Morning and Evening Routines for Children

Updated on September 18, 2012
A.B. asks from Simpsonville, SC
11 answers

Hey ladies!

We have 2 girls ages 2 and 5. I am having a hard time getting my girls to bed on time and my husband seems to be struggling in the AM with them as well. I know it is a lack of routine and we are trying but we can never seem to get everything done that needs to be done in the alotted amount of time. Wanted to see what you ladies do in the AM and PM to get everyone where they need to be on time. My girls get home by about 530 in the evening from day care. Between 530 and 730 we need to do homework, make dinner, eat, bathe, bedtime stories, brush teeth and get in bed. We can usually get them to bed by 8 but sometimes it is even later than that. I know that doesn't sound late but they have to be up and moving by 630am and they have a hard time getting up if they go to bed any later. My husband leaves by 715am. They have to be up and dressed by then. They eat breakfast at the daycare. I know that seems like plenty of time for getting up and getting dressed but the 2yo wants to do everything herself which takes 3x as long and the 5yo wants to wear what she wants to wear regardless of weather (shorts when it is snowing, sweater in 90 degress weather, etc.) and wants to wear flip flops everyday which is fine except for the days that she has soccer and gymnastics :) So needless to say the AM can be a battle and it shouldn't be. I just want them to have a stress free morning because yelling and running around crazy never starts a day off well. What are your ideas and how do you handle your AM and PM routine to keep it running smoothly?

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answers from New York on

Do as much as you possibly can at night:
1. Pack lunches
2. Prep the next night's dinner (chopping, dicing, browning meat, premixing, etc)
3. Everyone picks out their clothing before bed and NO CHANGES in the morning!
4. For the 2. yr old... let her pick 1 or 2 items to put on by herself. Use a timer and "challenge" her to get it done more quickly each morning. When she can get those 1 or 2 things done quickly, add another. Repeat.
5. Backpacks and work bags are packed the night before and by the door ready to go.

Our evening routine (4 yr old and 5 month old)
5:00 everyone is home
5:15 I put dinner together (it was prepped the night before); my husband plays with our son and the baby is with me "chatting" while I make dinner. You could use this time for your older child to do her homework. At 5, it shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes. Use a timer.
5:45 (ish) eat dinner
6:15-6:45 is usually cleaning up from dinner and play time as a family
6:45 jammies, vitamins and brushing teeth
7:00 is "slow down" time; turn down the lights, no "loud" toys, puzzles, books, legos are all fine and he is allowed to use this time to watch one t.v. show if he would prefer
7:40 is bedtime; my husband puts the 4 yr old to sleep with two books and 5 minutes of cuddling (he's usually zonked out after the first book); I put the baby to sleep
8:00 Mommy's treadmill time and daddy's "down time"
8:30 We make lunches, coffee, get everything ready for the next day together
9:00 Shower
9:30 Glass of wine and a t.v. show

5:30 I get up and get myself ready for work
6:00 Husband is up and gets himself ready for work while I put the lunches in lunch boxes and make breakfasts
6:20 We open the kids' bedroom doors which usually gets them up around
6:30-6:45 is my son's time to "wake up" while the baby gets a fresh diaper, dressed for daycare and fed
6:45 (ish) my son eats breakfast, goes potty and gets dressed
7:30 they are all downstairs and ready to leave

The BEST advice I can give you is to do things at night after they are asleep. Remember that consistency is what makes a routine "routine". If they need to wake up at 6:15 rather than 6:30, then start doing that. Remember too that everyone takes longer to do everything in the morning, so picking out clothing then is just not reasonable for young children. The "rule" has to be enforced about "no changes". You'll have some very crabby mornings at first, but eventually they will get into the swing of it!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

I agree with doing things the night before. My oldest daughter used to have tons of problems picking out clothes in the morning. And so did my niece and my daughters friends after I told them about how I was starting to pick out clothes the night before with her and how much better it was. They started doing it with their children too, and found out it made for better mornings too.

