Morning routine for kids: tips for a better AM start

Little boy brushing his teeth with mother and daughter blurred in background

Mornings set the tone for the rest of the day.

Personally, a rushed start leaves me feeling scattered, drained, and regretful—especially if I’ve left things on a sour note with my husband and/or kids.

Whereas a morning that runs smoothly leaves me feeling optimistic and enthused about the day ahead.

The thing is, designing a good morning routine for kids takes work. And there’s no single perfect approach.

Family priorities and circumstances differ.

And what works for your family now will likely need future tweaking.

In this post, I’ll share my top morning routine tips. These are strategies that have withstood the test of time and made AMs for my family so much easier and more enjoyable.

Ready for the first morning routine tip?

Mother and daughter in the bathroom looking at reflection in mirror with text overlay stating "morning routine for kids: tips for a better AM start"

Ensure your family is getting enough sleep

Do your family members wake up tired?

It’s hard to start the day off well when we’re poorly rested. Sleep deprivation leaves us grumpy, mentally sluggish, and prone to conflict with others.

Not the best set-up for successful mornings.

Thus, it makes sense that a well-rested family is an important ingredient for a good AM start.

But how do we get better sleep for all?

Start by figuring out if family members are getting enough rest.

The ideal amount of daily shuteye varies by age. Kids between 6 and 13 years of age typically need 9-11 hours while adults benefit from 7-9 hours of daily sleep.

Well-rested family members should rise with relative ease. So, if your child requires a lot of prompting and prodding to get out of bed, she’s likely short on sleep. And the same goes for adults!

Young girl fast asleep on her bed as an essential part of the morning routine for kids
Photo by natalialebedinskaia

Action step:

A good morning routine for kids starts with well-rested family members.

To figure out appropriate bedtimes for your household, start with the intended wake-up time. Then count backwards by the hours of needed sleep.

For example, a 10-year-old who rises at 7 a.m. and needs 10 hours of shut-eye will ideally be asleep by 9 p.m. at night.

Consider holding a family meeting to discuss the importance of sleep and to assign new bedtimes, as needed, to ensure everyone stays well-rested.

Successful mornings start the night before

There’s a lot to accomplish in the morning. So much so, it’s helpful to move some of the prep work to evenings.

The extent of this shift and the type of tasks done at night versus the morning will vary amongst families.

If your household prefers earlier tuck-ins and lark-like morning starts, you may lean towards accomplishing more tasks in the morning.

But for night-owls, a later rise is a must. This makes it ideal to get prep work completed the evening before.

And regardless of your lark versus owl inclinations, many families prefer to keep mornings simple. This includes getting as organized as possible the previous night.

When designing a morning routine for kids, consider completing the following activities at night:

  • Pack school lunches
  • Choose outfits
  • Prepare breakfast
  • Take baths or showers
  • Ensure all needed items (e.g., homework, permission slips) are packed
  • Have school bags, briefcases, purses, etc. ready by the door or in the car

The tasks delegated to the morning versus evening will be a personal family decision. And experimentation is often required to find a good system for your unique household.

Schoolgirl packs school bag as part of a morning routine for kids
Photo by bondarillia

Action step:

Take some time to write down a list of tasks that make for successful mornings in your home. This may be a single generic list or multiple lists, personalized for each family member.

Then make note of current morning routine pain points. What consistently goes awry? Would shifting any morning tasks to the night or vice versa help improve this situation?

For example, I used to prepare school lunches in the morning. However, this system resulted in stressful, rushed mornings—and mostly for me, I might add.

We’ve since come up with a new approach—one that includes delegating lunch preparation to the day before. The kids are also more involved in the process. These two changes have made mornings more pleasant for the entire household.

Design a good morning routine

We all benefit from routines—kids and adults, alike.

Doing the same activities in the same order over and over again makes these steps automatic.

And that’s when the magic happens.

When mornings routines become second nature, we’re more likely to get through AMs in a timely manner.

And not only that.

We can look forward to morning routines for kids with less parental prompting, fewer meltdowns, and less stress.

Sounds pretty good, right?

