Get Ready, Get Set, Go! Starting the Day on the Right Foot
by Nikki Rosen-Lieberman, MS., OTR The Abilities Center, West Bloomﬁeld, MI
To ensure that your child gets off to a good start in the ﬁrst days back at school, now is a great time to set up some new strategies. The rhythm of a child‘s day starts at home, so take a close look at how your child‘s day and your family‘s day begin. These ideas may be helpful.
1) Know your child.
Analyzing your child‘s personality will help you develop a successful morning routine. Does your child have a hard time getting up in the morning? A few minutes for a short back rub, snuggle time, or maybe a song will payoff in the long run. This bit of attention may help the child be more alert and ready to handle morning tasks such as getting dressed and brushing teeth.
Or perhaps your child is up and running, raring to go. This one may need check lists, with pictures or words, to keep her on task or to lend a gentle reminder.
Whether your child is sleepy or perky, use timers or alarm clocks in the bathroom or bedroom to remind the child when he or she should be dressed or in the kitchen for breakfast. Routine is the key!
2) Start the night before.
Because the morning is usually the most hectic part of the child‘s day, begin preparations the night before. Start with a regular bedtime and follow a sequence of set events every evening, such as bathing, brushing teeth and listening to stories. Together, set out clothes and prepare the backpack for the next day. The regularity of these organizing tasks teaches self-help skills and helps your child know what to expect tomorrow.
3) Keep a kid‘s calendar.
Mom and Dad have a calendar; why not the kids, too? Note each day‘s activities on the calendar using pictures, stickers, words or symbols your child can identify. If gym is on Tuesday, your child will know to lay out appropriate clothes and to pack gym shoes. If soccer is after school on Wednesdays, your child will know to get the cleats ready.
A calendar helps your child take responsibility. Also, as a tangible tool that teaches about the abstract concept of time, a calendar helps the child organize his days within the rhythm of the week. Helping a child focus on "what happens next" is a good strategy, as transitions from one activity to another can be unsettling.
4) Get organized.
Keeping your child‘s bedroom, bathroom, work and storage areas neat and organized helps your child learn where to ﬁnd things. When everything has a place, your child can be more independent in getting together what is needed.
To facilitate the morning routine, set up stations with the child‘s things arranged in an established place and sequence that always remains the same. For instance, the toothbrush already has toothpaste on it; the hairbrush lies on the counter next to a cute kid‘s mirror; the socks are on the ﬂoor beside the shoes.
Designate a place to put belongings after school. Then, in the morning, the child will know where to ﬁnd mittens, hat, coat, and backpack, avoiding that mad rush at the last minute.
Organization pays off. It makes tasks smoother and encourages children‘s sense of responsibility and control over their own possessions. Being in charge encourages the sense of importance and independence, which are good leadership characteristics.
5) Reduce distracting stimulation.
Step back and assess the morning‘s routine. What makes the morning so chaotic? Is the television or radio blasting? Does everyone arise at the last minute and ﬁght for the bathroom? Do you eat on the run?
Schedule a family meeting and discuss each family member‘s morning routine. Try to coordinate schedules and eliminate unnecessary noise and activities.
6) Know yourself!
What do YOU need to do to be organized and ready to meet the demands of the day for yourself and your child? Stretch? Meditate? Shower? Sit down to breakfast with your family? Build these experiences into the daily routine so that your basic needs are met. Then, you will be available for your child. Your child will be inﬂuenced by your mood and behavior, so setting a good example is a great place to start![Initially published in New Developments: Volume 5, Number 1 - Summer, 1999]