It’s time for a new school year! After all the summer fun has subsided, it’s time to send our kids back to school, which often means a more demanding morning than the laid-back days of summer. Creating structured and familiar morning routines for our children can help build confidence and strengthen your child’s planning, memory, and other executive functioning skills. A clear and consistent morning routine leads to easier transitions, increased independence, and less stress throughout the day.
Set Clear Expectations
The first step in planning a morning routine is to define what’s most important. Is it that your child dresses themselves independently, organizes their backpack, or maybe that they make their lunch? Or is it most important that we can get ourselves and our kids out of the door on time? Mornings are typically jam packed, so it’s crucial to be realistic about the time you have.
Be proactive and collaborate with your child to decide what is expected from everyone involved. Once you have laid out clear expectations, remember to be consistent, be patient, and understand it is going to take time to adjust to this shift in schedule.
Get Your Children Involved
As children get older, we expect them to become more independent in their morning routines. And one way to help them is to simplify the task, at a suitable level, to set your child up for success. For example, if you want your child to independently get dressed in the mornings, work together the night before to pick out their clothing for the next day, or leave a picture of your child fully dressed in their room so they can visualize themselves. Going through the task with them initially, or even planning the steps together, provides connection with your child, which decreases stress and frustration when new expectations are set. Practicing also helps increase your child’s confidence and willingness to participate.
Watch Our Video: Creating Routines
Incorporate Visuals into Your Routine
Visuals are a great tool to use for kids who may need help executing and sequencing a task, and in the correct order. Visuals can be used for things like
- Getting dressed
- Making lunch
- Organizing their backpack
- and so much more!
Taking pictures of completed tasks such as a packed lunch or an organized backpack can help children visualize the “done”, which can help them figure out the steps needed to reach the result of a given task. Eventually, the picture can be taken away to increase independence- moving from concrete imagery to independent visualization. Other visuals, like checklists and charts, can help your child break a task down into simpler steps to improve independent participation.
Check out some of our pre-made visual charts below:
Improve Time Management Skills
The concept of time is a complex skill that takes practice to master. If you tell a 3-year-old that there’s 5 minutes to get ready, they are not going to understand how long that means. When you are practicing certain activities before the new routine, try turning it into a fun game! Timing them doing the activity allows them to connect and understand how long it takes to complete different parts of the routine. Again, making it a game, timing them doing as many jumping jacks in 30 seconds, or drawing as many flowers in 60 seconds, can get them to notice time passing by –which is key.
In addition, timers and clocks can be a great way for children to see how much time they have to perform a task. Try using an Expo marker on a digital clock and drawing a line to signify the point at which they should be done with X. When first introducing this, continue to be flexible as the first few times they may run over the time! You can also try a visual timer or a picture timer on a phone/tablet to show time passing.
Incorporate Sensory Strategies into your Routine
Does your child need a quiet space before heading into the hustle and bustle of school? Or does your child seem to have extra energy in the morning and needs some extra heavy work to get calm and focused? Incorporating sensory strategies into the routine or providing opportunities for sensory breaks when you feel your child is overwhelmed can help them be at their best. Check out our P.R.O.P.S handout for some sensory strategies for success.
Having an established and stress-free morning routine will help set your child up for success for the rest of the day. Incorporating visuals, time management, setting expectations, and incorporating sensory breaks and sensory strategies will foster increased independence, participation, and confidence.
Hi, I am an Occupational Therapist at South Shore Therapies. I am passionate about utilizing child-led play to help children gain confidence and achieve their individualized goals. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate, and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future. If you want to read more about us, visit www.southshoretherapies.com