The Morning Routine: Getting Children Ready for School

Why do mornings seem so difficult? For parents, especially working parents, there is typically so much to do in a short period of time.

"Morning is the time in which temperamental differences may be most evident - the child who is slow to get going clashes with the parent who is fast paced. Or the child who is crabby clashes with the parent who is also crabby," say authors Ellen Galinsky and Judy David in their book “The Preschool Years: Family Strategies That Work - from Experts and Parents.” Mornings also provide the perfect opportunity for children to assert their individuality. With the clock ticking for work and meetings, this is prime time for power struggles.

Whether your child is going back to school or struggling with a new morning routine, getting ready for school or nursery doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are some top tips for discovering how to get ready for school in a way that works for your family.

Tips for a Smooth Morning Routine for School or Nursery

  • Leave room for unhurried moments. Give yourselves time for some unhurried moments together before you need to leave the house. Make sure everybody has enough sleep and rises early enough to avoid rushing by trying to add 10 or 15 extra minutes to your usual schedule. If your child is ready on time, spend it reading, talking, or doing some other activity together, making sure you give them your undivided attention during this period. Be sure to follow through if you promise your child you’ll spend time together if the morning routine goes smoothly.
  • Complete chores the night before. To make the morning routine less stressful, do things the night before. After dinner, for example, prepare lunch boxes and leave them in the fridge overnight. And after you clear away the dinner things, set the breakfast table for the next morning. Ask family members to bath/shower/wash hair the night before, if possible. Gather permission forms, lunch money, or notebooks. Encourage your child to help with chores that are suitable for them.
  • Offer encouragement. If a small child is prone to dawdling, you may have to offer frequent gentle reminders. When you are busy in the kitchen and your child's room is on another level, have them dress nearby where you can supervise while you work. Don't forget to recognize your child’s good effort using encouragement on days when everything works well and your family starts the day on time!
  • Set reasonable expectations. Expect your child to do what they are capable of, for example washing and dressing themselves if they are old enough. This may be an unreasonable expectation for a younger child. Set one task at a time to make expectations seem more attainable.
  • Have a family meeting. During a family discussion, collaborate on how to make the morning routine run smoothly.
  • Get out the door. If a child has not been cooperative, use the extra 10-15 minutes to get them ready with as little fuss as possible. Do not scold or chat; just do what is necessary to leave on time.