While there are no strict rules when it comes designing a good morning routine for kids, a couple of hacks can help.

These useful strategies include:

  1. Keep morning routines unidirectional
  2. Limit potential distractions
  3. Ensure kids are aware of expectations

We’ll cover each of these strategies, in turn, below.

Blurred images of family members moving about inside of home illustrating that morning routine for kids can get hectic
Photo by monkeybusiness

1. Keep morning routines unidirectional

Lots of movement, whether that’s back and forth amongst rooms or up and down between floors introduces potential distractions.

Thus, it makes sense to keep the flow in one direction as much as possible. This includes completing tasks involving one room or a particular floor before kids move on to another.

For example, if bedrooms are on the top floor and the main living space on the ground level, have your kids take care of upstairs tasks (e.g., make beds, brush teeth, get dressed), first, and downstairs tasks (e.g., eat breakfast, pack bags), second.

If your kids prefer to dress and brush teeth after breakfast, consider having this task completed on the main floor. Stock a nearby bathroom with toothbrushes and toothpaste. Have day clothes ready the night before on the main floor or have kids bring outfits down with them in the morning.

At a minimum, it’s helpful to have room-specific tasks completed in one go.

For example:

  • Beds made and kids dressed before leaving the bedroom
  • Teeth brushed and all other personal hygiene tasks completed during a single bathroom visit
  • Breakfast eaten, dishes put away, and lunches packed before exiting the kitchen
Young girl having breakfast as part of morning routine for kids
Photo by olgar23

2. Limit potential distractions

Find a way to limit morning access to toys and tempting technology.

For young kids, this may include a designated box of easy to clean-up and minimally engrossing “morning toys.” The child’s other playthings can be tucked away, thereby, decrease morning distractions and battles.

Consider creating a household rule that play and tech time occur only after all mandatory morning tasks are completed.

Placing household (rather than child-only limits) on device usage will help everyone’s mornings go smoother. And setting common tech rules helps us (the parents) set a good example for our kids.

3. Ensure kids are aware of expectations

We can’t assume kids know what we expect of them.

Rather, when it comes to a good morning routine for kids, we need a system that clearly details:

  • What tasks need to be done
  • How to complete each step
  • Preferred order of tasks

A family meeting is a helpful tool to design and share these routine details with family members. It’s a planned family gathering where household members work together to discuss matters of mutual interest.

In addition to family meetings, children benefit from hands-on training. You can provide this coaching by walking kids through their morning routine and having young children role play the steps using stuffed animals or dolls.

Visual schedules—a series of pictures or other visual clues detailing the morning routine—may help. These visual prompts are particularly useful for young children and kids with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).

However, visual schedules still require upfront work. Kids need training to follow the visual aid and they may need ongoing reminders to consult the schedule.

Ultimately, the goal is for our kids to become familiar enough with routines—through clear instruction and practice—that they can complete steps independently.

How this feat is best accomplished will vary depending on your family needs and preferences. So, consider trying a variety of methods to find out what works best for your unique household.

Parents talking to their children while having breakfast in the kitchen
Photo by skynesher

Action step:

Now it’s time to apply the three strategies above to your family’s morning routine.

Do you think there’s room for improvement in terms of the morning flow, distractions, and clear expectations?

Consider doing an AM audit. We can learn a lot about what’s working (and not) simply by observing how mornings are currently running.

For identified AM routine pain points, what is the next step you can take to move this process forward?

Try hosting a family meeting to talk about what’s going well in the mornings and what aspects need improvement.

Add in extra time

Tasks, especially those involving kids, often take longer than we anticipate.

Like the trip for groceries that could get done in one hour flat—but easily morphs into a two hour saga when I have all three kids in tow.

And another factor that often leaves me feeling short on time?

My habit of chronically underestimating how long tasks take—largely because I tend to assume the best-case scenario.

But how frequently do mornings go as planned?

If your household is anything like mine—not that often.

Given the inevitabilities of family life—whether that’s sluggish kids (and parents), wardrobe malfunctions, spills, misplaced school items, and so forth—give yourself the benefit of some morning wiggle room.

How much time should you add?

