11 ways to make child care mornings easier

Published on Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Last updated on Monday, 24 February 2020

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Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, it can be a challenge to get your little one up, dressed, fed and ready to embrace the day. 

Young children don’t understand time in the same way as adults, and as they dawdle through breakfast, get distracted from tooth-cleaning or simply refuse to get ready, stress levels can rise as the minutes zoom by. 

Fortunately, there are ways to establish a smooth morning routine and get to child care on time. Here are 11 top tips:  

1. Prepare as much as possible the night before

Instead of doing everything in the morning, think about what tasks can be moved from am to pm. Things like bathing and bag-packing are easily done in the evening, and it also helps to lay out your child’s clothes for the next day, pre-load their lunch box, plan a healthy breakfast and prepare for any special events (like dress-up days or morning teas) well before they happen. 

Fast track your own preparations, too. It’s a good idea to iron your work clothes at night, empty the dishwasher before bed and organise the house so everything is easy to find, your phone is charged and there are no surprises, come morning. 

2. Solve problems before they happen

If there’s something that slows down the morning routine or regularly causes meltdowns, then work through the problem with your child when you have time and patience to spare. 

For example, if your preschooler doesn’t like eating cereal for breakfast, you could agree on toast for tomorrow. And if they’re not keen on brushing their teeth, take them to the supermarket to choose a toothbrush they love.  

3. Wake up a little bit earlier

One of the most effective ways to streamline child care mornings is to get up 15 to 30 minutes before your child and completing certain tasks like, having your shower, getting dressed and preparing food, without distractions. Once your own preparations are under control, you can wake up your little snoozer and get them ready too. 

4. Help your child get up on the right side of the bed

Rather than barging into your little one’s room and wrenching them out of bed, start the day with a calm and positive approach. If they’re still asleep, you can ease open the curtains and stroke their head. A timepiece, like a Groclock, might also help your young child get up more easily.

If your child is very tired and/or cranky, then think about how much sleep they’re getting. Sleep is vital for your little one’s healthy growth and development, and different ages need different quantities of quality rest. You can read about recommended sleep requirements here

5. Stay positive

Mornings run a lot more smoothly if everyone is happy and inclined to work together, so take an optimistic approach and keep the mood light and cheerful, while explaining what’s expected of everyone. 

To do this, Raising Children suggests that you ‘give your child calm, clear instructions about what you want them to do, and follow up with specific praise as soon as they start to cooperate.’ 

They say that young children will need to be reminded ‘more often about what they’re meant to be doing and when,’ and as well as asking your child to do something verbally, you can remind them with a simple ‘to do’ checklist.   

If you do find yourself feeling rushed or frazzled, then take a deep breath and focus on staying calm. A Fine Parent suggests that you lower your voice to a whisper if you’re feeling frustrated. Also, try not to give any extra attention to your child if they’re playing up, as this only encourages the bad behaviour.  

6. Explain the morning routine visually 

To help your child understand what the routine is and tell them exactly what they need to do, you might like to make, buy or download a morning routine chart. 

There are charts for ages toddler and up, and children mark off their jobs as they do them – gaining independence and settling into a good routine as they go. Some charts introduce a reward system (e.g. your child might get a special weekend activity if they do all their weekday jobs well), while others involve children rating themselves. 

7. Play a game

The ‘Beat the Buzzer’ game is another way to get preschoolers into a good routine. If they get ready before the kitchen timer or alarm goes off, your child earns a small reward. This is a fun way to motivate them each morning and you can phase out rewards after a couple of weeks. 

8. Try out the ‘when… then’ approach

This involves your child doing the things they don’t like so much, before the thing they enjoy most. So, if your youngster loves eating breakfast, then you might say, ‘When you get dressed in your day clothes, then we’ll have breakfast.’

9. Limit digital distractions 

Because young children get distracted easily, screen time can slow down breakfast-eating and other morning jobs. Many families turn off the TV entirely, and if you do turn it on (perhaps as a reward for getting ready ahead of time), then make sure your youngster isn’t getting more screen than is recommended. The Department of Health advises no screen time under the age of two and less than one hour a day for ages two to five. 

10. Set realistic travel times

Travelling to child care and doing drop-off takes time too, so whether you’re walking, driving or using public transport, make sure you factor in enough time to get there, settle your child in and say hello to their educators. 

You might need to think about the walking speed of little legs, allow for heavy traffic or plan for late trains, so there’s wriggle room in the morning routine.   

11. And last up, look for ways to share the load 

If your partner is around in the mornings, then talk to them about sharing different tasks. Perhaps your partner could do drop-offs a couple of mornings a week, or make breakfast for everyone while you get your child dressed for day care? 

There are lots of ways to make mornings that bit easier. Children thrive on routine and can take on more responsibilities as they get older, so focus on forward-planning, positivity and teamwork as your family better manages its mornings. Good luck! 


Raising Children Australia
A Fine Parent

Further reading

Establishing a great night routine for your family

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