As caregivers, our job is to encourage positive emotional development and create a supportive environment for our children to learn, grow, and thrive. What can be one of the most helpful tools in your caregiving toolbelt (right next to the emergency snacks)? A morning routine.
Having a morning routine in place can help set children up for success for the day ahead and encourage healthy habits as they grow into young, independent adults. Read on for helpful tips on the best ways to establish a morning routine for kids.
Tip #1 Ask What Needs To Happen In The Mornings
Teeth brushed, backpacks packed, last trips to the potty before hopping in the car to school—yup, there’s a lot to do in the morning. Before creating a routine, start with a list of all the things that need to happen in your morning.
Ask you (and your family):
What absolutely has to happen for your family to get out the door or start their day?
How much time do you need to complete all of those items?
What’s the best order/timing for each of those items?
- Is there room for a few extra items once you have the schedule down?
As you make the morning routine checklist, ask all your family members for their input. Getting your children involved in the morning routine process can help them feel a sense of agency in the day. When they have the chance to give their thoughts, the routine will be meaningful to them.
Tip #2 Understand How Involved You’ll Need to Be
Now that you know what needs to be on your list of morning to-dos, it’s time to start figuring out who is responsible for what, especially when you have younger kids and older kids.
With that, it’s important to remember that every child can handle a different level of responsibility. While older kids can start their morning with little supervision, younger kids may need some extra guidance through their morning routine. As they become more accustomed to the daily tasks, they’ll grow more confident in their skills and build a greater sense of security and independence.
When creating a morning routine for your family, consider utilizing Sloth’s Daily Plan Book as a fun way to give a feeling of agency to your child when they are involved in planning and following morning routines for kids.
Tip #3 Start With The Basics, Then Build
Give your children a few responsibilities for the morning routine, but (depending on their age), start with the basics:
- Make the bed – The simple task of replacing and smoothing the blankets can be a calming moment. It’s also a perfect way to convey the importance of doing things you may not want to do now that will make life easier later.
Use the bathroom – This is especially helpful for little ones who are still working on potty training. They may need a gentle reminder as they awake to stop at the toilet on their way to start the day. When they are older, a groggy shuffle to the restroom first thing in the morning becomes an old habit.
Care for your hair – This one may seem like a no-brainer, but some children find it to be a painful experience. From braids and locks to straight and wavy hair, starting early with simple haircare routines every morning will eventually lead to no more tears and maybe even a child who enjoys taking care of their hair on their own.
- Pack bags – This step could also be included in your child's school morning routine. Encouraging your child to pack their own bag (with help) can give them a sense of ownership and agency. If your family struggles with timeliness in the morning—we get it, mornings are tough!—consider having bags packed and ready the night before.
Eat a healthy breakfast – A nutritious meal that feeds the brain and the body by supporting energy and alertness will set kids up for success as they face the excitement of the school day.
- Brush teeth – This part of the morning routine is so ingrained in our culture that there are innumerable songs about brushing, flossing, and shining your pearly whites so early in the morning. Good dental hygiene is so important and makes the difference between prevention and remediation down the road. This can also be the start of their nighttime bedtime routine.
Tip #4 Make It A Team Effort
Your kids aren’t the only ones who have to rush out the door in the morning. Make your own morning routine easier by implementing steps you can complete together. Eating breakfast as a family, walking the dog, or even talking about what you are most looking forward to that day can help everyone move through the morning easier.
Tip #5 Create Variety
Sometimes routines can become so routine that they become bored or are approached half-heartedly.
- A chance to make choices – Keep things interesting by including guided choices like what kind of juice to drink or picking out their own clothes. If you’ve gone through mornings with a toddler battling for independence, you’ll know that framing necessary tasks as options leads to less frustration all around.
- Build fun into the daily routine – There’s always time for a little fun in the day, whether that’s a Friday trip to the nearby cafe for breakfast or a mini dance party in the kitchen as you clean up breakfast dishes.
- Make time for affection – Hugs, snuggles, or any message of affection from a parent can help ease anxiety when starting the day. Little ones especially sometimes need an extra squeeze or cuddle as they transition from sleep to wake. For older kids, a hug or an “I love you” as they run out the door to catch the bus will show them you care.
Tip #6 Be Patient with the Routine
Rome wasn’t built in a day—and your morning routine likely won’t be either. Instead, try to give yourself and your children a little grace when establishing a schedule. It’ll take time for them to remember and successfully complete each responsibility.
To ease them into it, you can create a visual schedule for your children and help them list out their daily to-do items. Visual schedules can include simple words and pictures that your child can follow to help them establish a routine and build independence and confidence in their progress. Additionally, you may also consider giving your child one or two morning responsibilities. Once they become comfortable completing them without your help, you can add more to their plate and support them as they add these responsibilities to their visual schedules.
Likewise, sometimes life happens—you or your child may forget part of or all of the routine, or simply won’t have time to complete it. But at the end of the day, remember that the routine is there to help you—not the other way around.
There will be days when everyone is out the door with five minutes to spare, and then there will be other days—the mornings when your child forgets to brush their teeth or leaves their lunch on the counter. Accidents happen, and that’s normal. Try to take it in stride and note how you can make it work better for the next time.
If you’ve tried to establish a strict morning routine and you find that it’s not the right fit for you and your kids—that’s also perfectly fine. What works for some families is different for others. The best routine is whatever helps to get you and your little ones on your way to another day well-spent, and for your family, maybe a flexible routine is the key.
Encourage Positive Habits With Slumberkins
Establishing a successful morning routine is a positive practice that can also help you establish and encourage household chores for kids. The most important part of the routine establishment isn’t the specific steps you take but that you commit to completing them. With so much in their world that’s out of their control, routines help give children a sense of security. Routine also instills a sense of responsibility for kids and can help them feel satisfied with their progress.
Choose steps that work best with your family dynamic and environment to help create a comforting space that is encouraging and supportive for your child. Setting your kids up for success starts with a routine they can count on and feel confident in completing daily.
At Slumberkins, we aim to provide tools that help grow courageous, caring, resilient children who can thrive in the modern world. If you’re ready to explore routines with your child, check out Sloth and our complete routines collection that encourages self-esteem and anxiety management through the practice of morning routines for kids. We also have books on early childhood emotional learning. Join Slumberkins today and learn how you can build lasting connections with your little ones.
- "Establishing Morning Routines For Children." American Occupational Therapy Association. https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/consumers/Youth/Morning%20Routine%20Tip%20Sheet.pdf
- Arlinghaus, Katherine R, and Craig A Johnston. “The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine.” American journal of lifestyle medicine vol. 13,2 142-144. 29 Dec. 2018, doi:10.1177/1559827618818044
- Spector, Nicole. "12 tips to master your kids' morning routine and eliminate stress." NBC News. 23 August, 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/12-tips-master-your-kids-morning-routine-eliminate-stress-ncna903106
- McCoy, Jazmine. "10 Ideas for a Calming Morning Routine." PBS Kids. 3 December, 2020. https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/10-ideas-for-a-calming-morning-routine