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Starting a School Morning Routine

Getting your preschooler (and your family) off to a good start every day

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A morning routine sets the tone for the whole day.

A morning routine sets the tone for the whole day.

Jamie Grill
Whether you are a "get-up-and-go" type of person in the morning or someone who likes to hit the snooze button (maybe even more than once), at some point, you are going to have to get out of bed and start the day. And if you are the parent to a preschooler, you also need to get your little one out the door too. (Not to mention a spouse or partner and any other kids at home.) For preschoolers, whether it is one who is beginning school for the first time or going back to school after a long holiday or break, a school morning routine is a must-have.

Not only does it help keep your family on track, it gives your little one some consistency -- something young children thrive on. That's not to say their can't be changes -- vacations or weekends for example -- but having a set of things that are always done before you get going for the rest of your day gives them some stability and evenness that they can count on (and like a bedtime routine lets them know what they can expect next and puts them in the right frame of mind.

Encompassing a morning routine is actually pretty easy to do. While starting at the beginning of the school or calendar year usually makes the most sense, you certainly can start one at any time. Before you start, call a family meeting or talk to everyone at a good time (at the dinner table perhaps) and talk about what your plan is and what you hope to accomplish. Explain the schedule, get input from your fellow family members and take it from there. Here's how to get started:

Start the night before. The best school morning routines actually start hours before the sun even rises. If your child has trouble getting out the door, or making decisions, do what you can ahead of time. Tasks include lying out your child's clothes, making lunch, and packing the backpack (folder, snack, change of clothes, library books etc.). Check your family's calendar -- is there anything special you need to bring in for a holiday celebration or birthday party?

The good thing about starting early is that you have more time, and you can let your preschooler have a say in what she's wearing or what she'd like to eat. It's sometimes overwhelming for little ones to make decisions, so only offer two or three things to choose from, making sure that all of the options are acceptable to you. As part of your nighttime planning, remember, it's also important that your child get enough sleep the night before.

Give yourself enough time. A morning routine is supposed to ease stress, let everyone know what they are supposed to do, and give them the time to do it. So make sure that the alarm clocks are not only set, but that you have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. And be sure to allow for the personality of your child -- if he's a dawdler who likes to watch television or spend a half hour poking at his scrambled eggs, allow for that. It will make everyone happier in the long run.

Allow for some leeway. Even with your advance prep, definitely leave some room for some game-day decisions. From breakfast to hairstyles, definitely don't have everything written in stone. Moods change and a morning routine should be accommodating of that. One tip though -- be sure to stick with whatever you decided on the night before. By allowing a change of outfit for example, and your child has trouble making decisions, it could throw off the morning. Plan to be spontaneous by knowing ahead of time what you will deciding on in the morning.

Remember you need to get ready too! When charting out your morning routine, don't forget to factor in yourself and all you need to do. Waking up before your preschooler will allow you to get your own tasks done and then focus on making sure your little one has a great day.

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