Want to have a smooth morning routine? Learn how to rock a morning routine for toddlers and finally have a stress-free start to the day!
You’d think one hour would be enough, but according to my toddler, no amount of time would make our mornings at home any less hectic. I’d try to get all three kids out the door on time before school, and I figured one hour would be enough to do that.
Except every morning seemed to have some degree of drama. A tantrum would erupt out of nowhere, or I’d hear myself giving empty threats (“If you don’t get your shoes on right now, you’re not going to school!”).
I needed to find ways to make our mornings calmer and more enjoyable. Losing my temper only made me feel bad the rest of the day (and I’m sure the same could be said for my toddler). Even with what I thought was a solid morning routine, I was still struggling to get out the door.
A morning routine for toddlers
Perhaps you also know you need a morning routine for toddlers to get you through these challenging stages. You feel like you can’t get your act together, making mornings that much more of a mess.
Thankfully, you’re not stuck.
Yes, your child could outgrow this stage, but you can also do plenty to create a morning routine for toddlers to help him along. I knew I didn’t want this to be the norm, so I set out to create a routine that would make our mornings smoother.
And it worked. Mornings are now calmer and more consistent. I don’t have to nag, listen to whining, or start my day in a terrible mood. Sure, not every morning is perfect, but these simple tweaks were enough to transform our mornings.
Take a look at these tips and apply them to your mornings as well:
1. Use visual reminders to check off tasks
A simple trick to get your toddler to complete his tasks is through visual reminders.
After all, even we adults benefit from calendars, planners, to-do lists, and other reminders of what we need to do. It takes all that information out of our brains so we’re not so overwhelmed. The same is true for toddlers.
While he may not have a planner any time soon, he can still use visual reminders to know what needs to be done. Illustrations or simple words help him learn discipline and initiative while making the mornings fun.
You can also hang a dry-erase board to list reminders and events, like library books to return or extracurricular activities to attend. Visual reminders take the nagging out of the mornings when he can see for himself what he still needs to do.
Free printables: Struggling with getting him to clean up his toys? Want to develop good habits from the start? Join my newsletter and grab your Printable Chore List templates to help you and the entire family organize chores!
2. Keep your morning routine exactly the same
Many of us think we have a morning routine since we tend to do the same things every morning. But how many of those tasks are the same, down to the time your toddler wakes up and the order he does them?
For instance, wake him up at the same time every day (even better: put him to sleep the night before at the same time every night).
Do the same tasks in the same order, even down to the things he does with each task. If the first thing he does is use the potty, have him close the seat, flush the toilet, pull up his pants, and wash his hands each time—in that same order.
Guide him through the order of events, especially in the beginning, and with enough consistency, he can learn exactly what to do on his own. With a predictable routine and ingrained habits, you may not have to nag him to do these tasks.
At some point, your morning routine can be flexible to accommodate the surprises that come up. But if you’re dealing with power struggles more than usual, keep it as consistent as possible.
Bonus tip: Have the same breakfasts depending on the day of the week. For instance, eat oatmeal on Mondays, yogurt and toast on Tuesdays, eggs on Wednesdays, and so forth.
Learn the benefits of using toddler routines to structure your day.
3. Go over the plan with your toddler
Mornings can be especially tough because so much has to get done in a short time. We’re also waking up from a long night with likely not enough sleep and may not be alert and focused.
That’s why talking about “the plan” with your toddler can make a huge difference in your morning routine.
Starting the night before, let him know what you plan to do the following morning. Go over the sequence of tasks and details (“We’ll have oatmeal with strawberries” or “Tomorrow is Crazy Hair Day so we’ll style your hair”).
Including him in the plan not only gives him an idea of what to expect but makes him feel included—and more invested—in how the morning goes.
4. Give your toddler a “head’s up”
Now that you’ve gone over the plan with your toddler, keep the transitions smooth with reminders. Giving him a “head’s up” as he’s doing the tasks provides a friendly way to remind him what to do next—minus the nagging.
