Sleep Resources

A Parents’ Guide To Establishing Morning Routines

Learn how to establish a morning routine that prioritizes your child’s health, wellness, and sleep schedule so that you and your family can make the most out of your day.

By Emma Forbes

It’s difficult enough getting your kids up and ready for the day. But getting your crew fed and dressed with teeth brushed and making sure backpacks are stuffed with all the necessary homework—well, that can frazzle even the most patient nerves. Add in the struggle of getting your kids out of bed or the dramatic tantrum when favorite ballet slippers can’t be located, and your stress meter can go off the charts. If this all sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

According to a study by Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain division, parents spend about 10 hours a week getting their kids up and off to school each morning—that’s more than the average workday. 

Imagine how much less stressed—and more productive—you could be if you had an extra 10 hours of peace each week.

You’ll be surprised to see how a little planning and consistency can transform the way you spend time with your family.  In this guide we’ll go over six ways you and your family can create routines that make the most of your mornings together.

#1 Good Mornings Start with Good Nights

A great start to your child’s day begins with a good night’s rest. If you’re struggling to get your child to bed at night, chances are their sleep will suffer. And when sleep suffers, so does your morning. Crankiness aside, poor sleep can also affect your child’s physical and mental health, and lead to behavior problems and learning difficulties. Experts agree that when children sleep well, they are better able to listen, pay attention and learn.

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Here are a few ways you can ensure your child wakes up on the right side of the bed each morning:

Tips for Getting Your Child to Bed 

  • Establish a set bedtime. Setting a regular bedtime each night gives your child structure. It also helps your child’s body and mind “learn” to be sleepy at bedtime.  
  • Schedule in “bathroom time:” Bedtime hygiene is not only good for your child’s health, it’s also a great learning opportunity. Plan enough time before bedtime for them to have a bath or shower, and explain the importance of brushing their teeth before they head to bed. Encouraging them to use the potty before bedtime can also help cut down on nighttime awakenings and bedwetting.  
  • Create go-to bedtime activities/ rituals: Bedtime rituals can be a special bonding that opportunity both you and your child can cherish. The focus should be on calming activities such as reading a favorite book or working on a puzzle together. Let your child take leadership by choosing the book to read or activity to do–this will help them establish a sense of autonomy and pride in their bedtime routine. 
  • Keep your child’s room clean: According to a recent ClosetMaid survey, two thirds of parents say their child’s messy bedroom puts them in a bad mood. Teaching your kids to maintain a clean and tidy bedroom not only teaches your children to value and take care of their belongings, it gives you more peace of mind. 
  • Keep it short: Bedtimes don’t need to linger on and on. Plan to spend about 10 to 15 minutes doing nighttime hygiene practices and storytime, or a little longer if your child takes a bath before bed. 
  • Start early: Prepare your children for bedtime before it’s time to go to bed so they can mentally prepare for the transition. Give them notice about 30 minutes before bedtime and remind them every 10 minutes until it’s time to begin the routine.  
  • Follow basic sleep hygiene rules: Sleep hygiene embraces both the bedtime routine and the sleep environment. Successful bedtime routines need consistency. A good sleep environment, on the other hand, is a bedroom that is conducive to sleep.

Your child’s bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. Use blackout blinds or curtains to block out outside light. (But use a dim nightlight if your child is scared of the dark.) Drop the thermostat a few degrees below what you usually set it at during the day. And use a noise machine, if necessary, to help block any distracting noises that may enter your child’s room. Growing bodies also need a good mattress, so be sure your child’s sleeping on a bed that is not only comfortable, but supportive. 

Night Time Prep Tips For Parents 

Parenting is chaotic enough without restless mornings and sleepless nights, but, with some planning, you can get ahead Once the kids are finally nestled in bed, get to work tackling some tasks to lighten your morning load:

  • Prep lunches: Now’s the perfect time to whip up the PB&Js and snacks and pop them in the fridge. All you have to do in the morning is load up the lunchboxes and head out the door. 
  • Layout your kids outfits for the next day: Choosing outfits the night before is a great way to cut out morning decision making and occasional tantrums if your child is a picky dresser. Consider making this a learning opportunity by having your child help pick out clothes for the next day. 

Ensure bookbags and backpacks are packed and ready to go: Quiet evenings are a great time to make sure homework and those favorite ballet slippers are packed with the rest of the school essentials. This helps reduce the risk of morning drama if items are forgotten or can’t be quickly found.

#2 Carve Out ‘Me’ Time Before ‘Parent’ Time

Self-care is notoriously underrated, but it is essential to preparing you mentally and physically for the day and preserving and improving your health and wellbeing.

