This post was originally written on August 11, 2010 and updated August 3, 2021. My kids are now teenagers and it’s pretty miraculous, that while they get themselves up, fed, and out the door on their own, I still need to parent from time to time. As a parent of teens, my parenting won’t consist of diving in on the details of their morning routine, nonetheless, I have moved into a “life-coach” role, asking them critical questions to help them ahead. With less than two weeks to go before school starts (In SFUSD school starts August 16, 2021!) our family will also be phasing in earlier wake up times this week and next.
I have been getting requests from families to reshare old posts over the next few weeks to share some of the Back to School resources I’ve compiled on this blog. Stay tuned!
Making a Morning Schedule
You are probably already working with a morning routine. I created one last year when my girls were in Pre-K. This year, though, I’ve asked my daughters to get involved in creating a written Morning Schedule. As my girls are getting older, I am seeing that they want to express their emerging sense of independence and sometimes resist following my routine. (The pre- pre- pre-teen years have begun!)
Though it would be much easier for me to just do it myself, I decided to use the big transition to kindergarten as an opportunity to start teaching my girls a “big girl” skill of time management. Getting them involved in the process will have the added benefit of reducing resistance to mommy’s rules. This is the schedule they helped to create (See right.)
Talk about the tasks we do each day to get ready for school, and wrote them down on sticky notes. I made it fun and silly by suggesting ridiculous tasks. Since they can’t read, I drew stick figure illustrations. If your child likes acting, you could also pretend to be a little kid, and your child can be the parent and give you advice on what to do.
Talk about the Value of Time
Group tasks into roughly 15 – 30 minute chunks (e.g. wash face, brush teeth, potty, could fit into a 15-minute chunk). Many children (and even teens) struggle to learn basic time management skills because they don’t fully understand the value of time. (e.g. how long is a minute, five minutes, an hour? What does it feel like? What types of activities fit into these time amounts?)
Create a Master Schedule
Create a big grid to put our tasks into and explain how a schedule works and how much time you have. I used an old manila folder cut in half glued to an oversized piece of construction paper. (See our version above. If you have another good version please email me and I’ll upload it as well.)
Decide how to order the tasks. Tell your child “time management” means “fitting the tasks you have to do into the time you have”. With your child, take the sticky notes and fit them into the schedule you created. Have fun by making some silly suggestions that obviously don’t work. For example, ask “Do you think you should brush your teeth, and then eat breakfast? Or the other way around?”. Ask your child what he or she thinks makes the most sense and what his or her preferences are for the order of tasks (obviously within reason.) Explain how much time you think activities will realistically take and agree to keep working on the schedule until you get it right.
Let your child decorate the schedule with stickers and glitter glue, or go online to find superheroes or favorite characters to print out and glue on the calendar. Post your Morning Schedule in a prominent place you can point to in the morning. It is also helpful if it is near a clock. That way, you can reinforce your child’s learning of both how to read time and also their awareness of the value of time (as mentioned above.)
If you’ve already got a reward system, find a way to fit your Morning Schedule into it. If you don’t already have something in place, I find stickers or stamps are a great reward unto themselves. Also, never underestimate the power of hugs, high-fives, and fist-bashes!
Some other ideas to consider
Make it a game
are a good strategy for slowpokes. You can play with a timer and make a game out of doing various tasks. Just make sure it’s FUN and doesn’t increase stress. If you can find a silly time (we have a frog) it can help.
You can ask: “How long does it take to get dressed? brush our teeth? How long does a favorite episode of your show last?”
Make a music playlist that goes along with some of your morning activities. Great songs to include are upbeat, like “At the Hop” or “Move It Move It” or those with lyrics that count down). Let them know that they should be getting shoes on by a certain song.
Let them chose
If your child likes to be independent, let them choose the order of activities in a section of your schedule each day. For example: brushing teeth, going potty, washing face, and brushing hair could all go in the category of “grooming”. Your child could do “grooming” at the same time each day, but pick a different order for each activity every time.
Whatever strategies you choose, the most important move is to HAVE FUN with these ideas, and approach it as a process. Each and every family is different, and so our our kids!
On that note, I’d like to know what YOU are doing to help make morning routines go more smoothly. What are your ideas? What works for you? If you come up with a twist or adaptation you’d like to share, please post a comment, or email me a picture and I’ll post it to the blog!
If you found this post informative, please share it with other families. Thank you!
Checklists to Keep Your Family On Track – Use these FREE Printable Checklists to help getting to bed, in from school, and out the door in the morning!