It’s no secret that small children thrive on routine. It makes them feel assured that they know what to do and what to expect on most days. It also helps them establish good habits.
That’s great; you’re probably thinking as your toddler runs down the hallway naked, scribbling all over himself with markers that you hope are the washable ones. You’re already late to get out the door, and you begin to wonder if you will ever get anywhere on time ever again.
That’s why a morning routine for kids is so important. Forming a toddler daily schedule makes your little kid feel like a big one, and at this age, it’s crucial to capitalize on that desire for independence.
Your preschool morning routine can remove some of the chaos out of mom life too. By working in morning activities for toddlers while you get ready, you’ll find ways to stay organized too.
As my youngest gets ready to turn 7, I think back on those hectic toddler and preschool days behind me. I can tell you with certainty that a morning routine with a toddler makes all the difference in lessening the chaos.
When we lived in China, my eldest took a bus to school. I had to get her ready and out the door on time. The first day was absolute mayhem. So, I devised a toddler daily routine chart that she could follow. Adding a morning checklist for your child is a smart way to go though I printed out little clipart pictures of the tasks since she couldn’t read at toddler age.
The same can work for preschoolers too.
In fact, once we were in America again, I had to take my eldest to preschool. And take my youngest, who was just a wee baby at the time. I had to feed them both, dress the little one, make sure my big one dressed properly, including hygienic practices like brushing teeth and get them out the door.
Before we got things into a solid routine, I remember that my eldest had thrown a fit about something (a hairstyle perhaps?), and we were running tight on time.
“Go! Go! Go!” I cheered as I held the door open for my little chickadees, shuttling them out to the car. My eldest walked all the way to the car without shoes. “You told me to go, go, go!” she said when I discovered she had no shoes on.
And thus, now I’m going to help you with that morning routine with some tips I’ve garnered over the years as well as give you an idea of what to put on your toddler daily routine chart too.
Benefits of morning routines for toddlers and preschoolers
Sure, I mean, you could just wing it if you’re a glutton for punishment. But I’m guessing you’d like some semblance of normalcy back in your life now that your child is bigger. The sooner you start, the less frazzled you’ll be. Notice I said “less” and not “no more feeling frazzled.” That’s because there will inevitably be random days where things go haywire, but having a routine your child can follow will certainly help.
Kids gain more confidence and independence
When your child can do the things you list on your toddler’s daily schedule with no help from you, even if they can only do one of those things without your help, they gain confidence. One small success leads to many more, so as they dress and go through the routine, they gain independence. And that means more time for yourself!
As your toddler moves into the preschool years, they will be less prone to meltdowns. But when you set schedules and routines for them with a morning checklist for your child, they know what’s expected and have less to flip out over.
You benefit too
How does having a morning routine for kids help? Once they get into it, you can leave them to it. When my eldest was in preschool, I would often set up something to occupy her after getting ready while I took care of her little sister. I’d also get up earlier than both kids and do things for myself. This way, I could meet my needs while still being available when they needed me.
And I’ll tell you what, enjoying coffee while it’s still hot amid the peaceful hush of our home was pure bliss, even if it was too early in the morning. You can get a lot done with that too. My friend Carmela is a graphic designer who would regularly get up at 5 am while her kids slept until 7 am. She told me the amount of work she’d get done was amazing, and that gave her more time to be with her kids and do the things she needed. Brilliant!
How do I get my toddler ready for morning?
I know back to school is a few months off, but learning these tips for creating a routine for your child now will keep things running smoothly during that rush.
That’s why my ultimate tip to you on morning routines for kids is this: start at night.
Here’s what you should do at night with your kids to get them ready:
- Set out clothes for the next day
- Pack up school bags
- Get lunch ready
At night, as part of your bedtime routine, start including the task of setting clothes out for the next day. If there is a dress code, make sure your child follows it. Otherwise, let them pick out what they like. Be there with them the first week of incorporating this. Then after that, inspect their choice to ensure it’s appropriate.
My girls had the habit of picking things they outgrew. Prepare for that meltdown by suggesting something you know they like to wear. Cute hair accessories were always my way of distracting them too.
