The importance of a morning routine
Mornings, whether you are getting ready for work or your child for school, can always be stressful. Today I’d like to talk about the importance of a morning routine.
A solid morning routine will help you as parents to get your children ready and to school on time, and also to prepare you and your child for the day.
I don’t have children at home, but I do have experience with morning routines. Having been a nanny and from welcoming children into my classroom as a teacher, I have seen what works well and what to avoid doing.
When I worked as a nanny, the children were 4 years and 15 months, respectively. It wasn’t easy getting them ready and out the door but, when our routine was worked out, it became a lot easier.
I must also acknowledge that it probably was easier for me to enforce this routine than it would be for a parent. As an outside caregiver, they weren’t initially as comfortable with me as they were with their mum.
This meant and means that they didn’t feel as confident questioning and challenging rules as much as they would with a parent.
I’ll also point out that I am a huge believer in rules and boundaries, so I had and have the advantage of experience and putting in the leg work. As teachers, we often also find ourselves impervious to complaints while routines are established, and boundaries set.
How do we prepare?
Now I don’t mean prepare in the way that you may think – like preparing breakfast and packed lunch the night before – but prepare your routine that you want to follow.
This may take some work to get it how you want but having a prepared routine that you stick to will be endlessly helpful for you and your preschoolers.
At preschool, we always stick to our daily routines as it is well known that children respond well to knowing what comes next.
This is especially true in an environment where they are learning another language. If your child cannot understand what is being said, they understand the routine that is stuck to every day and this is very reassuring for them.
Your child may be learning sequencing and “what comes next?” as part of their preschool curriculum and routines such as this can be great models for that, putting what your child has learnt into practice.
It’s very easy to say that getting a good night’s sleep is key to having a good morning, but we all know that this is not always within our control. Especially with preschoolers.
However, this can be helped by establishing night-time and day-time routines too. Night-time routines like shutting screens off early and agreeing on the number of bedtime stories can help your child feel relaxed, not stressed, and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Be sure to give yourself and your child enough time to go through the morning routine. If you sleep in, you’re limiting the time to complete each step which will leave you and your preschooler feeling rushed and stressed. This is not at all conducive to a swift and successful drop-off at preschool.
When I was a nanny, I arrived when the children were just waking up and they were excited to see me, which helped them get out of bed, so I don’t have much real-life advice with getting children up.
However, if your child has enough sleep and feels well-rested, I do believe that they’re keen and ready to start the day. Some children like to play when they get up, if so, leave time for this in your morning routine.
As you must know by now, I love teaching children how to be independent and all the positive effects that independence has on them.
Independence in this respect is allowing your child to choose what they’d like for breakfast. When I say choose, however, I mean choose from the options you’ve laid out. I am endlessly impressed with you if you’ve the time and patience to take breakfast orders from your household!
If you have the choice of cereals, as my small friend had – let’s call her Lucy –, then teach and allow your preschooler to pour their own cereal, pour their own milk, and put their bowl on the counter when they’re finished.
Lucy, who was four years old, loved showing me how independent she was and this allowed me to go and get her 15-month-old sister ready.
You may have received advice that a preschooler should have their clothes prepared the night before. In my experience, this can lead to unnecessary disruptions to the morning routine.
If I cast my mind back, I remember a very adamant “no” that the clothes chosen the night before by Lucy, just weren’t acceptable that day.
While your preschooler is having breakfast, set out two or three options and allow your child to choose from them.
By giving them independence and autonomy over this, though still having an element of order, your child will feel listened to, understood, and autonomous which is great for building confidence!
Remember that, when children get upset and have tantrums, it is often because they feel they are not being listened to. So listen to them. When your child is confident, they can then start choosing for themselves.
Leaving the house
I really like using “X” minute warnings in the classroom, in the playground, and in the house too. A simple “five more minutes” can be very effective, in my experience and it doesn’t leave the child rushed or shocked by their lack of time.
