.
2) Yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. This is another quick and easy breakfast that is both healthy and delicious.
3) Eggs benedict or an omelet made with fresh vegetables. These breakfast options are a bit more time consuming, but they are well worth it!
4) Smoothie made with fresh fruit, yogurt, and protein powder. This is a great breakfast for on-the-go mornings.
5) Toast with peanut butter or almond butter.
What time is it?
Notice I haven’t said anything about actual times. They are going to vary widely. Not everything has to be scheduled to the minute. But you do need to establish your wake-up time, out-the-door time, and I’d suggest at least one other specific time to be noted/announced to help keep kids on track and combat “time blindness”. (Which is a top 3 struggle in our house.) So if your order is wake-up, breakfast, get dressed and hygiene, out the door, then set a specific time by which everyone needs to be at least starting breakfast. It helps kids stay on pace for the morning.
Another huge help is having actual clocks around that everyone can see without looking at electronics. Also visual timers are awesome. Think egg timer but with a giant red space that gets smaller as the time ticks by.
Finally, make sure you actually build in enough time for hiccups, transitions, and things or people that are moving a little slow. You don’t want a huge gap where the kids get distracted or wrapped up in an activity and completely off schedule. But remember, one of the goals is to NOT feel rushed.
Alright, we have an outline of a plan. Gonna picks spots for everything. Got a list of things to tackle the night before. Got a list of things to do in the morning. Here are a few overall extra pointers:
Consistency is key
Your routine will change. The times will change. The order will change. Still stay consistent in DOING a routine. The consistency, structure, knowing what’s going on and what comes next is extremely beneficial for kids. And for parents.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Whatever routine you choose, make sure it is something your whole family can get behind and that you can all commit to. Gather ideas from everyone. Clearly communicate the plan to everyone. Write it down and post it on the fridge, cabinets, bathroom mirrors.
Make it fun
Throw in some fun breakfasts every once in a while, like silly pancakes with face. Leave a surprise note in their bathroom with a joke on it. Mark transition times by playing fun songs. Have a dance party in the car after you get out the door.
You got this!
It’s easy to get off track if your day starts with rushing around and trying to fit everything in. A morning routine can help kids (and parents) avoid feeling rushed or stressed in the mornings. Starting the day off on the right foot just takes a little planning and being intentional. Plus some really good music doesn’t hurt.