Having a simple and peaceful morning routine with your kids during the school year can make a huge difference in your family's days, moods, and even school/work performance. If the kids feel rushed and scattered before they leave the house, they carry that with them all day long. Likewise, if I start the day off frustrated, snapping at the kids and hurrying everyone out the door, I feel guilty about it once they're gone.
Since school started last month, we've come up with a few simple ways to ensure that our mornings run smoothly and peacefully. I am finding that when we start the day off right and enjoy relaxed, quality time with each before the work and school day begins, the entire day feels better.
These 5 Tips for Better Mornings With Kids have transformed our weekday mornings into happy, productive mornings and the kids head out the door to school knowing that they are loved. Try some or all of these tips for better mornings so that you and your family can feel more ready to cheerfully face the day!
Make a Self Directed Morning Checklist
One of my favorite ideas from Bruce Feiler's fantastic book, The Secrets of Happy Families, was the suggestion to use a Self Directed Morning Checklist. The idea is that even when the kids are still a little groggy first thing in the morning, they can refer back to the list to keep them on track. Feiler says,
With the logistics taken care of, Eleanor could concentrate on the softer side of mothering - asking about an upcoming test, smoothing over an anxiety, spreading a little love on their day. It was one of the most astonishing family dynamics I had ever seen.
And as much as I love a good checklist to keep me on track, my kids also get a lot of satisfaction out of working their way down a list. Instead of me having to keep asking and directing kids to put on shoes and pack bags, all I say now is "Check the List." It puts the responsibility on them to get everything done and they do it without me shouting out orders in the background.
Don't think you're kids could do this on their own without a lot of monitoring? That's what the parents in the book thought too, but they were wrong. It took a couple weeks for everyone to get used to checking the list, but then it became a solid and effective morning habit for the whole family.
Everybody's morning checklist will look different to include the most important elements of your morning. If your morning looks a lot like ours, you can download our list here. (I printed it at Costco as a 20 x 30 poster print and then mounted it on a piece of foam core with spray glue.) I hung ours on the wall just outside the kids' bedroom so they see it when the first wake up.
Go to Bed Earlier and Wake Up Earlier
This one might be obvious, but it wasn't for us. We kept running around like crazy chickens every morning, putting on shoes and eating breakfast in the car on the way to school, until I realized that if we got up just 30 minutes earlier, we could cut out almost half of the chaos and bedlam on the weekdays. Once the kids realized how much nicer it was to sit down to eat breakfast together and not feel so harried as they packed their bags, they were on board with going to bed a little bit earlier too.
After a week of getting up just 30 minutes earlier, we decided to see if we could make our mornings even better. We changed bed time to 8:15 PM and wake up time to 6:15 AM, which gave the kids an extra hour each morning. I always used to say I wasn't much of a morning person, but now that I've finally disciplined myself to get up earlier, I enjoy the mornings and all that can be accomplished. And with 2 hours before the kids leave for school, we have time to pray together, eat together, fit in violin practice and often a little bit of reading time too.
Have a hard time getting up in the morning? Try these 7 Tips from Gretchen Rubin for Getting to Bed Earlier - they really helped me!
Make a Morning Music Playlist
Music can do so much to set a good tone in the morning. We actually have a few different morning playlists depending on how the morning is going. If everyone is feeling sleepy and sluggish, we turn to bright, energizing music (like this classic and this kid favorite). Likewise, if there's tension and maybe arguing in the morning, I turn on some calm, peaceful tunes to help everyone mellow out (Some Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach Cello Suites will normally do the trick).
There's almost nothing I love more than when everyone is in the kitchen, packing lunches and preparing breakfast and a favorite song comes on - instant family dance party! When you start the day off with some good tunes and maybe even a few spontaneous dance moves, it bodes well for the rest of the day.
Make a No Tech Rule
At our house, this rule is entirely for me, not the kids. We don't have a tv, so it doesn't get turned on in the morning, and it's been pretty well established here that the kids don't use the computer for games before school. That being said, I used to get up and check email first thing in the morning and that's a slippery slope because then I'm checking in on websites, browsing instagram, and telling myself I'll just post this on twitter really quickly . . . and then I've frittered away half the morning and have to rush to make up the time I've lost.
So, no tech in the morning. I know some people who like to get up before the kids and get a jump on work and email, which seems like it would work as long as it was all put aside once the kids were up. I know for me, a much better way to start the morning is with a cup of tea, not the world wide web.
Find a Way to Connect
Making sure you take at least a few minutes to connect with your kids in the morning will go a long way towards making them feel great about the day ahead and making you feel great about yourself. I know I feel like a much better mom when I take the time to connect in the morning and I feel so much better about sending them off for the day knowing that I've "spread a little love on their day."
Connecting will look different for every family. It could be as simple as conversation over breakfast about what they're looking forward to and what might be worrying them. It may be taking the time to snuggle in bed for a few minutes before you start the day, or even playing a round of UNO together before everyone goes their own directions.
For my family, we set aside time to pray together, which sets a more peaceful tone for our day. We also try to set aside time to read together - sometimes over breakfast, sometimes curled up on the couch together while we wait for the morning carpool. Right now, we're reading Where the Red Fern Grows and the kids get so excited when I say we have time for a few more pages. This is the way I want to remember our mornings - spent laughing, dancing, and reading good books together.
What are your best tips for better mornings with kids? I'd love to hear them!