Before my first day of school as a mom, I loved mornings. Yet once I had school-aged children, things changed. Little did I know that my mornings would look nothing like the sitcoms where kids were magically bathed and dressed for school just in time to breeze through the kitchen, grab a piece of fruit and a lunch, kiss me and dance out the door with a jaunty, “Have a great day, Mom!” Sure, there was the occasional morning when those TV children coveted their beds and the TV parents had to put a little extra effort into peeling them away from soft pillows, but they soon got up and the magic resumed.
Not at my house!
My daughter was never a morning person. No matter how early I got her to bed at night, getting her up in the morning was a painful chore. Once she was finally up, I labored to brush her teeth, wash her up, get her breakfast, organize her uniform, school bag, and lunch box, and still some detail was often left unattended. It all left me drained and feeling a strange mix of triumph and defeat from which I needed another hour to recover each day.
I had to pray about this. During the summer between Pre-K and Kindergarten the solution came to me after much thought and reflection. We would create a morning schedule. Not a revolutionary concept by itself, but I’ve always been the kind of mom who gives her children every opportunity to own their own life in some way; so this became the, “Make My Schedule Project.” My daughter and I did it together and I found a multitude of benefits from this project.
10 Benefits of the “Make My Schedule” Project
1. Allows children and parents an opportunity to work together on a plan.I allowed my daughter to help decide what order we would do things in, create the wording, pick images (we used lots of Clipart) and color everything in. This teaches them planning as a skill, which many children are never taught but are then expected to know instinctively as soon as they turn eighteen.
2. Teaches children organizational skills, leadership skills, and instills an ethic of responsibility. Once she created it, my daughter owned her schedule. Pretty soon she was the one directing the morning because she could point to the wall and say, “Okay, Mama, we’re supposed to brush our teeth now!” She was proud of her schedule
3. Motivates kids who are not naturally morning people to get out of bed. My daughter was so happy to get out of bed and start her schedule, and we did lots of high fives for being on time with each task.
4. Reinforces academic skills.It builds vocabulary, spelling and sight word recognition—all crucial elements for improving reading abilities.
5. Creates an opportunity for sibling bonding. Big siblings can teach little siblings how to follow a schedule. My older son’s first day of preschool was a new source of motivation for my daughter. She took teaching him how to follow the newly created schedule upon herself proudly.
6. Presents an opportunity to teach a second language. We are bilingual in my household, so our schedule activities were written in both English and French. It helps them recognize words in the second language more readily.
7. Instills good eating habits in the morning. This is paramount, especially now that I am a food life coach. My kids know my, “Fruit first!” mantra well and have a sit-down breakfast each morning. Fruit is usually in a bowl on the table, so they can often choose what they want while I prepare some oatmeal or cereal with almond or coconut milk and tea.
8. Lowers frustrations and keeps us punctual. Everybody knows what needs to be done, and we take pride in consistent punctuality. My fourth grade teacher, Ms. Wallach, would be so proud!
9. Can be a source of stability in unstable times. Lately, we have had to move a lot. Our schedule has been a comforting source of stability in the midst of the many unexpected life changes going on.
10. Makes a useful decoration. I’m a big believer in the positive impact of hanging kids’ creations on the walls. We posted a copy by my daughter’s bed and one in the hallway so we could both be on point.
Things to Remember
One thing to remember is to be prepared to be flexible with the order of tasks. I’ve had to make adjustments on occasion so things could flow better. Sudden defiance to the schedule they were so excited to create is often a signal that you should discuss a change with them.
Also, incorporating younger children who are just starting school necessitates changes. When my daughter was seven, we had to fit in my son’s routine, which was different because of different school bell times and bath time routines.
You can even make afternoon and evening schedules. I have found these particularly helpful for structuring afternoon activities, homework, playtimes and bedtimes.
After having watched my fair share of Super Nanny episodes, I’d say we are crushing i,t in general. And now I’m so accustomed to this practice, I hardly remember what it was like rushing through school mornings without a “Make My Schedule” on the wall. My baby is 1 year old and I am already thinking about his first one!
QUESTION: Does your family struggle to get up and out on time, with everything they need, in the mornings?
CHALLENGE: Sit down with your children and come up with a simple morning schedule to help days run more smoothly.
Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws.
Images provided by the author.