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School Health and Safety

How Morning Routines Set up Children for Early Success

As a parent, mornings are anything but easy and relaxed. You’re busy making sure your child is up, out of bed, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and out the door on time.

Establishing a morning routine can help not only ease this daily process, but also facilitate the development of executive function skills.

How to execute

Executive function skills help us organize information, manage time, act appropriately, and complete steps to reach a goal. These skills began to develop in your child’s early years and will be skills they use for the rest of their life. 

In particular, your child will develop: self-control, which will help them get started on time and stay on track; working memory, the ability to remember what is part of the routine and what steps need completing; and mental flexibility, the ability to adjust the routine if something unexpected comes up, like spilling juice on the shirt they planned to wear to school.

Raising the routine

Start by deciding on the tasks in the routine and talking them out. For example, you can say, “First, go to the bathroom, and then brush your teeth. Next, get dressed and eat breakfast. Last, grab your lunch and backpack, and out the door we go!”

For some children, you may need to give them fewer tasks at once. For example, you can say, “Go to the bathroom and brush your teeth.” Once they’ve done that, go to the next task: “Great job! Now get dressed and come down for breakfast.” This can help if your child struggles with working memory.

One step at a time

Furthermore, teach your child how to do each step in the routine. Kids need to see how to do the steps, not just be told. You can also incorporate step-by-step instructions and post them where they can be easily seen. Use a picture list if your child can’t read yet.

The number of steps in the task and your expectations for how much help your child will need should be age-appropriate. Slowly phase out cues as the steps become more routine and your child becomes more independent. 

Even though there’s no school on the weekends, try to keep the routine going on Saturdays, Sundays, and vacations, as consistency is key for development of executive function skills.

Remember that some children learn tasks more quickly or slowly than others. Don’t give up! Continue to guide your child until they are successful. If you have any concerns about your child’s abilities, don’t hesitate to bring it up with your healthcare provider. 

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