My routines go like this:

5:30pm: Home from work and school when dinner is immediately started. The girls usually get to play at this point - I figure its their down time from the days events.
6:00pm: Dinner as a family
6:30pm: Homework is started if any
7:00pm: Is Bath time (However we don't do baths EVERY night, its mainly every other)
7:30pm: Story time & picking out clothes for the next day
8:00pm: Lights Out

I wake up an hour prior to waking them up
7:00am: Wake Up - They get dressed while watching a half hour show - I also do their hair (Keep in mind if they aren't getting dressed the show is turned off - but they are at the point I never have to turn it off)
7:30am: I make lunches while they eat breakfast or help with lunches
7:50am: Out the door to start our days

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would think about what must be done and work from there. For example, since they don't eat breakfast at home, that's an item that can be crossed off the list.

With DD, I multi task. If she's eating her breakfast, I'm picking out 3 outfits she can choose from and getting her toothbrush ready, checking her lunch, etc. You can also do some morning prep things at night. If you know that the girls will need sneakers and socks and a raincoat for the morning, set them out where DH can easily get them on the way out the door.

What you might do for the 5 yr old is take a minute to go to and check the weather for the next morning. Then have her pick out what she will wear beforehand. Print off a calendar for her to put on her door and put stickers on it for the days that she must wear good shoes. When it comes to shoes, tell her that today is the 17th so she can find the 17th and see what shoes she is allowed to wear.

Give the 2 yr old limited choices. When you say she wants to do everything herself what does she really need to get done? If you let her pick her socks, will she want to put them on or will she then relent and let you dress her? Sometimes you just have to say, "I don't care if you are screaming, you must wear pants and I don't have time to fight about it." Do you joke around? "Hrm. I think this is an ear warmer and it goes right here on your ear. What? It's a sock? Where does a sock go? Well, then let me see if it fits. It does! Oh, that was so helpful!" I never want anybody to record some of the stupid things I do to get a kid ready in the morning. ;)

If you can, consider a timer, especially for the 5 yr old. She needs to do x and y before the timer goes off.

As for clothes - if they are clean and appropriate, let her figure out that a sweater in July is a bad idea, if morning comes and she doesn't want what was picked out the night before.

Same thing for nighttime, IMO. Decide what must be done, and divide and conquer. Read one a bedtime story while the other bathes. One of you cooks while the other does homework. Pick out pjs before the bath. Set a timer to keep the bath the right length. That sort of thing.

I also like the idea of asking the daycare if they can provide homework time for the 5 yr old so there is less to do after dinner. When SD was in aftercare, they had some free play, snack and HW time.

None of us are morning people here. I open DD's curtains or open her door and turn on the hall light to get her going. If she is not up in 10 minutes, then I go in and sing a song. How are they woken up and is there a way that might be easier, even if it means that you are up 5-10 minutes earlier?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Well the clothing thing is pretty typical, but I agree with you that there needs to be some limits! Here are a few suggestions geared towards that. I agree that you should decide on the next day's clothes the night before, which I know only adds one more thing before you go to bed, but I think it will help. Have her pick it out (with someone's approval) and lay it out for the next day. could get one of those hanging organizers that has little shelves and hand it in her closet or behind her door. Pick out (together if you want) 7 outfits and put one in each slot. Each morning she can pick out the outfit she wants from the collection. You can refill at your will or you can make it an activity for Saturday or Sunday afternoon. That way the outfits are approved but she's still getting some independence in deciding what to wear. I would also just possibly nix flip flops from the school wardrobe all together. Maybe that's just me, but I don't think they are a good idea on the playground or at school in general.

As far as the 2 year old, well I hear you! You want to encourage independence, just not when you're in a hurry! ;) I would suggest starting to give the little on some you have to put on shirts and pants, you can put on one and I'll put on the other. Which one do you want to do? And even if she fusses, let her pick one and you do the other, that way she'll get in the habit of compromise a little bit!

I've also seen charts on super Nanny that the kids move a clip along a paper with pictures of everything they have to do in the morning and they are pretty cute and age appropriate for your girls. Once they complete a task, the move the clip to the next activity and it provides for a faster, calmer morning and moves the ownership to the girls and not you! Of course with the 2 year old, it's still mostly on you, but she'll think the chart is fun too!