Let’s say you’re getting him dressed for the day. As you’re doing so, you might mention, “After we finish dressing, we’ll brush your teeth next.” Reminding him what to do next—as he’s finishing his current task—keeps his focus on the next task.
For now, stick to one task at a time to prevent him from feeling overwhelmed. He likely won’t remember a long list of what to do, but can draw his attention to the next task ahead.
Get more tips on how to help your toddler with transitions.
5. Schedule playtime at the end
Even on busy school days, I make sure to include play time in the mornings—usually about 30 minutes. But as much as my kids would rather head straight to their toys or art supplies, I make sure to reserve that until the end.
Convincing your toddler to continue with tasks when he’s so immersed in play is cause for a meltdown or tantrum. Playtime can be the “reward” for getting all his morning tasks done. Getting him to brush teeth becomes much easier when he knows he’s guaranteed a time to play right after.
And if your mornings are too hectic to include playtime, consider rearranging your sleep and wake-up times to accommodate them. His cranky mornings may be a result of not having enough downtime in the mornings or feeling rushed in a short period.
6. Have everything ready before your toddler wakes up
Are your mornings feeling extra frantic because you’re doing your tasks alongside your toddler? Avoid feeling overwhelmed by having everything ready before he even wakes up.
For instance, prepare breakfast and get yourself dressed long before his wake-up time so you can focus on him once he’s up. Get his backpack ready for daycare, and set dishes out on the table. Lay out his clothes and pack lunches and snacks for the day. And drink a cup of coffee before anyone else wakes up.
Don’t worry—as he adjusts to mornings, you can allow him to assume his tasks without too much of your attention. But for now, as you’re setting expectations for his morning routine, getting your tasks out of the way can free your mornings more.
As you can see, creating a morning routine for toddlers can mean simple tweaks with transformative results. Start by sticking to a consistent routine every morning to set expectations for both of you. Go over the plan ahead of time, and guide him through the transitions.
Visual reminders and routine charts encourage discipline and initiative. Save playtime for the end so he has more reason to complete his task. And finally, have everything ready ahead of time, especially on hectic mornings, to free your time and keep you calm.
Shortly after implementing these tips, my mornings with the kids became so much smoother, and everyone was in a good mood. Even now, our mornings are rarely the struggles they used to be. And yes, even with just one hour to spare.
Get more tips:
- How to Stop Your Toddler Whining (Even When You’ve Tried Everything)
- What to Do When Your Toddler Wakes Up Crying Every Morning
- How to Foster Independence in Your Toddler
- Toddler Waking Up at 5am? What to Do with Early Risers
- How to Get an Overtired Toddler to Sleep
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab your Printable Chore List templates to help you organize tasks:
I have taken in a 28 yr old mom with very defiant children, ages 3 and 7 both boys. They tear stuff up, will not mind, they cuss like little sailors, they get up a million times when u put them to bed no matter what you do. I will say they are alot better in the short week they’ve been here due to my being consistent and not wavering on what I say. If I tell them something I do it. They have been allowed to make deals with their mom to do things, like if she will lay down with them they will mind her. I’ve told her they need to be in bed by 8pm, and she is grown and doesn’t have to go to bed at 8, and they shouldn’t be allowed to tell her what deals they’ll make. Put them to bed at 8, do not let them get bk up. I’m at a loss as what to do with t hem because nothing seems to make an impact on the 3 yr o k d. Any gelp?
Nina Garcia says
Hi Barbara, I would continue to stay consistent with what you say you’ll do, but do so with compassion and understanding. They get the best of both worlds: limits and stability on one hand, but in a kind and empathic way on the other. It doesn’t have to be either-or, and the more consistent you can be while being loving about it, the more they’ll eventually take to their routines.
Clar Clark says
Thank you for the helpful tips
I am struggling with my baby morning breakfast a lot. I have to do so much of effort only for few spoons or few bites of morning meal. And now I have recently I put her in the play school because of that breakfast meal has gone on toss.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Neeti! Take a look at this article on the blog where I share tips on eating: https://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/picky-eating/