When children are infants, parents are typically at their beck and call. They fuss; Mom tries to figure out what is wrong. They cry; Dad comes running.

Part of the parenting job is to start setting boundaries — some of which the little ones will have to live with for a lifetime, or at least life while life is under the home roof.

The morning routine can be a challenging time of day for families, especially those with young children. Little ones tend to resist the kind of structure a parent would like to create, but there are ways to help start your day with young children so your family's morning routine won't turn into a free-for-all.

Set a Coming Out Time or Signal

Few things are as unnerving as looking in your child's room early in the morning, only to discover they're rummaging around downstairs before the sun has come up. For safety's sake — and your sanity — help them stay put until a designated time. (Of course, attending to bathroom needs must be allowed). Either you come get them, turn on a hallway light, or give them the independence to do it themselves (see the next tip).

Use a Clock

This is a perfect opportunity to help teach numerals, as well as telling time.

Depending on your family's schedule and the sleep patterns of your children, teach them what the time looks like on the clock. Until they get the idea, you may have to write the beginning number on a postcard. For example, if they can get out of bed at 7:00, write the numeral "7" on the postcard and place beside the clock. They know that when the first number is "7," they can come out.

Provide Appropriate Activities for Your Children

Children need to be able to entertain themselves for small periods of time. Consider placing books, building blocks, and other toys in a box beside their bed for them to use until they can come out.

Lay Out Clothing the Night Before

As your child moves toward independently dressing herself, she can come out of her room ready for the day. Make sure she knows where she is to put her pajamas (back on a shelf, in a dresser, or in the hamper).

Breakfast Comes Second

Require children to come downstairs dressed. This tip can help get family members out of the house on mornings when time is an issue or you have some place to be. It sets up the habit for the daily routine (even on days when you are hanging at home). Use bibs or tuck a kitchen towel in their shirt to protect clothing.

Use a Routine Chart

Depending on your child's age, routines on a chart could include:

  • getting dressed
  • putting pajamas away
  • making bed/cleaning up room
  • clearing table after breakfast
  • brushing teeth

For toddlers and young children, use pictures as well as words to describe each item on the chart. You may wish to use stickers or simply a check mark or happy face to show completion of each step in the morning schedule. For some children (and parents), simply having it visible will be enough. At some point, your child will hopefully no longer need the visual to help them move through the morning routine.

Get Yourself Ready First

If you have to get out the door by a certain time, being dressed and ready for the day will build in a buffer for dealing with emergencies: the juice on the floor, the tantrum, the last-second diaper change. Consider wearing an apron to protect your clothing from any evidence the aforementioned emergencies.

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