Photo by Maureen Noce Photography

Morning routines with children are hard! Waking up, eating breakfast, and getting out the door and into the car on time can be challenging and frustrating for parents and children, alike. So much so, that meltdowns, yelling, and tantrums can all be part of it

As a child psychologist, I also understand the impact of stressful mornings on children throughout their day. Mornings that are tense and emotionally charged can significantly impact a child’s ability to retain information and learn at school. Therefore, it is even more important for me to ensure my children have as calm of a start to their day as possible.  

Here are some strategies and tips that I have used in my own home that help my children and me leave on time and as happy as possible! 

  • Make lunches and snacks the night before so they aren’t part of the morning routine. This is also a great way to get your child involved in meal preparation and teaching them responsibility. 
  • Pack backpacks the night before and lay out clothing. 
  • Make breakfast on the go! Although I like to sit down for mealtimes as a family, breakfast just isn’t one that is possible for us. And I’ve learned to accept this. On weekdays, smoothies are all I offer. They are easy to make in large batches, don’t require a lot of clean up, and are tidy! With a smoothie, I’m not worried about having to change my toddler’s clothes after breakfast. Further, they can be eaten in the car with no mess. 
    • I vary the contents of the smoothie for variety and always throw in different vegetables so that I know my kids are having a healthy start to the day. 
  • Although challenging, I try to get up 15 minutes prior to my children getting out of bed so I can start to get organized. 
  • Build in “morning connection time”. I know this seems impossible in an already packed morning. But it has helped us so much. Making sure we have some sort of positive morning connection helps our routine go so much more smoothly. 
  • Have an activity prepared for your child to do! This might be as simple as laying out a colouring book and markers. The Instagram account “Days with Grey” has been my inspiration for this and my toddler loves to find a new ‘game’ waiting form him in the morning. They are easy to prepare and provide something for my children to do so that I can focus on getting us out the door on time. They are also another opportunity for some ‘morning connection time.’ 
  • Know that children (and especially toddlers) do not like to be rushed!! This was a big adjustment for me. When my children were babies it was so much easier to get out the door quickly. But running on toddler time is a completely different story! 
    • I’ve learned that my toddler needs some time in the morning for a slower start. He likes to play or watch a bit of television (I’ve also learned to accept that television in the morning is a tool that helps us out!) as we get ready. 
    • Give frequent warnings as to how much time they have. Very frequent! I start telling my children to be ready for a transition a minimum of 10 minutes before it’s going to happen. Then 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. Finally I count backwards from 10 and they know it’s time to go. 
    • You could even set a visual timer (such as on your phone) so your children can see how much time they have left before they need to be ready for a transition. 
  • Designate a ‘meeting spot’ where your children have to be when it’s time to go. A logical place for this is near the door you leave from, perhaps standing on the doormat. Again give frequent warnings as to when your children need to be standing on the doormat ready to go. This is also a good place for them to stand and wait as others are getting themselves ready. 
    • I also started to place little toys in a basket by the door so that my children have something to do if they are waiting. 
  • Finally, consider creating a visual schedule for your children. Visual schedules are a visual representation of tasks that need to be accomplished. They are easy for toddlers and children to follow and increase independence during routines because instead of requiring a parent to remind them what task needs to be completed next, the child simply refers to the schedule. 
    • Change the jobs your child must complete based upon your morning routine. Your child can put a check mark in the boxes under ‘all done’ once they have completed each job. 

All of the strategies and tips are simply what have worked for us. Mornings are a busy time of day and by no means do all of our mornings go smoothly! However, implementing these ideas have helped us to leave on time and happily (most days!). 

This post was authored by Lisa Curial, B.A., M.Ed., R. Psych. Lisa Curial is a Registered Psychologist living in Edmonton, Alberta. She has worked all over the province supporting school aged children. She is currently on maternity leave from her position with the Edmonton Public School Board where she works to support children in the school system.

Find her at [email protected] or @yegchildpsychologist  

References: 

Getting your child out the door in the morning. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.aha

parenting.com/parenting-tools/family-life/kids-morning-routine

Helping Traumatized Children Learn. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://traumasensitive

schools.org/trauma-and-learning/the-problem-impact/ 

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