Last year was Miss G’s first year going to school, and it was an adjustment!
I think often when a new lifestyle change comes up we want to do things perfectly & we sometimes forget that this new routine needs to still fit within your pre-existing lifestyle and the various personalities in your family. Sometimes you have to go through a period of time with things not really working or fitting in order to know what areas of your life need adjusting – because not everything is predictable!
Miss G is mostly a morning person, but she’s not exactly fast-moving in the morning. With 5 other kids running around the house it can be challenging doing anything more than getting her fed, dressed, and out the door! However, last year I noticed that she was sometimes exhibiting difficult behaviour in the morning and I think the root cause was not having any time to connect and slow down for a moment before she was rushed out the door. Especially with the first year of school being somewhat stressful for her (as it is for many kids – especially those with sensory processing issues or sensitivity) I knew this year that it would be important to give her a calming and happy start to her day so she could go on to have a great day at school.
There were a few key things that we changed going into this year, and there may be more changes ahead. I think the biggest thing when you’re looking honestly at your life and habits is to keep in mind your priorities and commitments. For me, it was reinforcing that connection with my daughter and sending her off to school in the best possible way that I could, while still taking care of the children in our daycare for that time overlap.
When you keep your priorities and commitments in the forefront of your mind, it makes it easier to give up “preferences” or habits that you completely forget can be changed. For example, I used to always shower in the mornings before the daycare kids arrived, and that would inevitably wake Miss G up. The simple switch of me having a shower or bath before bed allows her to sleep an extra hour or more in the mornings, waking more restful and happy. (And as a result, I work in the mornings rather than at night which is more productive and I’ve been better about getting to bed at a good time.)
I also realized that by organizing some of our morning routines a bit better, Miss G could be empowered to help herself so I wasn’t rushing between her and the kids.
Easy Lunch Stations
I love making cute lunch boxes for Miss G, but it’s not something that I want to spend 10-15 minutes on every morning. Our new routine is that we plan what “theme” we’re going with that week for lunch and prepare all of the snacks on Sunday. I can not tell you how much easier it is not to have to pull everything out every morning, run around finding containers and matching lids, ensure that I’ve covered all of the food groups and provided all of the items needed to eat the food (spoons, dip, etc), and then on top of that, double check the snacks with Miss G to ensure that I packed things she would actually eat that day.
I make the “main item” (sandwich, warmed left-overs in a thermos) in the morning before Miss G wakes up, and it usually takes less than 3 minutes so I can do it while my coffee is brewing. The other items are either in a small bin in the fridge, or are pre-portioned on our snack shelf.
I place the open lunch bag with the main item, napkin and eating utensils beside her backpack and refill her large water bottle, and before she leaves Miss G grabs her choices of fruit, vegetables, treat, and two drinks. Having her do this both increases the likelihood her lunch will get eaten and also helps prepare her for when she’ll be making her lunches independently.
In the snack boxes we tend to have:
- apple sauce pouches
- fruit cups
- gum made with xylitol (she gets one each day to chew after lunch)
- juice boxes
- pre-portioned “treats” (cookies, crackers, etc)
Items in the fridge lunch making box:
- containers of favourite veggies (snap peas and carrots, typically)
- individual containers of dip or guacamole for dipping
- containers of prepped fruit (peeled oranges, cleaned grapes, etc)
- yogurt drinks and individual cartons
Miss G gets herself mostly ready in the morning and just needs help with her hair style. Her dresser is set up so she can easily find everything without making a mess, and then I have two baskets in the bathroom: one for her toiletries and one for her hair items.
After getting dressed, she heads to the bathroom and brushes her hair, brushes and flosses her teeth, washes her face, applies lip balm, and finally applies SPF to her face and neck. When I see her come downstairs, that’s my cue to start making breakfast so that it’s still warm when we sit down.
In the toiletries box we have:
- two choices of toothpaste (has cut down on protests)
- individual flossing sticks which she can do herself
- two toothbrushes (because you can’t mix toothbrushes with toothpastes, obviously)
- gentle face wash
- lip balm
- nail scrubber
- (and yes, that’s face paint also in the bin… not for school days!)
In the hair kit we have:
- hair brush (in use)
- hair combs
- hair elastics
- bobby pins
- bun sponges (her favourite hair-do)
- fun hair add-ins (feather extensions, hair chalk)
Her other hair accessories (bows, headbands, etc) are in her room and she just brings whatever she wants down with her after getting dressed. I help with any hair style she wants for the day before we sit down to eat.
Eating Breakfast as a Family
We also now eat breakfast together, rather than her eating with the daycare kids which was sometimes a bit unpredictable. I sit down with her at our kitchen table and spend 20 minutes eating and chatting about her day and what to expect while keeping an eye on the kids at the kiddie table.
This gives me a chance to prepare her for any changes in routine, but also gives her a chance to voice any concerns to me. If she’s nervous about something at school that day, she’s more likely to talk to me about it while we’re already sitting and talking rather than act up (desperate for attention) as I flit about the house in the morning.
A good breakfast is really important to me, especially since Miss G’s new lunch period is not until 1pm! Sitting down together, she’s more likely to focus on eating and not feel the need to act out for attention.
Family Yoga Session
If there’s time, we try to grab our mats and have a quick stretch or yoga session, which the daycare kids join in on. I used to try to do this before everything else, but it’s more peaceful to have our yoga session when we know we have 10 minutes and nothing else needs to get done, rather than worrying in the back of my mind if we’re going to run out of time later on in the morning.
What are your family’s morning routines? What have you done to help your kids have a great start to their day?