Getting your preschooler ready for school on time — while potentially dealing with other siblings, a spouse, and getting yourself ready for work — can sometimes seem like the worst possible way to start a day. Many families find themselves walking a stress- and tantrum-filled high-wire on weekday mornings, racing the clock to corral a sleepy and unhappy preschooler into acceptable clothes, get some healthy food into his or her system, and make sure everybody is ready for the day.
If this sounds familiar, don’t lose hope: you can win the preschool morning routine. Here are 10 tips that can help reduce the stress and get your child off to school in a better frame of mind.
1. Start the night before. Pick out your child’s outfit, prepare lunch if you can, and pack backpacks the night before.
2. Identify your priorities. Reduce your own morning to-do list to the absolute necessities. This might mean pushing things off until later in the day or handling things the night before.
3. Get your preschooler to bed earlier. Kids who fall asleep earlier tend to wake up on their own and be in a better mood. If you notice your kids are getting to bed past 8 p.m., try to move up the evening routine by 10 to 30 minutes.
4. Involve your kids in the morning routine. Write out a list of their responsibilities. If they can’t read yet, read it to them, and talk about their morning duties. Involve them in the process! They will feel good about themselves for taking part in remembering and maybe offer suggestions.
5. Wake up before your kids. There is nothing more frustrating than being nudged out of bed by a hungry toddler or a wailing baby while needing to take care of your needs and get ready for work. Try waking up an hour or so before your kids, so you get your “morning me” time. This time is important for your mental health, and it can set the tone for a great day.
6. Praise your kids for sticking to the routine. Once your kids are up, remind them of the morning routine and guide them through it. Congratulate your kids for doing things on their own. Try making the routine fun and inclusive.
7. Dealing with temper tantrums and power struggles? Remind your kids that the sooner they get ready, the more time they have for play later on. Acknowledge their feelings and remind them that this time in the morning is to get ready for a fun-filled day at school. Give them a hug and try to move on instead of dwelling on the issue and wasting time.
8. Give them a say. Give your child some control over things like hairstyles, clothes, or healthy breakfast choices. This will help focus them and keep them engaged.
9. Make it fun. Let your child take a toy with him or her in the car, and let him or her know that it has to stay in the car and will be waiting for them when they get home from school. Sometimes, having a little bit of home with them makes the separation easier.
10. Relax! Try to remain calm, matter-of-fact, and try not to take your kid’s outbursts or tardiness personally. Remember, they are learning from you, so by modeling organization, patience, and tenderness, you will help them learn self-care skills more easily.
- American Occupational Therapy Association. Establishing Morning Routines for Children.
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