This week’s letter fulfills last week’s promise of revealing how the use of morning routines for your preschooler will save you time and work while teaching your preschooler independence. A routine is any activity that happens day after day. If your morning consists of children who are never ready on time and crazy-feeling adults, that is your current routine. The good news is that you can change that.
First, though, form a realistic plan of what needs to happen in the morning. How much time and energy do you have to spend? (Now is a good time to review last week’s letter.) A stay-at-home parent is going to have a much different morning plan than a single parent who works outside of the home. You may have adults with whom to share the morning routine or be able to delegate some morning chores to older children. Balance your needs and your resources
The next step is to realize that the morning “going to school routine” is built on the “coming home from school routine” of the previous day. Your child will learn organizational skills because you teach him what to do as he comes in the door. For example, he hangs his coat up in the pre-designated place, right side out. Teach him to open his backpack, remove snack and lunch containers, and place them on the kitchen counter. Make your child responsible for pulling out notices and schoolwork to share with you at the same time each day. If he has homework, schedule that in too. Once you teach your child the routine, it will become a habit through high school and into college.
For your morning routine, consider if your child wakes up fast or slow. Slow risers may do best with a half hour of music before the alarm goes off. Fast risers want immediate action. Do you want your child to eat or dress first? Did they bathe before bed or do they need to shower in the morning? At first, it may be easiest for you to get up, dressed and have breakfast ready before you wake your child so you can focus on helping him learn his own routine.
As an added guide, use your computer or hand-drawn pictures to construct a personal schedule for your child. Some children love to mark off each activity as they do them, this is its own reward. Some children need a bigger reward, such as 5 to 10 minutes of screen time if they are ready to go on time.
In the beginning, routines take extra time and work. However, once established, they save time, work, and energy. Your after-school routine eliminates hunting for coats, backpacks, and finding homework and teacher notices when it is too late to do anything about them. Before long, your child will be independent and quicker in his morning routine. Since he will need less support in the morning, you will be able to sleep in longer and still avoid all the morning craziness that was part of your former routine. Enjoy the peace.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.