As far as dinner, again try and have a plan for what you'll be cooking every night. Possibly you already do this, but I know for me if I have a rough plan of what I'll be making each night, it's so much easier to get going. I do stay at home, but we get busy and sometimes I don't have all day to prepare dinner, so it keeps me organized. Also, consider doing more crock pot meals that you can prep after the kids go to bed, then store in the fridge and then dump it all in before you rush out the next morning. Even if you just did one a week it might help. Also, I do a lot of casseroles in the fall and winter that I plan on having for two nights. If you can prep a casserole the night before, put it in while doing homework, then it will ready in time. Plus, the next night you just have to microwave it if you want it fast!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

We have one child, and he's nearly two. So our days aren't as complicated as yours. The best advice I can offer, mirrors that of Krista P., get your am prep done after the kids are in bed, wake up earlier yourself, so you aren't tripping over the kids in the am prep, and finally, finish your day with a glass of wine.

Limit the clothing choices with some new ground rules.

Take turns with the two year old. She puts on her shirt, you put on her pants, she puts on a sock, you put on her shoes. You will enable her, but make things go a lot faster.

With the older one, allow her to choose one article of clothing, then layer her to dress in keeping with the weather. i.e. she wants to wear a tank top in winter. ok, she can wear it, over or under a long sleeved thermal. She wants to wear a sweater in 90 weather, ok, so long as she wears a tank top and shorts along with it.

Keep soccer cleat and sneakers in the car so that she can change into them on days that they are warranted.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.



answers from San Francisco on

My mornings and evenings go smooth because GD is old enough now to do it all by herself. All I have to do is wake her up and make sure she has her backpack and lunch box when she goes out the door.

I don't have to check what she has or doesn't have in her backpack because we do that the night before.

If I were you, I would have the girls sleep in their clothes for the next day. That will relieve a lot of your hubby's problems in the morning. Take whatever clothing that is NOT APPROPRIATE for the current weather out of their drawers so that the only things they have to chose from are weather appropriate. Let the 2 YO dress herself after her bath at night. Shoes for the next day should be out - and there are no substitutes in the morning. What was selected and put on the night before is what they are wearing - period - no exceptions!

As for the evening, is there any way that your 5 year old can get her homework done at daycare? If not, I don't know what to suggest for the evenings. I am a working parent also and I know how hard it is to get it all done so they can get to bed at a decent hour. The only suggestion I have is to do as much cooking in advance as possible. In that regard, become VERY GOOD FRIENDS with your crockpot!



answers from Tampa on

stick to one activity per season.



answers from Washington DC on

Well 45 minutes in the morning is simply not enough time. I have girls ages 4 and 8, and I am on my own in the morning to get ready for work and school. I get up at 6 and the girls up by 6:15 and we are out to the bus at 7:20 with my oldest, but I still have a good 30 minutes at home with my youngest after the bus. And my 8 year old is very self-sufficient and takes a shower in the morning..

What helped me is getting up earlier and getting the kids totally ready to leave immediately - dressed, potty, teeth, hair, shoes, backpacks - BEFORE we eat. If we are up at 6:15 and dressed and ready by 6:45, they can be as slow as they want with breakfast and have time to play.

I don't actually pack lunch the night before, although I probably should. I find it easier to do it while the kids eat breakfast. But it would save time.

The only thing that really causes a problem is if we are generally having a lazy week. Fo rinstance, if the girls don't wash their laundry and we run out of socks or if I don't sign my daughter's homework the night before.

At night, I would take a similar attitude. Get the "must do" activities done ASAP, so there is no change of your schedule slipping. My 8 year old is home by 3 and she knows she has to have homework done by 5. Between 3 and 5, she sets her own schedule, but must get the work done. So I usually remind her if she hasn't started by 4:30. If she lapses and doesn't get it done, then she has to do it right when she gets off the bus which she hates because she wants to "relax" :)

5-7 is activity time - we go to dance or martial arts or piano or just play. We eatwithin that time frame too depending on the activity. So I am prepping dinner at 4-6.

At 7-7:30 jammies go on and teeth are brushed. The quicker they are, the more time to read with us or my older on her own until 7:30-8:30. My youngest is in bed as much before 8 as possible.