You may think that a preschooler has no concept of time but, if you give them something to compare time with, you will help them develop that concept. Perhaps you’ll say “five minutes…. now three minutes…” etc. and have your child get used to a countdown this way.
Don’t be late!
Now I’m going to put my teacher’s hat on. Please try your utmost to have your child at preschool on time; their lateness can offset the daily routine, other children’s attention, and can make your child reluctant to enter the classroom.
There was a child in a school I worked at who was constantly late. And when I say late I mean that they would arrive an hour late each day, coinciding with circle time.
This child was also very sociable and loved to speak with their friends but, because it was circle time, they were asked to come in quietly and sit down without being able to socialise.
Imagine being asked to be quiet when you just want to say hello to your friends!
From a teacher’s point of view, I understand why this was done, and from a child’s point of view, I can imagine how much this would upset me. So the child would then not want to come into the classroom – unsurprisingly, because they weren’t allowed to socialise in the way they wanted to.
I tried to explain to the child’s parents that the reason we have a window of time between dropping children off and the daily routine starting is for this exact reason: children want to socialise!
As the family didn’t adust, a new “step” came into their morning routine: their child didn’t want to go into the classroom and would cry every morning.
This time, when speaking with the parents, they were much more responsive and respectful to our timetable and their child’s social needs.
The story has a happy and successful end to it as, after this, the child was very rarely late for school again – success!
On the way to preschool
It may be that you drive, walk, or take public transport to your child’s preschool and all of these modes of transport can be met with things that offset your routine.
There are things like traffic or weather that cannot be controlled, my advice here is to just stay calm.
Maybe your child will be late for preschool. As I write above, this is not ideal and can lead to extra challenges. However, if it’s a rare occurrence, what is the point of getting yourself and your child stressed over things you cannot control?
Have some fun, talk about what could have made your journey better, have your child suggest a different way of getting to school tomorrow. If you’re stressed and rushed, your preschooler is going to feel this too and will be less likely to go into their classroom and say goodbye to you without a fuss.
Arrival at school
You’ve done your whole morning routine – congrats! Now it’s the time to drop your child off in their cloakroom or classroom and this is often met with drawn-out goodbyes and discussions.
I suggest that, to the best of your ability, you keep your goodbye quick and easy. The longer you wait and say numerous goodbyes, the harder it can be for your child when you leave.
It can happen, of course, that your child is just in a bad mood that morning and your goodbye is very hard on them. This is fine! You’re not a terrible parent for leaving while they’re crying.
Just be sure to speak with your child’s teacher, give your preschooler a big hug and share some nice words, and then make your way out of the building.
I am certain that any teacher will tell you that children calm down very quickly after parents have left. The teacher will have a thousand tricks up their sleeve to help calm, relax and reassure your child.
There’s also no problem with asking for them to have a short text or email sent to you so you know your child has calmed down.
What if “goodbye” is still hard?
Sometimes, when you have done all these steps and kept to your morning routine, your child is still reluctant to go into the classroom. Maybe they cry or are visibly upset when you drop them off.
I know this is hard.
There was a child in my school that just didn’t like coming to preschool and myself and his parents discussed at great length the reasons why.
We worked through a lot of reasons that it could be, and, in this case, it turned out that it was actually the parents’ feelings that had manifested themselves into their child.
They shared with me that they talk about feeling guilty for sending their child to preschool (the child was four at the time) and they discussed this in front of their child.
There is nothing wrong with feeling guilty although I personally don’t believe that parents have to. Sending your child to preschool is very good for their mental, social, physical, and developmental progress.
If you do have such feelings, however, please don’t discuss them in front of your child. Children are far more aware than some give them credit for and will feel many things that you do.
Have a good day!
If all has worked out, try and stick to the morning routine you’ve created. Perhaps you’ll use one like I layout above, perhaps you’ll have more or fewer steps.
What are your tricks for a good morning routine? Did it take you long to establish a routine? Be sure to let me know and pass along any tips and tricks you have!
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