Morning routines for kids can transform the trajectory of your child’s day. My kids are slugs on weekday mornings; on weekends, they are up before the sun rises.
It’s like…they know, which is why routines make such a difference to keep weekday mornings stress-free!
I’ve been doing routines with my kids since they were newborns (yes, even babies pick up on routine!). I’ve written on toddler schedules, daily schedules for kids, toddler bedtime routines, summer schedules, school-age routines and more.
You might even say I’m a routine junkie – which according to science is actually a really good thing.
I can wholeheartedly say morning routines are the greatest gift to a mother’s sanity — on top of being hugely beneficial for the kids.
For morning routines, both my son and daughter can…
- Wake themselves with an alarm clock (If you have a toddler, stick with me! I have a trick for you too!)
- Get out of bed and dress themselves
- Brush their teeth and hair
- Get their own breakfast going most days
- And they can do all this on their own...without me nagging, threatening or going Hulk Mom.
When given the right tools and encouragement (more on that in a minute), kids will surprise and impress you with their independence, responsibility and time management skills.
This is not fluff. I am completely serious.
So if you find yourself exhausted each day from having to manage your child’s routine, let me bring you some relief.
How to Create Smooth Morning Routines for Kids
Practicing routines with your kids helps a ton – and what I mean by this is practice the routine on a Saturday or Sunday when it’s not actually time to go through the routine. Practice and make it fun and without pressure. This helps you stay on your child’s side and keeps your child more willing to cooperate.
On This Page…
- Get your child an alarm clock that matches their time-telling ability.
- Have your child pick out their clothes for the whole week on Sunday.
- Use a set of printable daily routine cards.
- Fuel your child's brain with the right foods to support focus.
- Basic examples of morning routines with kids.
- Avoid technology at all costs in the am.
- Consider some form of vestibular or proprioceptive input before asking a child to sit still or focus.
1. Get your child an alarm clock that matches their time-telling ability.
My personal favorite is the stoplight alarm clock until kids have a very strong grasp of time around age 7 or 8. This clock uses the visual of a stoplight to know when it’s time to wake.
Red – stay in bed.
Green – wake and be seen.
You can use those rhymes to help kids remember the rules.
As your child gets older, move to a more traditional alarm clock that makes noise for the child to wake.
2. Have your child pick out their clothes for the whole week on Sunday.
Put these in a little file folder like this one and put day of the week labels on it. Using a tool like this helps the child be completely independent when getting dressed in the morning and prevents delay of time to decide what to wear.
3. Use a set of printable daily routine cards.
This will help your child know all the steps in the routine and in which order to follow.
Simply print out these printable routine cards here, cut, place in the desired order, put where your child can best see and follow the routine.
These cards are customizable so you can create any routine for your child.
4. Fuel your child’s brain with the right foods to support focus.
Sugar is the worst possible thing to feed the brain in the morning as it decreases focus abilities and emotional regulation. Stay away from added sugars or processed food in the morning.
Set your child up for success with fiber, fats and high-powered nutrients.
My list of best foods to improve kids’ behavior focuses on helping kids obtain magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B, iron, protein and omega-3s in the fastest and most efficient way possible. If your child has insufficient levels, it can greatly affect their mornings.
5. Basic examples of morning routines with kids.
I find that most kids do well with a 45 minute window of time to get through a morning routine.
Does it need to take that long? Absolutely not, but I find kids appreciate moving at a slower pace (to look at the random bug on the carpet) and despise rushing.
Give kids some extra padding and they will easily get through their routine by your deadline (boundary).
- 6:30 am alarm clock goes off
- 6:40 am child actually gets out of bed, starts following routine cards.
- 6:45 am child is distracted by toy or book.
- 6:50 am child gets dressed, brushes teeth and hair
- 7:00 am child is downstairs to grab hard boiled egg and whole-wheat bread with peanut butter for breakfast.
- 7:15 am child is ready to start the day or leave the house
This is a very approximate estimate of time for the child. And as the child practices the routine, these time touch points fall into place without reminders. The child naturally flows through the routine on time.
6. Avoid technology at all costs in the am.
Screen-time degrades a child’s ability to focus. This is especially true as kids will reenact what they see on a screen in real life.