Keep tabs on how many minutes your family typically runs behind schedule. Or, if you usually leave the house on time but stressed, guesstimate how much extra time you need to feel less rushed.

Even adding an extra 15 minutes is a good place to start.

Little boy cleans up water spill on floor
Photo by Maria_Sbytova

Action step:

How rushed are your mornings?

Do you think more time would help? And, if yes, how much? Figure this out by tracking your lateness factor or making your best estimate.

Once you have a sense of your time limitations, you’ll need to generate some spare minutes.

This is something you can accomplish in one of two main ways:

  • Earlier morning starts
  • Shifting some morning tasks to the evening

Take some time to consider which strategy is most realistic for your family. And enlist the help of household members to figure out a mutually beneficial new system.

Everything should have a designed home

Having good home organizational systems helps a lot!

This is true for morning routines as well as family life in general.

Several years back, we decluttered our home. This has made a huge difference when it comes to getting through our mornings—and entire day—efficiently.

The other step that has really helped mornings run smoothly is ensuring our belongings have a designed home and are easy for kids to access.  

For my family, these organizational strategies include a well-organized mudroom that also acts as a command centre for frequently used items (e.g., school bags, loose papers, shoes, jackets, hats).

Other organizational tips and their benefits include:

  • Paired down wardrobes – make it easier for family members to choose outfits
  • Good system for school lunch preparation – reduce the hassle of keeping kids fed during school hours
  • Well organized bathrooms – limit rummaging through drawers and closets trying to find personal care products
  • Fewer toys in high traffic morning areas – keep kids from becoming distracted from their AM tasks
Schoolbags hanging on hook against wall as part of morning routine for kids
Photo by Wavebreakmedia

Action step:

What organizational strategies might help your family’s mornings run smoother?

Would decluttering wardrobes, bathrooms, or toys help? 

What about ensuring home items have a designed spot, somewhere near their point of use, and easily accessible including for kids?

As is true for other steps in this post, there’s a lot we can learn from simply observing current patterns and identifying pain points—such as noticing that essential school items are hard to find within overstuffed closets.

And get your family’s help when it comes to designing better organizational strategies. Kids can have some pretty helpful insights when given the opportunity to contribute.

Find time to connect

It’s easy to find ourselves rushing through mornings with little uttered amongst family members other than mumbled “good mornings.”

However, finding time to connect in the AM is an important and helpful way to start the day.

And yes, I know this can be hard!

But spending quality time with family members, even if brief, is time well spent.


Because connecting with loved ones helps us feel more positive about the day ahead. It also encourages cooperation from our kids. And we need a lot of family teamwork to get successfully through morning routines!

If your family could do with a morning connection tune-up, consider starting small with simple acts such as a quick snuggle or brief chat about the day ahead.

Then build from there.

Evolving schedules and new developmental stages will require some tweaking along the way.

But regardless of where you start and the challenges you face along the way, working connection time into your family’s morning routine is well worth the effort.

Young mother kisses her daughter's forehead as a way of connecting
Photo by insidecreativehouse

Action step:

Do you find time to connect with family members in the morning?

Are there certain connection activities that fit well with your AM starts and that you and your children particularly enjoy?

And if you need extra time for connection, factor this into your mornings by getting up earlier or shifting some morning tasks to the evening.

Developing a good morning routine for kids is worth it!

If your mornings are rushed and stressful, there’s hope!

In this post, we’ve covered several strategies to create a good morning routine for kids.

These include:

  1. Ensure your family is getting enough sleep
  2. Successful mornings start the night before
  3. Design a good morning routine
  4. Add in extra time
  5. Everything should have a place
  6. Make time to connect

With a little extra effort, we can all find ways to make mornings run better—strategies that will work well for our unique families and current life circumstances.

Parenthood is a moving target with new challenges constantly cropping up—sometimes seemingly overnight!

So, rather than being set in stone, a good morning routine for kids will require tweaking over time.

But with a solid foundation in place, your family can look forward to more relaxed and pleasant mornings—now and in the years to come.

I’d love to hear from you!

How are AMs going for your family? Do any of the provided morning routine tips resonate?

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