If you have a 2 year old, she should be on her own schedule because she needs more sleep. So put her to bed regardless of the older one, maybe when she is doing homework.

So all in all, my advice is to make them get the must do activities done FIRST, which puts them fully in control of their free time, and there will be less yelliing, because you know everything important is done..



answers from Dallas on

My 8 year old has a hanging daily outfit organizer that's in his closet. On Sunday's, I wash all of his clothes, then we put an outfit in each of the 7 cubbies for every day of the week(including socks and underwear). He doesn't care about choosing his outfits, but this might be fun for your girls on the weekend to choose all their outfits for the week.



answers from Savannah on

My boys are 5 and 2, go to bed at 8 and up at 6:30 too. :) Sounds basically good. I'd suggest a couple things that I do that help a lot: I plan my menu with my calendar right next to me. Busy days (soccer/gymnastics or whatever) can be a day for leftovers, a casserole that was already put together and just needs to go in the oven, or something in a slow cooker where you just have to put some rice on or whatever. Sunday, especially now that we're in school season and have church in the morning, Awanas in the evening, is my "cooking day". You can cook a couple pounds of chicken and shred it up for future use during the week (I will put a few pounds in a pressure cooker, season it with some basics in my house: garlic powder, Tony Chachere, maybe a little chili powder) and just put the lid on it and it'll take care of itself while I'm busy doing other stuff: chopping onions, peppers, garlic, or preparing salad for the week, etc. When the chicken is done, you can either make a few things with it (chicken tortilla soup, chicken and rice, chicken noodle soup, enchiladas, or any number of casseroles). Soups taste better a day or 2 later anyway, and for casseroles you could have it mostly prepared and wrap it up, and on the day you need it just put it in the oven. I will do something with beef as well: a batch of meatballs that you can place in the freezer later, or whatever. You get the idea: but doing as much prep as you can for meals later in the week will free up a good half hour of your evenings. Use that time to let your children pick out their outfits for tomorrow before bed.

Your kids are old enough to learn some basics about weather. Check the weather on the computer and let them look at it. "Ok, tomorrow is cold and rainy: what do we wear on cold and rainy days?" Then pick out a couple acceptable choices and let your daughters choose the outfit. Hang it up on the closet door, or lay it out where they can reach it. Make sure everything they need to walk out the door with is already together and in one spot before bed. Perhaps a little sticker on days they have special activities, to remind them that they need to bring soccer shoes will help.

If for some reason they are running late for bed then you can skip the bedtime stories or just tell a special (fast) story that evening and tuck them in on time. I'm a firm believer that the evening routine makes the next day run even more smoothly than that day's morning routine.

Also: my youngest just bounces out of bed like me, but my oldest drags himself out like my husband. In that case, I've found it works well to wake him up sweetly, and help him go to the bathroom and wash his face, and then give him a drink that I've already poured before waking him up. Breakfast (you don't need to bother with that one since I see they eat at daycare), brush teeth, THEN dress in what's been laid out (so food or toothpaste don't get on his clean clothes), use the bathroom one more time, and he's ready. We then have time to do family devotional, and sometimes even enough time for the kids to play before leaving. When time to leave, just pick up everything that is already in it's ONE spot, and out the door.



answers from Minneapolis on

You have a brutal schedule and it will be especially tough if either of the kids is not a morning person. My DH and I have staggered our work schedules as much as is possible in order to limit the time our son (now 9) has to be in the before/after school program. I could not tell from your post what hours you work and what hours your DH works.

Here are some other hints:
Ask the daycare to have the 5yo finish homework while at daycare. That makes the evening much more enjoyable.

Is there a reason you are giving a bath every night? Usually not necessary more than every other night.

The 5 yo should have her outfit picked out and set in a special spot before she goes to bed.

Make a game out of getting dressed for the 2yo. She picks 1 thing to put on herself, then she picks 1 thing for you to put on her.

Know your kids best waking method. For some kids, letting them sleep as long as possible is best, but it only works if they can then jump out of bed and get everything done without distraction. For my son, I know he needs time to adjust to being awake so I have to wake him 15-20 minutes prior to expecting him to accomplish anything.

Good luck. Try to tweak your own schedules if at all possible to help relive the stress and strain on the kids.

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