These are called schemas – and it’s how kids make sense of what they see in the virtual world. They will act it out in real life to try and understand it.
Avoiding technology in the am sets kids up for success. Save it for the afternoon when chores and school work is complete.
7. Consider some form of vestibular or proprioceptive input before asking a child to sit still or focus.
In order for kids to learn to listen, focus and follow directions as they grow, they need to develop proprioception and vestibular sense by experiencing many physical activities during childhood.
Without it, kids can’t pay attention in school because they are too distracted by their own bodies. Putting clothes on, trying new foods, and finishing homework become insurmountable tasks when kids don’t have a strong vestibular sense or well-developed proprioception.
For a complete list of very quick and simple things you can do to get your kids this neurological / sensory input each morning, visit my post on why kids won’t listen.
Frequently Asked Questions On Morning Routines For Kids
The best way to prepare your kids for morning is with an early bedtime. Kids stay incredibly content on a 7 pm to 7 am sleep schedule. This is a ballpark and every child and family is different; however, when you keep the bedtime around 7-9 pm (as your child gets older, move bedtime closer to 9 pm) and the wake up between 6-8 am, kids truly thrive in the morning.
Any type of activity that involves some sort of proprioceptive or vestibular input will help your child enjoy a great morning! Things like setting the breakfast table, clearing the breakfast table, jumping on a small indoor trampoline, going up and down the stairs — all simple things, but help get your child’s neurological system aligned for the day. For a complete list visit https://themilitarywifeandmom.com/why-kids-wont-listen/.
Using a visual routine is the BEST way to help your child learn their daily routine AND be able to follow it independently. For a complete step-by-step guide on how to get a set of visual routine cards and help your child learn to use them, visit here: https://themilitarywifeandmom.com/printable-daily-schedule-for-kids/
The best daily routine is one that you and your child work to put together. Kids are far more willing to cooperate when they participate in creating the routine! Use a set of printable daily routine cards to help kids place them in your agreed upon order and then put them in a place the child can easily see each morning.
Print this free printable!
This post comes with a free printable to give you an easy step-by-step guide to raise independent kids. Plus, remember what independent skills are age-appropriate for your kids!
Here’s a sneak peek…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly parenting newsletter!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Use it as a quick reference to keep parenting simple!
Want More On Routines?
- How to Build Cooperation, Independence and Listening Using a Printable Schedule for Kids
- The Best Response When Kids Struggle to Stay Focused With School Work
- How to Help Kids Fall Asleep Fast During Bedtime Routines
- 5 Sample Daily Toddler Routines From Real Moms
- More 1 Year Old Sleep Schedules From Parents
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, rhythm or schedule, this email series will help you find one that will work for YOUR family. Yes, really. I've seen my sample routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
This free email series will help you:
- Free sample routines for your child
- Best morning routine tips and tricks your kids will actually follow
- All-time favorite parenting hacks for getting more cooperation at bedtime
- Step-by-step guide for using a printable daily schedule with kids
We use also pick out all of the weeks clothes on Sunday–It avoids a major de-railer in the AM process.
I love the daily routine cards and we will be implementing them ASAP!
I just bought a bundle of your routine and chore cards and am so excited about them, but I’m having a really hard time knowing the best way to physically organize/implement them. Do your children use them on a board like in the image attached above? Or on a ring? I’d love to have a method for my son to move the cards once he’s completed the task or something like that, but feel overwhelmed by the number of cards I feel like we could use throughout the day – IE: morning, after school, during quiet time, etc. Even with just choosing the ones I’d like to use it feels like so many cards and am not sure the simplest way to implement the ones we need. What do you suggest? Thank you for such an amazing resource!
We’ve actually used them in a variety of ways. It’s one nice thing about them being printable – you can print more copies when routines change or you want to try a different method (e.g. ring vs. board). Here are some ideas:
* Ring with the cards in order. Give your child the ring and have them tell you when they finished all the cards.
* Board – this is great for a routine that is done in a specific area. For example, a bedtime routine would go near the child’s bedroom or in the child’s room. A morning routine may be in the kitchen.
* Give your child a set of cards and have them place completed cards inside an envelope.
Which method works best depends on the child. Start with what feels easy to you and your child. You can start with a very short routine of 3-4 cards. Then layer in additional cards and your child shows you they are successful.