I should also add that having shoes easy to grab in the morning helps too. We have a shoe rack near our entry, making it very easy for our kids to get their shoes. Now, of course, they are more than capable of this task, but when they were small, they learned how to find their shoes on there and put them on.
When you send your toddler or preschooler to school, packing the bag they take the night before helps. Make sure everything is organized with your child in this bag. You’ll want to help them here, and you’ll also want to make sure they don’t bring anything inappropriate.
Relevant: No more tearful goodbyes while dropping off your toddler at school!
I recommend stowing a plastic zipper bag with a full change of clothes for preschool-age and toddler children. At the preschool both my daughters attended, they asked us to send that in at the beginning of the year and they kept it in their cubby. If they had to change for any reason (bathroom accident, spills, or getting caught in the rain on the playground), they had clean and dry clothes to wear.
If your child’s school doesn’t do that, you can keep those clothes in your child’s bag. Make sure they’re labeled!
And as we’re still in COVID times a bit, it can’t hurt to stick a few extra masks in there just in case.
At night, making your child’s lunch is a good idea too. You can box it up and put it in the fridge, so it’s ready to grab and toss into their school bag in the morning. I found this exceedingly helpful as my mornings were already insane enough with getting ready and making breakfast for everyone.
Oh, and one more thing…
Please make sure everyone gets to sleep on time. Your nighttime routine is important too. Adding these few extra steps in, especially now before the school year begins, can really go a long way to cementing them in the routine. Then it’s off to dreamland for a super morning ahead!
How can I make my morning routine more manageable with my child?
The easiest way is to create a morning checklist for your child. I’ll get to that in just a minute, but first, let’s talk about YOU!
Get up before your kids do
I know I said this before, but it is essential for creating a morning routine for toddlers and preschoolers. Yes, even if you organize things at night too.
You don’t have to be like my friend Carmela and get up THAT early, but heading your kids off at the pass by getting up 15 minutes or so earlier will mean a smoother morning.
This is important:
Get yourself up, showered, dressed, and ready to go before your kids get up. Having that time to yourself when no one is bothering you about anything will make you feel good, too, even if it is a bit earlier than you’d like. Plus, you’ll have more time later on because you already knocked these tasks off your to-do list, so there!
Once showered and ready, I get up and do a few yoga poses to start my day. It’s a habit I still keep. You don’t have to do yoga if you don’t want to. You can meditate, listen to music, read, or do anything that makes you feel good.
Infuse them with love
My daughters would drive me batty in the morning until I found out the WHY behind it. They just wanted my attention and love. Ever notice that when you’re busy, your kids want you all the more?
My favorite trick is to head things off at the pass. My work can wait 10 minutes and so can yours. Before kids get all squirmy and attention-seeking, give them that attention. Getting up a little earlier means you’re ready, and you have time to give them a good 5-minutes of snuggling together. That’s what we did, especially with my youngest, who just loves to cuddle and hug.
You can have them stretch with you or play a quick and simple game together at the breakfast table. Whatever you do, give them attention at this point. When they feel nourished by your love, they’ll be on the ball about getting out the door on time.
Create a morning checklist for your child
And now the fun begins! Of course, as I mentioned, most little ones can’t read. So a chart with just words is going to be hard for them to work with.
A better idea is to make a morning routine chart that includes photos or images depicting what it says. You can buy one, or you can make your own.
I like the idea of making one because you can customize it to your family’s needs.
So, what should you put on your list of morning activities for toddlers? These suggestions should help. Pick and choose the ones that work for you:
- Use the bathroom
- Eat breakfast
- Clean up after yourself
- Get dressed
- Brush teeth
- Brush hair
- Put on shoes
- Grab backpack
Keep things simple and efficient. In time, you can add more items to your checklist. Your children may even have their suggestions for what should go on there.
My eldest made a post-it for herself that she keeps on the bathroom mirror. She also packs her school bag up the night before, ensuring her homework is in it and anything else she needs.
By forming these habits in the early toddler and preschool years, when your child finally goes off to elementary school, you’ll see how much difference it makes when they know how to organize and prepare for the day ahead.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.