“Put on your shoes right NOW. I’m counting to 3.”

“I caaaaaaan’t!”

“I know you can do it, I’ve seen you. You CAN. UGH, now we’re going to be late — I’ll just do it!”

Does your morning routine kind of sound like this? Maybe there are days when all is smooth sailing and there are blue skies while getting your kids ready for the day. Or perhaps there are other times during the day or week when it’s just chaos and you barely got to wherever you needed to go or got them to bed without losing your sanity several times. Mornings and evenings are often the hardest parts of the day because energy levels are just ramping up or they are flagging. Oftentimes there is a time crunch to get somewhere or the impatience to just get them to bed so we can relax.

Establishing routines plays an important role in children’s lives because within the safety structure of the day, basic needs are met. Only when children feel safe can they learn, play, and engage with their environment. Children thrive when there are routines in place that are predictable. Understanding and following routines also allow for practicing vital executive functioning skills: focusing, starting tasks and following them to completion, regulating, organizing – all these result from establishing routines in the home.

Here are some tips in establishing routines at home:

  • Plan ahead for the next day. It often helps my daughter and me to pick out an outfit for the next day the night before. I have learned the hard way that when we do not do this, it can take several precious minutes of the morning deciding what to wear and arguments ensue when frustrations arise. When the outfit is picked out beforehand, the morning goes a lot more smoothly. Planning ahead for the next day can also mean packing lunches, talking about changes to the day the night before (if nanny is picking up instead of mommy), and getting bookbags ready by the door with what they need.
  • Plan for extra time in the morning. Whether it’s waking up earlier or allowing for more time in the evening, pad the day with more time to do what needs to get done in the morning and evenings.
  • Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. This can be tough especially if work schedules and older kids’ evening activities go late. Try to allow for at least an hour of time between the last activity of the day and lights out to allow your child(ren) time to decompress and relax before bedtime. This includes turning off screen-related activities a good hour or so before bedtime.
  • Make a chart for both morning and evening routines. Visual cues can be a huge help for your little ones when establishing a good routine. There are plenty of charts online, (see examples below). To make them even more effective, you could also take pictures of children actually doing the steps (take a pic of them brushing their teeth, putting on their shoes, etc.) and have them help you make the chart with you.
  • First -> Next -> Then. This strategy can be successful in the classroom, so why not use it at home? Often there are one or two steps of the morning/evening routine that are particularly difficult to execute at home. Plainly laying out what comes first, and what comes next, then a fun thing they can expect after they’re done with those steps can help your child break down the routine into smaller bites especially if the ‘then’ is something they enjoy. Maybe they will enjoy a favorite song in the car on the way to school, or a trip to the library when you pick them up.
  • Take deep breaths. Our children are learning to navigate a sometimes crazed and scheduled world that their brains are not yet ready for. Stay calm and recognize that they need direct instruction from you on how to do most things. They will need practice, encouragement, and more practice. If you find there is always a step in the morning or evening routine that gets out of whack, choose a calmer moment during the day to talk about it and problem solve, then discuss it with your child.

My children are now 12 and 9 and you’d think we’d have nailed the morning routine down; yet there are days when there’s a last minute snafu – like a long trip in the bathroom, for instance. As I’m writing this, I’m reminding myself of all these aforementioned tips! And maybe you have a routine that works for you and your family already; feel free to share out and bless others with your ideas the comment section below!

(image: The Organized Housewife)