As we enter again into the rhythm and routine of autumn, let’s visit the ever popular topic of the morning routine. What this is depends very much on the age of the child. All ages of children leading up to school age in general find security in a routine and don’t do well with surprises or sudden changes taking them out of their normal rhythm. Your preference may be to make a chart or a list or use a big calendar. There are many ways to communicate with your pre-reading child what will be done today. Regardless of your preferred manner, here are some principles to keep in mind:
KEEPING IT SIMPLE KEEPS IT CALM When preparing a routine for your little one, simplicity is helpful. It’s tempting to get swept up in the whirlwind of organized scheduling. Before you know it the day is packed out with wonderful activities to tick off. This can quickly become overwhelming to a small person. It can easily result in “acting out” (what we fondly call a tantrum).
REVIEW THE NIGHT BEFORE These little ones don’t have long memories. So take them through their routine verbally the night before and again when they’re ready to start their day the next morning.
GIVE SIMPLE CHOICES Children can be given choices within the structure of the routine. The number of choices a child is given should be guided by the age of the child. There is a general rule of thumb:
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE Evening has come. The morning routine is being reviewed. When it comes to picking out clothes for the next morning, the two-year-old is given the choice between the red shirt or the green shirt. (An either/or choice.) The three-year-old is told that a trip to the park is planned for tomorrow and two or three play shirts are set out to choose from. (A simple reason for the choice.) The four-year-old is told what the weather will be tomorrow and then engaged in a funny conversational game about wearing snow pants to the park on a summer’s day. This gets to the question, “What would be the appropriate clothes to wear?” (Choices based on circumstances.) Changes can be made as the child’s capabilities grow. But always keep in mind that too many choices will probably result in melt down.
GOOD TIMES The morning routine was created to work for you and your family. Do what fits your personalities and energy levels. Some children are so laid back that they won’t really want to make too many choices for themselves. These children may need some prompting to help make choices that they wouldn’t be inclined to make for themselves. On the other hand, there are children who enjoy going it alone, making as many decisions as they are given. (And sometimes more than they’re given!) These children can be guided to make wise choices with some training. Don’t be distressed if your child is at one end of this spectrum or the other. Enjoy their personalities. Stretch their gifts. Challenge them in ways that will grow them through a good morning routine!