Mornings often set the tone for the rest of the day — starting the day off on the right foot can have positive effects that last all day long. A consistent and well-planned morning routine has significant benefits for adults and children. Bring more “good” to your good mornings by establishing a morning routine that you and your child can follow.
Steps to Creating a Morning Routine for Your Child
The foundation of any successful routine requires careful consideration of not only what needs to be accomplished, but also the existing challenges, habits, and personality types of the people involved. For instance, if your child is a slow eater, it may make more sense to allot additional time for eating breakfast than it does to try to convince them to quicken the pace.
Identify the obstacles your child faces when it comes to getting out the door and create a plan that leverages their strengths and accommodates their needs. Consider the following as you craft a morning routine:
Start the Night Before – Sleep is Vital
Getting enough sleep is important for everyone, but particularly for children. Studies indicate that children who get the recommended amount of sleep show improvements in behavior, memory, learning, attention span, and mental and physical health.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended amount of sleep per night for children in different age ranges is:
- Under 1 year: 12-16 hours
- 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
- 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
- 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours
Make sure your evening routine gives your child plenty of time to wind down, so that their body and mind are ready to fall asleep by bedtime. Eliminate screen time before bed, and encourage soothing activities instead, such as reading a story, listening to quiet music, or taking a bath.
Plan Around School
A morning routine is especially crucial if you have school-aged children. Feeling calm, well-rested, organized, clothed, and fed by the time the morning bell rings empowers children to face the day with confidence and enthusiasm. Set up your schedule for success by laying out clothes, packing backpacks, and planning breakfasts the night before, especially if one or more members of the family are not morning people.
Allow for Extra Time
All it takes is one missing shoe to throw off the timing of a perfectly calculated routine. Build 10 to 15 minutes of extra time into your morning schedule. If all goes well, it will give you a few minutes of leisure before the day begins, but if there are unexpected hiccups, you can face early morning challenges without the added stress of running late.
Overestimating the time allowance for each task in your morning routine––in addition to that extra 10 to 15 minutes––can bring even more peace of mind. Rushing through the morning can lead to accidental oversights, anxiety, impatience, and stress, which can make it hard to start the day feeling good.
Example of Morning Routines for Kids
Ensuring that everyone leaves the house with as little chaos as possible isn’t solely your responsibility. In fact, encouraging your child to be responsible for completing their morning tasks is a good way to foster independence, build self-esteem, and demonstrate that their role within the family is important to everyone’s success.
Invite your child to participate in the planning process by working on the morning routine together. Create a printable morning routine checklist for them to follow each day. Hang it near their bed in a plastic binder sleeve so that they can use a dry erase marker to check off each item that they accomplish. For non-readers, include clip art illustrations to help your child begin to associate the
words with the action required.
The tasks on the routine chart may vary depending on age, but an example may look like this:
- 6:00am: Wake up
- 6:05am: Brush teeth
- 6:15am: Get dressed
- 6:20-6:35am: Eat breakfast
- 6:45am: Put on shoes and put backpack by door
- 6:45-6:55am: Read or play – if everything else is checked off
- 6:55am: Ready to go
- 7:00am: Everyone out the door. Have a great day!
Set alarms or timers to provide extra awareness and accountability, but limit them to bigger tasks like waking up, finishing breakfast, and a five minute “out the door” warning to help keep everyone on track without the constant interruption of alarm bells.
Help your child get organized with a routine
Some children thrive on the structure of a routine, but if your child has ADHD or has a hard time staying organized, you may need to consider a slightly different approach. Instead of focusing on the morning, create a chore chart that covers different sections of the day.
Add chores that help prepare for the next day, such as:
- Take off shoes by the front door after school
- Put school papers that need to be signed on counter
- Have a snack at the table or on the patio
- Enjoy 30 minutes of television
- Work on homework
- Pack library books and homework in backpack for tomorrow
Have a similar set of chores to accomplish in the morning, and eliminate all distractions until those tasks are completed. Motivate your child by reminding them that they can spend a few minutes having fun if they finish all of their chores in less time than expected.
Although creating such a detailed list may seem onerous, it helps avoid unexpected mishaps, like lost shoes or forgotten homework, builds in some easy “wins” to cross off, and helps prevent negotiations or meltdowns about snack or leisure time––“Have you finished your other tasks yet?” Review the list together before bedtime so that your child will be better prepared for the morning ahead. With planning, patience, and a realistic perspective, peaceful mornings coupled with a quiet, unhurried cup of coffee can change from daydreams to reality.