Eliminating Struggle from the Morning Routine

If you’ve been around this space awhile, you already know this, but: Since April, two year old Annabelle has slept in six different beds, lived in two houses and slept in two different hotels in between. She has adapted to a few different schedules for both her daddy and for me, only to have them change soon after. Oh yeah, and she had a baby brother. All of this seems to have made it hard to settle into a comfortable groove during mornings at home, and many days it was a huge struggle just to get out of the house. Some days I simply gave up because I didn’t want to struggle anymore, and we stayed home when I┬áreally could have used a bit of time out of the house. See, Annabelle would start playing, reading, drawing, or doing something else important to her and would suddenly decide that she had no interest in doing any of the things one must do before going out, like getting dressed. She seemed to feel so much better, and rest so much better, when she engaged in something in the outside world each day, but it was not easy to get her in to the outside world before rest time came.

I thought a bit and it occurred to me that the things we have always done during the day, regardless of how much she actually loves doing them, are not a struggle. No matter what else is going on, she never balks about joining us at the table for dinner. She dislikes going to bed and has quite a number of stall tactics, but she does not refuse to go. She simply knows to expect these things. They don’t surprise her, and each has become a part of our everyday, so they’re not a struggle.

In an effort to make the flow of our mornings yet another part of our everyday, I made Annabelle a “schedule.” It is not rigid, and it involves no times. At her age, it just does not make sense to do too much based on the clock. It’s just a simple order of events. For this, I created a spreadsheet with three columns. The first column has simple descriptions, in words, of each part of our routine. The second has photos of Annabelle engaged in each activity, and the third is a blank space. As we move through our mornings, we refer to the schedule posted on our refrigerator if we need to remember what’s next. As each activity is completed, Annabelle places a magnet in the empty space as a sort of check mark to indicate that it’s done and we’re ready to move down the list.

I have found that the best time to get out of the house and do something is in the mornings after breakfast, so we have one regular activity for each day of the week. The only exception is our regular, “stay home day” when we spend a quiet morning at home baking bread or doing other projects in the kitchen. To help Annabelle remember these, I also made her a “calendar”, which is very much like her schedule. Instead of listing activities in the first column, I have listed the days of the week. In the second column, I included a photo of the place we usually go on each day, and the third is left blank. Every morning, we look at the calendar and move the magnet down from the previous day. Both the schedule and the calendar are printed on paper and stuck inside of sheet protectors, so I can print a small picture and tape it in the appropriate place temporarily when we have a special event coming up. Last week, for example, I put a photo of “Grammie” in Sunday’s slot so that Annabelle could look forward to her arrival all week long. Time and date are both so abstract at this age, so I really like having a simple visual to take the mystery out of our daily and weekly rhythm.

When I was first typing this post, I decided to stop for a break and open my google reader. Of course I found a much more artistic version of this same idea on Sew Liberated. If you’re crafty and have a bit of time on your hands, you can try your hand at something more like what Meg did.

6 thoughts on “Eliminating Struggle from the Morning Routine

  1. Jessica

    Love the calender with pictures!!! I hear you, we have crazy days. For the most part I try to alternate days. Errands, then a stay home day, story time, then stay home day and so forth. I do go over with the kids the night before what to expect in the morning. Then in the morning I continue to repeat it. C.J. really thrives off of consistency so while our wake up time may differ our routine is the same; wake, dress, potty, then breakfast, brush teeth and do hair. However, crazy mornings may seem, this too shall pass and all to quick it will pass and they will be grown.

  2. Janine

    That is a really cool idea! Our mornings are pretty relaxed and predictable – We either lounge and just hang out until naptime or skip the nap (car nap) altogether and go do something fun. Evenings seem predicable to me as well but for some reason he struggles with bedtime quite a bit. I’m trying to think of (realistic) ways to wind down each day. We do a book or two and I sing some songs but it doesn’t seem to be enough. I’d love to do some yoga or something physically calming but I’m not honestly sure I can commit to it. We’ll see!

    I’m impressed that the days of the week chart works so well. Maybe I underestimate my toddler! The daily chart is a cool idea and I love the way you put it together. The one at Sew Liberated is pretty cool but yours is a lot more kid-friendly in my opinion. I also love that it has photos of Annabelle.


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