At a glance
Morning routines can feel extra hectic with kids who learn and think differently.
Planning ahead is key to helping mornings go more smoothly.
Look for small ways to make school morning routines more relaxing.
No one likes rushing around in the morning. And for families with kids who learn and think differently, the dash from morning wake-up to leaving for school can be extra stressful. Your child might have trouble following a schedule, finding things, or coping with a jarring alarm clock. Try these tips to streamline school morning routines.
1. Start the night before.
To jump-start the morning routine, plan ahead. Before bedtime, have your child get a bath or shower out of the way. Then, ask your child to pick out an outfit for the next day. Take a few minutes to go over the next day’s schedule together. Check that all books, homework, and changes of clothing are packed up and by the door.
After your child is in bed, give yourself time to make lunches and snacks. If you have breakfast as a family, set the breakfast table. Choose your own outfit for the next day, too, and pack what you’ll need for the next day.
2. Take a few minutes for yourself.
If you can wake up just a little earlier than your child, it can help you feel more relaxed about what’s ahead. Give yourself a few minutes to relax, eat breakfast, drink coffee, exercise, or do whatever helps you get in the zone for the day. A little bit of “me” time can make the hectic transition from home to work and school feel much calmer. And that might help your child with the transition, too.
3. Make wake-ups more relaxing.
How can you make early mornings less of a rude awakening? Loud alarms can be jarring and start the morning with an unneeded jolt (especially for kids with sensory challenges).
Set your child’s alarm to play a favorite song. Try waking your child up with lots of snuggles or a favorite breakfast snack. A more pleasant wake-up doesn’t mean it has to be longer — just
4. Follow a routine.
Make every day as predictable and routine as you can. Follow the same schedule before and after school. It can look something like this: Wake up, wash face, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, go over the day’s schedule, leave for school. You can even use a picture schedule to help the day roll out easier. (These can be extra helpful for kids who struggle with reading.)
5. Stay organized.
Designate spots for school supplies, sports gear, coats, and jackets. This way, your child always knows where to look for things when you’re halfway out the door. Plastic containers or labeled baskets can keep items within easy view, which makes looking for things in the morning simpler.
6. Stick with the clock.
Make sure there are clocks “in your face” around the house. Put them in your child’s room, the bathroom, the kitchen — even in the hallway. Older kids can also wear a watch. By making time more visible, you’ll help teach how to manage time — and show your child the importance of being on time.
Give manageable countdowns like: “At 7:25, I need you to put your coat on.” Or “At 7:30, it’s time to get your shoes on.”
7. Do a “double-check.”
Have your child check and re-check to make sure everything’s packed before leaving the house. This saves you from having to run to school later to drop off a forgotten folder or assignment.
Younger kids can come up with a silly phrase or song to help remember all the books and materials they need each morning. Older kids can make lists of all the items needed for each day of the week. Post it where your child will see it often and refer to it before leaving the house.
8. Reward your child.
This is a simple way to help your child get the most out of a smoother morning. For example, if your child gets ready for school and still has time to spare before it’s time to leave, play a quick game together or read a book. Starting the day with some cozy family bonding helps get everyone off to a solid start.
Does your child complain about not wanting to go to school? Here are ways to respond.
Prep food, outfits, and other items (your child’s and yours) the night before.
Try to give yourself a few minutes of “me” time in the morning.
Use checklists and picture schedules to help everyone stay on track.
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About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.