Rise & Shine: How to Rethink Your Morning Routine - Nemours Blog


Rise & Shine: How to Rethink Your Morning Routine

Rise & Shine: How to Rethink Your Morning Routine, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Is your morning routine giving you and your kids a meltdown? Wouldn’t it be great if you could get the entire family up, fed, dressed, prepared for the day, and out the door without it becoming a stressful nightmare?

Everyone, especially children, need some time to make the transition from sleep into the busy activity of the day. And many children don’t like to feel pushed. Having a clear morning routine structure in place can give your children a sense of trust, safety and security. If they know what to expect, they’ll be able to easily move through their responsibilities and start off the day the right way.

Use these strategies to rethink your idea of morning activities. You’ll be more likely to stay on schedule and also support your kids becoming more independent.  

Is the Whole Family Getting Enough Sleep?

If everyone in your house gets enough sleep, it will significantly help your morning routine. School aged children generally need about 9-11 hours of sleep per night, while toddlers need up to 14! Your teens should be getting 8-10, and adults need to clock 7-9 per night!

Establish that Routine

A good morning routine requires lots of creativity and energy, and it’s tough for parents to set a good example if they are tired themselves. When your child loses sleep, their brain has a harder time functioning. This means for those days when they’ve lost sleep, they’ll act younger and less regulated.

Good habits can ensure a healthy night’s sleep. Make sure your children go to bed at the same time every night and that their bedroom provides the best space possible for them to get a good rest. Healthy sleep patterns are influenced by temperature, lighting, natural rhythms and diet. As hard as it can be, turn off screens at least 30 minutes before bed!

When kids get up at the same time each day, they know what to expect, and their bodies adapt. Choose a wake up time for your children and be consistent (you can begin this at about age 1). If you have more than one child, stagger wake up times, beginning with the youngest. You’ll be able to help one child at a time, and your morning will run more smoothly.

Tip: Make time more visible. Put clocks in your child’s room, the bathroom and the kitchen…even get your child a watch or activity tracker. This helps kids learn to manage time.

Prepare the Night (or Weekend) Before

You’ll have much less of a headache in the morning rush if you prepare some things the night or even the weekend before.

Prepare Breakfast and Pack Lunch

When kids have healthy meals, it helps them grow and develop! A healthy breakfast helps keep your child’s metabolism consistent and energy levels fired up. It also improves learning, memory and mood.

If your kids don’t participate in an at-school lunch program, encourage them to help pack their own lunchboxes, that way they can be in charge of a significant part of their diet, which can help them develop a healthy relationship with food and cooking, even when they make less-than-optimal choices.

Choose and Layout Clothes

Let your kids help pick out their outfit for the next day. Involving them is a great way to give them a little control over their routine- for younger kids, give two or three choices. Be sure to check the weather to make sure your kids will have the right gear ready and available.

Other ways you can get a jump-start on the next day in advance:

  • Have kids take baths or showers before bed.
  • Review the next day’s schedule and check that all books, homework, activity materials and clothes are in their book bag and by the door.
  • Make setting the breakfast table the night before on the list of chores for your kids.

Keep Your Home Organized

The more organized your home, the less stress you’ll have getting the family out the door. Set up spots where your kids keep their school supplies, sports gear, jackets and other outerwear. When kids have a pre-determined place for what they’ll need as they’re going out the door, they’ll always know where to look and it will save precious time when getting ready in the morning. Plastic bins/containers and hooks can be assigned for everyone in your home, keeping everything organized and in one place.

Tip: Assign a place for parents’ briefcase, keys, wallet and phone, as well.

Build in Extra Time (Get Up Before Your Kids!)

We can all benefit from a regular routine, so consider creating a morning ritual to start your day off before your kids rise. It doesn’t have to be that long, even 15 minutes will do. Take this time to relax, eat breakfast and drink coffee, exercise, meditate, or read, and get yourself dressed and ready. If it’s the start of a new week, you may even wish to say a quick Monday morning prayer to, hopefully, set up the week as a good one. You can also use the time to review the day’s schedule.   

Create a Morning Checklist

For more successful mornings, you’ll want to make every day as predictable as you can. Each day, try to follow the same schedule before school and preparing the night before.

Creating a visual checklist can help your child participate in their morning routine. Make it a fun activity and create it together with your child, so that they can get excited about using it. Have them draw pictures for each step. You may want to play out the routine a few times for younger ones. And remember, keep it simple!

Items to include on your morning checklist:

  • Brush teeth
  • Comb hair
  • Wash face
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Review day’s schedule
  • Put shoes on
  • Grab backpack/lunchbox
  • Leave for school

Make it a Good Experience

Remember that kids respond to their environment, so try to remain calm. Even if you’re not a morning person, a good attitude in the morning can help make your kids happier during the morning routine.

Blaring alarms can be jarring to some children and start the day off poorly. Try setting your child’s alarm to play their favorite song.

The best mornings for kids begin with some affection. Can you get a few minutes of relaxed snuggle time with each child as they wake up? If you’re prepared the night before, there is probably time and it can transform your morning. Also remember greetings of “good morning” and “have a wonderful day.” These help set the tone for your child to socialize well in school.

Avoid Distractions

The mornings are already hectic, so turning on the TV or digital devices create more noise and stress. Leave the devices off; you’ll have plenty of time with them the rest of the day.

Make Weekends Special

Routines are important, so you don’t want to stray too far on the weekend. Kids should still have checklist items to complete, like brushing their teeth and hair.

Weekend mornings usually give you some more time to share with one another. Expand your cuddle time with your little ones, and with older kids, spend a few moments chatting about their week. Have the family cook breakfast together and then take some time to sit around the table and eat.

Keep Trying

Establishing a morning routine may seem difficult in the beginning, but with some effort, mornings will flow much easier, setting the tone for a much more productive day.

Meghan Tuohy Walls, PsyD

Meghan Tuohy Walls, PsyD, is a psychologist at Nemours Children's Hospital and Nemours Pediatrics, Jessup St. in Wilmington, Del.