3 Morning Routine Tips

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Getting out the door on time with kids each morning can be tough! Along our parenting journey, we have found three things that have been game changers in getting us out the door on time without nagging. These things might sound super simple, but I encourage you to give them a try if you’re having a hard time getting out the door on time each day. Here are my three tips for a morning routine to be on time with kids!

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1. Visual Prompts (Lights on Timers)

The first tip I have is to have visual (or even audible) prompts for moving through the morning. Basically, we have lights on timers that turn on/off at set times. It sounds so simple, but it’s MAGIC. This has eliminated the need for my husband or me to remind our daughter to do what she needs to do. We use these in the evening as well, and it has been AMAZING! I think they work because it’s not mom/dad telling her what to do, so it removes the negotiation and nagging potential. It just IS WHAT IT IS.

Here’s how we use them (I’ll explain how we set them up next):

At 6:30 am, the sound machine turns OFF and a small rainbow light in her room turns ON. This helps her to wake up and is a signal to start her day. As a bonus, it also helps her to understand the difference between 6:30 am and 4:30 am, because it’s not “morning time” until her light is on. She needs to get herself ready for school (get dressed, brush hair, etc.) before her light turns OFF at 7:00 am in order to have time to watch a show. If she’s not ready by the time her light turns off (at 7:00 am), then there isn’t enough time for her to watch a show. She has motivation to do what she needs to do, so she does it on her own. She watches a show and we all eat breakfast.

At 7:45 am, the living room light turns ON. This is our prompt to start heading out the door. We need to be out the door by the time the living room light turns OFF at 8:00 am. If we don’t leave by then, then we’re going to be late (there’s a grace period built-in there, but we aim to leave by 8:00 am). Nobody needs to say “it’s time to leave!” because we all just know that light turning on = time to leave. If we say anything, it’s “the light turned on!” because then it just feels more like something we’re observing instead of something we’re initiating.

How To Set It Up

This is all pretty easy to set up… All you need are smart plugs!

First, map out your routine. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • What would be helpful prompts for your family? Maybe it would be good for a song to play each day when it’s time to leave. Or maybe lights would be best.
  • Should you get plugs or bulbs? How many of each? We have one plug for her light, one for her sound machine and one for the living room light (total of three plugs).
  • What would the routine be? Is it the same everyday or does it need to be different for different days? How much time does your family need to complete their responsibilities?

Next, get yourself some plugs (or bulbs). We have an Alexa and use iPhones, and these are the smart plugs we use. You don’t need an Alexa/Google Home/etc. to set this up, but if you have one then it’s good to get a plug that is compatible with your device. You can also use smart bulbs, if you’d like to have the option for the light to change colors or dim.

Once you have the smart plug or outlet, just follow the instructions that came with the device to set them up. Then, set up your routine. For Alexa, you can say “Alexa, set up a new routine” and it will walk you through how to set it up through the device. You can also set it up in the app. Adjust the routine as you see fit!

2. Snuggle Time

I love Dr. Laura Markham and, especially, her amazing newsletter Aha! Parenting. When a parent asked her recently about a morning routine to be on time with kids, I was super interested in her response. I didn’t know it, but my husband and I had stumbled into her biggest tip for getting kids out the door on time: building connection with your child. Each morning, after our daughter wakes up, she calls out for her papa and he goes and snuggles with her for a few minutes.

It started because she’d wake up and hear him in the living room doing his morning routine, so she’d call “papa!” to let him know she’s awake. He goes in for snuggles, tell her about what’s coming up for the day and just generally fill her cup. He’s said it’s his favorite time of the day 🙂 Sometimes I’ll go in there for snuggle time, depending on what we have going on. It’s such a beautiful time with her! It takes only a few minutes and I believe it absolutely helps with our morning. Dr. Markham says “you re-connect after the separation of the night, which gives your child the motivation to cooperate instead of fight with you. This is the best way to prevent morning whining and resistance.

If you want to switch up your morning routine to be on time with kids, I definitely suggest you give this try! I know it might seem impossible, especially with more than one kid, but it might totally transform your mornings.

3. Checklist by the Door

This, again, sounds so simple… but, I promise you it’s a game-changer. We have different things to remember on different days: library book on Tuesdays, swim stuff on Thursdays, and homework on Fridays. The time to think of all this stuff isn’t as we’re walking out the door. So, we created this checklist that we keep by the door. When the living room light turns on, we make our way to the front door and run through the checklist. It’s our daughter’s responsibility to make sure she has everything, but having the list makes it easier on all of us.

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