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6 Tips for Establishing Morning Routines for Children

Aug 23, 2016

Rebecca Doolittle McFalls, MHS, OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist

As a pediatric occupational therapist at the Pediatric Rehab Center with East Cooper Medical Center, helping families establish good routines to help with children's overall regulation, anxiety, and ability to have smooth transitions in the morning is part of our job each day. Mornings can be hard on everyone in the family but it’s important to stay on schedule, as well as teach your kids the importance of self-sufficiency.

Here are some guidelines to developing "happy" habits for the whole family:

(1) Get up on time. When your child is around one year, identify a wake up time and be consistent. At about four years, if your child tends to get up early, teach them it is okay, but they must play quietly in their room until an established time or until you enter their room. Stagger your wake up times if you have multiple children, that way you are able to help one child at a time.

(2) Keep on task. Talk to your child each night about what will happen and what is expected each morning. In the mornings, ask him or her to name the steps of the morning routine as you go through it. Sometimes creating a visual checklist can be helpful and can be something you tailor and update as your child grows. Leave the TV off, as it can be a huge distraction.

(3) Get organized.  Lay your child’s clothes out, pack their lunch, determine breakfasts for the week, and make sure everything is their backpack the night before. Let your child take part in the decision making. Limiting choices may help make the decision process easier and quicker.

(4) Encourage involvement and independence. As much as you want to do it for them because it will be faster, letting them take part allows your child to practice and learn how to have a morning routine they will eventually be able to follow on their own. Take a step towards independence by allowing them to take one aspect of dressing themselves on the weekend, like choosing a shirt.

(5) Teach flexibility. Building a structure for your morning routine is imperative but it’s important to teach your child that there are some days where you can be relaxed. Sleeping in and having pancakes on the weekend is a fun example to show your child it’s okay to occasionally stray from your normal routine.

(6) Stay positive and have fun. Even if you’re not a morning person, a positive attitude will rub off on your kids and set the tone for a good day. Affection, like hugs and cuddling, also promotes positivity.  If routines are fun, children will undoubtedly want to take part. Listen to music and dance while you all get dressed. Be creative with morning tasks like dressing and grooming. Making your mornings fun will not only benefit your child, but it will set a great tone for you as well.

For more information about our Pediatric Rehab Center or to discuss morning routines further, visit:

According to information from The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

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