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7 Ways to Get Your Kids Into a Good Morning Routine

Some days, getting children (and yourself) out the door groomed, fully-clothed, and on time can feel like a feat worthy of an award. Following a good morning routine can squash speed bumps and get the day started in a positive way.

“Establishing morning routines can make the morning more enjoyable and less hectic,” says Joy Doll, OTD, OTR/L, an occupational therapist, assistant professor at Creighton University, and a mom. “Routines are not hard to establish, and sticking with them will help maintain the sanity for everyone in a household.”

The American Occupational Therapy Association offers tips for a stress-free morning:

  1. Establish a specific wake-up time. Allowing children to wake up at different times each day makes it difficult for them to know what to expect. Starting at one year old, identify a wake-up time and be consistent. At age four, children who are early risers can be advised to play quietly in their room until you come greet them.
  2. Promote positive behavior and mood. A cheerful “good morning” greeting can help set the tone and prepare the child to socialize well at school. Not a morning person? Start the day with some cuddle time or a hug to ease into the day’s activities.
  3. Plan ahead. Do as much “prep work” the night before as possible so that dressing, grooming, and eating breakfast can proceed with ease. Pack up homework, remove clutter, and review the weather forecast to avoid surprises. Go over the morning’s tasks so children will know what to expect.
  4. Keep on task. Create a checklist of things to do before leaving the house to ensure everything gets accomplished. Avoid distractions by leaving the TV off in the morning. Focus on the sequence of duties and ask children, “what’s next?” to give them a sense of control.
  5. Encourage independence. Allow older children to dress or fix hair independently. While it may be faster for you to complete these tasks, allow them to do it on weekends and then progress to weekdays to promote independence. Start with one aspect, like putting on socks or selecting the outfit. (Hint: Offer two choices instead of an entire wardrobe of options to prevent overwhelming the child and to help make decisions quickly.)
  6. Promote flexibility. Allow the routine to be more relaxed on weekends without completely ignoring it. Let children wear their pajamas to the breakfast table on Saturdays, for example.
  7. Make morning routines fun. Play upbeat music while children are getting dressed and brushing their teeth. Reward a quick-dresser by allowing them to play with a toy while siblings get dressed.

“The morning routine contributes to children’s overall health,” says Doll. “In addition to the routine, offer children a healthy breakfast that will promote positive energy and decisions throughout the day. Make sure children get enough sleep each night so that they are physically and mentally energized.”

Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners promote participation of all children and their families in everyday activities or occupations, including morning routines. For more information about how occupational therapy practitioners work with children in their homes, schools, private practice, hospitals, or community locations, visit www.aota.org.

To schedule an interview with Joy Doll, call AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley, 301-652-6611, ext. 2963 or e-mail kriley@aota.org.

Want more morning routines tips? Download our tip sheet.

Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.