Are weekday mornings before 8 am the most stressful part of your day? Do you run out of the house without breakfast, make up half done and your hair sideways? I can completely relate! On weekends, my 4-year-old would wake up sweet-as-sugar, get dressed and go to the bathroom independently. But come Monday morning, she seemed to forget all that (you’d swear she couldn’t do anything by herself); and, as such, getting her fed, dressed, packed for school – and myself prepped and presentable for work – and out the door on time felt harder than juggling eight balls at once. It was frazzling!
Things have changed, though. Now we move more quickly; our morning routine is more efficient, more likeable and less stressful. We even get out the door on time (usually)! The secret to our success is in these easy strategies. Put them to practice, parents, and I promise your mornings will speed up, too.
Give yourself attention first
Mornings are more chaotic when I try to take care of myself at the same time as my family. As such, I wake up a bit early to have a quiet cup of coffee, shower and dress before I nudge my daughter awake. Give it a try – you’ll feel a lot more relaxed and ready to take on the day as a result. Concerned about getting your work clothes mucked up with your sweetie’s oatmeal and milk? Wear your housecoat overtop as you go through the morning routine.
Pump up the pace
To get dawdling feet moving faster, challenge your child to a game of beat-the-music. My kiddo loves tunes, so I created a playlist of her favourite high-energy jams, and every morning her mission is to complete her get-ready tasks before the songs stop. It’s fun and motivating! If your sweetie is distracted by or dislikes music, use a visual timer instead. The winner should get a little prize like choosing the radio station in the car or getting a token that’s worth 5 extra minutes of video game or TV time after school.
TIP: If your child has a hard time with new routines or games, then implement this tactic slowly. First invite him to participate in a race of who can get dressed faster, for example, and deliver lots of praise when he picks up his pace. When this becomes comfortable and enjoyable for him, incrementally increase the amount of tasks he has to quickly completely to ‘win.’
Use a visual schedule
Make a visual schedule for your child with all the things she has to do in morning. At home, and with many of my clients, I use Choiceworks. Kiddos often find the cute pictures and paired audio engaging and motivating. Older kids might prefer a to-do list created the old fashioned way with pencil and paper. Visuals clearly show kids what to do and, as such, help keep them stay on task. The Bonus: Visual schedules help build executive functioning skills and they reduce the amount of nagging you have to do.
At work, I use a first-then approach all the time to increase clients’ motivation and compliance. This strategy also works wonders at home, especially in the morning. My daughter is more speedy and focused when I slot less desirable activities BEFORE fun ones. If your honey struggles with compliance, simply tweak his schedule, so preferred items come after stuff he considers a chore. For example, if your kiddo usually plays in bed until breakfast is served, change the rules to: Wake up, eat, then play. He’ll gobble down breakfast and brush his teeth on-the-double – you’ll be impressed!
Do prep work
You’ll get out the door a lot faster in the morning if you organize a bit the night before. As part of bedtime routine, my daughter and I decide on the next day’s hairstyle and outfit. I provide her with a couple of options (not too many, as choices can still be difficult), she makes her picks and we lay out the appropriate clothes and hair accessories. The result: She gets dressed quickly in the morning! It’s also helpful to pre-set the breakfast table and pack lunches in the evening. Get your kiddo to pitch in with laying out cereal bowls and spoons and assembling sandwiches – this helps foster independence skills!
Have a school nook
Do you always scramble to help your sweetie find her sneakers and homework before you race out the door? The solution: Establish a spot where she keeps her backpack, gym clothes, homework, coat and shoes. Hang up another visual schedule here to remind her what needs to go in her bag and on her body before leaving the house.
May your morning routine now be smoother, more efficient and stress-free! Stay tuned for our next blog about how to make bedtime routines calmer and easier.