By Raising Children Network
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School kids having breakfast with mum

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • The first few hours of the day are the best learning time for children.
  • Mornings are easier when children get enough good-quality sleep. At this age, children need 10-12 hours sleep each night.
  • Putting your child to bed at the same time every night can help your child to get enough sleep.
How things go at home in the morning can set the tone for the day ahead. A predictable and positive morning routine for school can help children arrive at school feeling calm, fed and ready to make the most of the first few hours of the day.

Morning routine for school: the whys and hows

Children don’t understand time in the same way as grown-ups. This can make school mornings a stressful time of day for families.

But staying calm and getting along in the morning will help you all feel positive about the day ahead. For example, fighting with children in the morning makes it harder for you to work well. It even increases the risk of you having an accident at work.

The most useful way to reduce morning chaos is to set up a morning routine for school. Sticking to a morning routine for school helps your children predict what’s coming, and remember what they need to do.

Here are some ideas to take some of the pressure out of school mornings – even if things don’t always go smoothly!

Planning ahead for school mornings: the night before

The first step in your morning routine for school is to think about what you need to do and work out a plan for doing it. You’ll probably find that you and your child can do many things the night before.

Here are some ideas:

  • Try to find out the night before (or even earlier) if there is something special going on at school the next day.
  • Organise lunches and set the breakfast table ready for the morning rush. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, and helps your child to concentrate better at school.
  • Get your child to have a bath or shower the night before. This means you won’t have to worry about this in the morning.
  • You might know something is going to come up that could cause conflict, like your child not wanting to eat breakfast, or wanting to wear sneakers rather than school shoes. Talk about it the night before when everybody has time and you’re all less likely to be stressed.
  • Think about having a weekly schedule or calendar with reminders of what your child needs to take to school each day – for example, library books, sports clothes, show and tell, and so on.
  • Think about getting ready for your day the night before as well, to help ease time pressure in the morning.
Try to read school newsletters and check bags for notes the night before. You could also try to prepare clothes, sign school notes, and get school bags ready the night before.

Your morning routine for school: tips

Rushing can really increase everyone’s stress levels, so it helps to give yourself a bit more time in the morning. One of the best ways to do this is to get up 15-30 minutes earlier.

Here are more tips to take the stress out of mornings:

  • Think about an alarm clock for children who find it hard to wake up or don’t like getting out of bed. 
  • Tackle the morning as positively and as optimistically as you can. Good moods can be infectious. One way to do this is by focusing on the positive aspects of your children’s behaviour and praising them – for example, ‘Great to see you eating some toast’. 
  • Give your children calm, clear instructions about what you want them to do, and follow up with specific praise as soon as they start to cooperate. You might need to remind younger children more often about what they’re meant to be doing and when. Simple ‘to do’ checklists, even with pictures, can help.
  • As your children get older and more capable, encourage them to do more for themselves – for example, an eight-year-old can get dressed on his own, make his own breakfast, and tidy up after himself. A five-year-old can do things like putting his lunch box in his bag.
  • Cut down on distractions like television, tablets and other devices. Many families have a rule about no screen time in the morning. Think about leaving screens off, unless screen time is a special treat for being ready on time. 
  • Try not to give your children extra attention for arguing, whining or stalling. Even negative attention is an incentive for them to keep going with this behaviour.
  • Make it fun – for example, try our ‘Beat the buzzer’ game to encourage your child to be ready on time.
Sometimes children drag out the time in the morning as a way to avoid school. If you think this might be happening with your child, it’s a good idea to check in with your child’s teacher to make sure there aren’t any problems that are causing school refusal.
  • Last updated or reviewed 17-09-2016