Mornings can be the toughest part of the day for many children (and adults!). Transitions are never the easiest thing to master. There are many tasks everyone needs to accomplish, to have and prepare before venturing off to start the day.
Below are a few Montessori-inspired tips and tricks that we can do to help mornings run smoother:
1. Make sure there is enough time!
Allot for a reasonable amount of time for each aspect of the routine to be accomplished. Remember to account for changes depending on the weather and events – do we have to include extra layers? Are we preparing for a school event? Is the child wearing new footwear/clothing that requires more time and attention?
2. Discuss with the Child
This is the perfect opportunity to involve the child in the planning process of the morning routine. At a calm moment during the day, ask your child what he or she needs to do before leaving for school. You can then lead the child through any of the points they may have skipped over and forgotten. Write these points down and prepare a handy list or chart.
3. Visual Chart
Prepare a visual chart with photos depicting what needs to be done in the morning. Even the youngest children’s attention can be brought back to the chart to keep them on task if they veer off. It also gives you an easy visual to refer to. “Have you finished everything on your morning chart? What’s next?”
4. First… and Then Phrases
Breaking down steps into “first… and then” phrases can help the child focus on one thing at a time. Please refer to a previous blog post, “How to Talk to Children – Montessori Style” for more of our commonly used phrases.
5. Audible or Visual Timer
Time is a very abstract concept that many young children struggle to grasp. Having a visual or auditory cue (that is not merely the adult repeating “you don’t have any more time!” or “hurry up!”) helps the children manage their tasks. It also becomes very matter of fact and not something that needs to be up for discussion. An easy example is setting up an alarm 2 minutes before breakfast is over and again when breakfast is over. A fun way to have an auditory cue is choosing a favourite song or two to act as a timer as well!
6. Limited Choice
Have 2 or 3 acceptable choices for the child instead of open-ended questions like “What would you like for breakfast?”.
For wardrobe – this sweater and pants or this pair of tights and a tunic?
For breakfast – eggs or cereal? Fruit before your oatmeal, with your oatmeal or after your oatmeal?
Running out of time – Are you going to finish your breakfast at the table or in the car?
7. Take a Breath – Offer Support
It’s easy to have frustration bubble over, especially during busy mornings. Some days can also be tougher than others. Pausing for a deep breath, or a quick moment to refocus, aids in resetting your mind/mood – and your child’s – to help get back on track. A simple example is a young child’s struggle to put their boots on before heading out the door. “Let’s take a deep breath and you can tell me what I can help you with.”
8. Natural Consequences
Natural consequences are the logical results of an action; they are not punishments. If a child runs out of time to get dressed in the morning, he or she may need to come to school in their pyjamas and finish getting dressed there. If a child did not get a chance to eat their breakfast, he or she may finish eating in the car or at school. If a child does not make a choice, the adult will need to choose for them. Consistency, following through, and consequences that directly relate to the child’s action(s) are key!
9. Make sure you set aside “We Time”
There is so much to do and so much to get done during the days and the weeks. Making sure to carve out enough “We Time,” whether it be spending 10 minutes playing together or 5 minutes reading a book during the day, can make a big difference. If possible, brief “We Time” can be built into the morning – e.g. having breakfast together or reading a book if all other items on the list have been completed with time to spare.
Weekend “We Time” can even include baking up a special batch of breakfast muffins to enjoy during the week!
10. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
Prepare as much as you can the night before to further remove obstacles in the morning. Have the two outfit choices laid out, have breakfast pre-planned, have bags packed and laid out.