We hate to burst your summer bubble, but it’s not long now until the school bell rings again. Whether you – or your kids – are happy about this or not, the morning routine takes some settling into for everyone. Inspired by the Montessori approach, we’ve got some ideas for making your mornings less rushed and stressful.
Most parents feel it’s something of a military operation to get everyone up and ready in the morning, but you’ll get better results by helping your kids stay motivated and calm. Music engages the brain – make a playlist of everyone’s favourite songs and play it loudly while you’re all going through your daily rituals.
It’s also important to make sure your child has enough time to get ready. It’s no good telling them they have half an hour if they need at least 45 minutes. Make sure you have a few trial runs before school starts to work out how long they need.
2Talk about it
Children cope better when they know what’s expected of them. Find a time when you’re both relaxed – during a car journey, for example, or go out for a weekend milkshake – and discuss what your child needs to do each morning before they go to school.
Go through each step, from getting out of bed to putting on their shoes before they leave the house. If they understand exactly what has to happen each day, it will help them manage their time and develop a smooth routine.
3Spell it out
Once you’ve talked about what the morning routine involves, make a chart that lists everything they need to do. What form it takes will depend on the age of your child – use pictures for younger ones rather than a written list. Make it bright and colourful, and include every task as it needs doing. If you have more than one child, make individual charts to suit each. For example, one might prefer to do things in a specific order, or another might enjoy physically ticking off each task as they complete it. As well as keeping them on track, it avoids the feeling that you’re telling them what to do. They’ll also get a feeling of satisfaction when everything has been achieved.
4Be strict about clothes
Most schools have uniforms but sometimes these are optional, especially for the younger years. If your child is allowed to wear what they like to school, avoid throwing open their wardrobe each morning and letting them pick an outfit. It will take forever, trust us.
Instead, each evening, lay out two options – okay, make it three if you must – in a designated spot. Tell your child that, the next morning, they can choose only from those. Even if your child wears a uniform, variables such as socks and underwear should be laid out the night before. That way, you avoid wasting half an hour while Beth dithers over whether to wear her My Little Pony or Dora the Explorer vest.
5Pack it up
If your child takes a packed lunch or snack to school, there’s no reason why they can’t get this ready themselves. Ideally, this should be done the night before, making one less job to fit into the morning routine. Some schools have strict rules about what can be included and what can’t – for example, they might forbid chocolate bars at playtimes. It’s a good idea to have your own rules, too, such as including at least one portion of fruit. To give them a sense of control, discuss with your child each week what they’d like and let them make a shopping list for you.
6Let things go wrong
Children need to learn that their actions and choices have consequences – constantly shielding them does no good in the long term. So, if your child likes porridge for breakfast but has spent too long getting out of bed, don’t make it for them anyway and then rush them along so you leave the house on time. Instead, pass them a couple of cereal bars and a carton of juice, and tell them they’ll have to eat on the go. If a young child refuses to get dressed, take them to school in their pyjamas with their daytime clothes in a bag. We bet they’ll only do it once.
7Find five minutes
Children need our attention. Sometimes, they ask for help when they don’t need it just because they want to spend time with us. It’s part of the ongoing bonding process. Difficult as it might seem, build in a few minutes each morning to be with your child. It might mean sitting in the bathroom with them on your lap while they brush their teeth, or you might have time to read a story – it depends on your own circumstances. But there’s no doubt this will help your child start the day calm and happy – and they’re far more likely to get on with the rest of the morning routine if they know your attention is part of it.