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Morning Routine: Getting Preschoolers Up & Out the Door

Morning Routine: Getting Preschoolers Up & Out the Door

“I want to wear the Superman shirt.” “I don’t want to brush my teeth.” “No! Not those shoes.” Getting up and out the door in the morning is increasingly challenging now that our almost 3-year old preschooler is mastering his voice and expressing his opinions. Although I love that we can now have a two-way conversation, it’s exhausting that absolutely everything has become a negotiation. The frustration is heightened when you factor in an already hectic morning routine.

There are many parenting tips for creating a morning routine with children out there. I’m sure I’ve tried each at one point or another because, as soon as a morning routine works, my kids go ahead and change it up. For now, here is one strategy that works for getting my preschooler up and out the door in the morning.

Preschool boy playing with tools in the morning

Surviving the Morning Routine with a Preschooler

I first tried it out a couple of weeks ago when we were having a particularly rough morning. That morning’s power struggle was heading to an unhappy ending – most likely with me curled up in a closet. After taking a bunch of deep breaths, I remembered this technique that worked for my now 7-year-old daughter when she was younger. I call it the “Dora Method.” It’s simple – you create a easy-to-remember morning plan and repeat and repeat and repeat it to them. Then, you have them repeat it to you again and again and again as you move through each step.

Our morning routine plan is four simple steps:

  1. Get dressed.
  2. Brush our teeth.
  3. Eat breakfast and read a book (the book is his incentive for this part of the plan).
  4. Go to school.


Morning Routine with ChildrenThere are probably 10 more things I could add to his list but these are the items with the biggest power struggles involved. Every morning we repeat the plan in entirety. It’s even become a game for my son to be able to recall the whole thing “by himself.”  Then, I help him transition into the first step by asking, “What is the first thing we are going to do?” After he’s dressed, I ask something like,”Do you remember what we do next?” Usually he knows but sometimes I prompt him with some “teeth brushing” motions as a reminder. You’ll notice the third step includes a book incentive which was recently amended to the plan. As a gentle approach to awaking him in the morning, I’ve started reading a book as he lies in his crib waking up. It didn’t take long for him to ask for another book before getting dressed. Worrying that would spiral out of control, I added the book to give him incentive to get to step three without (many) arguments. The strategy continues until we are on our way out the door. Once we’re in the car, he gets lots of praise for working hard to accomplish our morning routine.

I’m almost hesitant to say that it’s been going really well because that’s exactly when the parenting strategy will stop working. So it’s going horribly, horribly bad. How about you – what works for you for getting your children up & out of the door in the morning? Share in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: In a recent webinar – Parenting: Being Proactive & Positive – Bright Horizons and Amy McCready shared proactive parenting techniques that foster good behavior and eliminate the power struggle that often fuels bad behavior. Watch now!


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