Mornings look different for all families. Some involve packing lunch and sending kids off to school on the bus, while for others, school time kicks off at the dining room table.
No matter your routine, there’s one thing that can help make mornings less hectic: Creating a home schedule alongside your kids’ school or learning schedule. No matter what learning looks like for your family, kids (and grownups, too) really need a predictable schedule supported by easy-to-learn routines. Schedules reduce anxiety and take the guesswork out of our day-to-day—which is super important at a time when none of us needs to worry more.
Thinking about time of day can help
For many kids, scheduling certain activities at specific times of day can make a big difference. That’s because we humans have our own internal timing mechanisms called circadian rhythms that repeat roughly every 24 hours. These dictate how we wake, sleep and shift energy and focus throughout the day. And, though rhythms can vary, for many little kids, mornings can be pretty marvelous.
What is marvelous about mornings?
Though really young brains are hard to study, parents and teachers often notice that young kids tend to be calmer, better able to focus, and less likely to frustrate in the morning. This is especially true after a good night of sleep and a solid breakfast. Here are a few, easy ways to make the most of mornings.
Not a morning person? Get a coffee and read on...you can incorporate many of these ideas into your end of day routine!
Capture early hours to connect.
Not all kids wake up sweet and snuggly, but many can enjoy special mornings. Although each of my kids need a slightly different approach, the morning is generally a super sweet chance to touch in with all three. The trick is to go to bed at a time that allows you to wake up slightly earlier and find a way to connect before the craziness of the day starts. Cozy up and read a book together, go on a short walk or just cuddle and listen to beautiful music. If you can, make sure you are able to make physical contact—since we’ve long seen how loving touch reduces children’s anxiety and deepens bonding. Think of it as putting some sweetness in the bank that you can both draw on as the day, and whatever challenges it brings, unfolds.
Not a morning person or just had one of those mornings? Focus on the day’s end. Brew some tea, put on PJs and snuggle it up with kiddos between dinner and bedtime—sustaining moments of connection can happen at any time of day!
Transition into the day with a morning meeting
A simple, fun ritual to signal that the day is starting can really help turn on kids’ bodies and brains for learning.
We call ours “morning meeting” and it happens as part of breakfast. It goes like this: We ding a glass. It takes a while for everyone to quiet down, but eventually, they get the signal. We name the date (reinforcing months, seasons, etc.), sing a song (selected by a different person each week), walk through the day’s schedule, then each share one personal goal or wish for the day. We started this ritual this summer, and it has made the day feel like it has a real start, even though none of us actually go anywhere.
If a whole meeting is too much for you to pull off each morning, try just making time to sing a song together. Singing together actually fires up our brain and gives us a feeling of amplified joy and bonding. Whether you are homeschooling, overseeing online learning or getting kids ready to head off to a school or care center, even a quick song together can elevate the quality of the day for everyone!
No time in the morning? Make time at dinner or before bed to reflect on what went well during the day and what you can look forward to and wish for tomorrow. Or just add in a sweet sing along before bed to punctuate the day with an extra bit of happiness.
Make the most of mid morning
Young kids generally rock learning activities in the morning, once they’ve woken up and digested a good breakfast. So, it is helpful to schedule cognitively challenging activities or lessons at that time. This is why many elementary schools teach reading and math early in the day. One district in Massachusetts actually saw tremendous positive impact overall when they rescheduled the start time of elementary school one hour earlier.
Morning is also an ideal time to schedule something physically demanding like a learning walk, field trip or hike. And, if you are taking a playful learning approach, morning is a great time for guided play, when kids have the stamina and active memory ready to take an idea and run with it.
Snack keeps morning working.
The stretch between breakfast and lunch can get long for kids, especially if you pack a lot of mental or physical activity into your morning. A healthy snack, especially those that deliver a little protein along with the carbs, can keep kids going strong until lunch. Try to schedule snacks at the same time every day to give kids a sense of control and to establish that snacks are available only at certain times. For example, serving snack around two hours after breakfast can help make sure kid can maintain both the energy and the mood they need to enjoy all that morning has to offer!
Let the rest of the day unfold.
There is a zero percent chance that every morning will work like clockwork—these are small humans we are raising, after all. But, there is something really nifty about focusing on the early hours—even if the rest of the day is out of your hands, or even if it all goes downhill, you’ve still made the most of your morning, and that can often feel good enough!
Photo: Tinkergarten Leader Erin Weeks