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Here are some ways to create some “me” time:

  • Take time to recharge: Set your alarm before it’s time to rouse the kids, and take advantage of the peace and quiet. Meditate, read or practice yoga to destress before the morning rush, or just indulge in the momentary quiet with a cup of coffee. 
  • Set yourself up for a productive day: One of the best ways to be productive is to make a list of all activities you want to accomplish during the day. Marking them off one-by-one can be hugely satisfying and help you appreciate just how much you have done during the day.  
  • Get yourself ready first: It can be challenging to supervise your children in the mornings while also getting yourself ready for the day. Before you wake the kids, take time to get showered, dressed and prepared for your day as well. 
  • Keep properly fueled throughout the day: Just as your car needs gas or electricity, your body needs proper fuel to keep you going throughout the day. Start with a balanced breakfast and drink plenty of water. Even when things get busy, remember to keep your tank full of healthy snacks so you can go the distance.  
  • Wake up on the right side of the bed: Waking up in a grumpy mood only makes those around you cranky. Diffuse the moodiness by adjusting your attitude. How? Before getting out of bed in the morning, take a moment to reflect on things you are grateful for, meditate or listen to uplifting music. 

#3 Establish a Routine

A consistent routine gives your child a sense of predictability and helps reinforce feelings of safety and security.

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Here are some ways to build a successful routine:

  • Identify & communicate:  Identify important activities during the day and communicate them in chronological order to your kids. Even if you think your kids are aware of the day’s activities, it’s always a great idea to remind them.
  • Say what you mean & mean what you say: Be specific. Telling your children exactly what you expect from them leaves no room for doubt or misunderstanding. 
  • Use consequences: Praise your child when routines or rules are followed correctly and without fuss. Parents magazine recommends using consequences (not punishment) for activities that are not followed or rules that are broken, For example, take away a favorite toy or TV time for a limited amount of time.   
  • Don’t overschedule: Routines don’t have to fill up every minute of every day. Leave some time for unstructured fun when there aren’t pressing needs such as bedtime or school.
  • Take baby steps: If you are just embarking on a routine, don’t feel like you have to jump in with both feet. Adding too much too fast may cause more resistance and make it harder to be successful in the long run. Start with one or two activities and gradually add more as you and your child become more acclimated to the routine. 

#4 Get Organized

Taking time to do a little planning and get organized can have huge payoffs.

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Here are some ways to organize around your children’s daily tasks:

  • Show and tell: Use charts with pictures to visually display each activity involved in your routine. Praise your child for each activity they successfully complete, or reward them with extra storytime or gameplaying. 
  • Make a list and check it twice: The night before or in the morning before you wake the kids, create a list of things that need to be taken to school and double-check it before you leave the house.
  • A place for everything and everything in its place: Have an area set aside for backpacks, jackets, and sports gear. This makes things easy to find when they are needed.  
  • Make cleanup a fun game: Messy houses, like messy bedrooms, can leave you feeling frazzled and stressed. When it’s time to clean up, turn on music or a timer and make a game of picking up toys and putting them in a bin.

#5 Schedule time to connect with your kids while they eat breakfast

Scheduling time to have breakfast together is a great way for your family to bond and get everyone’s day off to a good start. In fact, studies show that it helps establish healthier eating habits and reinforces routine, according to diet and wellbeing site HealthLinkBC

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  • Prioritize breakfast time: Communicate with your kids the importance of everyone being at the table together for breakfast. 
  • Assign mealtime jobs: Involve your kids in breakfast by assigning responsibilities such as setting the table or putting dirty dishes in the sink.  
  • Turn off electronics: Ban electronics from breakfast time. Turn off TVs, smartphones and tablets so that the family focuses on each other. 
  • Ask questions and listen: Mealtime is a great time to ask your children their plans or expectations for the day. This also helps develop their social skills and table manners.   

#6 Prioritize mindset 

A positive attitude can not only make you happier, it can also improve your health by lowering stress levels, according to experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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Here are some tips for adopting a positive mindset: 

  • Smile:It might sound silly, but smiling—even fake smiling—reduces blood pressure and heart rate during stressful situations, according to an article in the journal Canadian Family Physician.
  • Practice patience: Do all that you can to progress your children through the morning routine in a timely manner, but have the patience to let them do things themselves so they can gain some independence. To keep stress levels in check, it may be necessary to schedule more time for your morning routine. 
  • Be grateful: Take time to focus on the people, moments or things that bring you comfort or happiness, and take time to express your gratitude for these things at least every day.  
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff: Not all mornings are going to go smoothly. Accept that there will be glitches in your morning routine from time to time. While it’s important to keep the family focused on the goal, it’s OK to let the little stuff slide. 

Why Morning Routines are Important for Families

Children are creatures of habit. They like structure and predictability. And it helps improve their brain, says Karen Postal, PhD, from Psychology Today. And while they may protest following a routine at first, when children have the structure of regularly scheduled activities—especially in the morning and at bedtime—they feel more safe and secure. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three components to establishing structure: 

  • Consistency: Doing the same thing every time
  • Predictability: Knowing what and when an activity will happen
  • Follow-through: Enforcement of consequences, i.e. rewarding successes in doing what you ask and delivering consequences when rules are broken. 

Routines help defuse stressful situations, keep everyone’s tempers in check, and provide quality time for families. 

You can begin routines at any age, and it is especially helpful with toddlers and young children. When you set appropriate expectations and limits for your child’s behavior, you children learn how you will respond and learn to adapt their behaviors accordingly. 

The Takeaway 

Mornings don’t have to be hectic. In fact, with a little planning, you can establish a morning routine that runs like a well-oiled machine. Establishing and executing a plan can bring peace to all your lives and make these moments with your family enjoyable and memorable. 

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