I have always been a morning person. I love a good morning routine and I love getting a jump on the day. That being said, with three kids aged five and under, you can imagine that our mornings can get a bit chaotic around here. I don’t know about you, but when my morning is rushed, stressful, and chaotic, it can easily mess up my whole day. A couple months ago, I set out to start making some changes to our morning routine to try to make things simpler, less stressful, and more enjoyable. I wanted slower, more peaceful mornings that would set us up for great days! And guess what? It worked!
Today I wanted to share the five things I’ve implemented that have been the game-changers of our mornings. Some were super easy changes to make, others took a bit of time, effort, and trial and error. I know everyone’s mornings look different due to school/work schedules and sleep preferences, but this is what has been working well for our family!
One caveat before I share: Ollie has been sleeping through the night for a few months now. I would not have been able to start making a lot of these changes back in the throes of newborn sleep deprivation – at that stage, we were just in survival mode! These were changes I made once we were all getting good, full nights of sleep.
An Early Wake-Up Time for Me
This is probably obvious, but the biggest positive change to my mornings happened once I could start waking up before my kids to get things going. Usually I shoot for anywhere from 5:45-6:15 am as a wake up time; I had to adjust to a goal bedtime of 9:30-10 pm to still get enough sleep but it was worth it! Sometimes, I try to workout but often I’m down in my office getting a jump on some work tasks (I have a part time work from home job with flexible hours so this is a great time to catch up on things). It’s so nice to be able to just hunker down and focus without the distraction and needs of kids.
That being said, there were many many days where LJ would get up, see my light downstairs, and come down. Sometimes he was downstairs before it was even 6 am! Which brings me to my next change . . .
A Digital Alarm Clock in the Kids’ Room
We have a Hatch sound machine in LJ and Vi’s room that changes colors based on the time. They were supposed to wait until the light turned green to come out of their rooms, but this just never really worked well for my early riser LJ. He would wake up and have no idea how much time was left before the light turned green – is it 5 more minutes? Is it an hour? He would get restless feeling like he had been waiting “a long time” and come out of his room before the green light. It was very frustrating for me because I often lost that important solo time early in the mornings and things generally didn’t go as smoothly when that happened.
A few weeks ago, we moved my digital alarm clock to their room and gave a very basic explanation of how to read the numbers. He is 5 and still can’t tell time BUT he is fully capable of understanding “do not come out of your room until the first number is a 7.” He understands number order so if it’s anything but a 6 or 7 first, he knows there is a lot of time left so he should try to sleep again. Even though he doesn’t fully understand time, this has at least given him a little more understanding of it and since moving the alarm clock, he has stayed in his room every day until 7 am!
LJ is out of his room at 7 am sharp and while Vi sometimes sleeps a bit longer, she is usually up by 7:15. I stop my work, we have a few minutes of morning cuddles, and then we get our morning going. I used to turn on all the main overhead lights in the kitchen at this point but now, I am very selective. I turn on the little lamp on my kitchen counter. I turn on the overhead island pendant – it’s on a dimmer and I only turn it about halfway up. I turn on the microwave light above the stove, and sometimes I turn on the light above the sink. Choosing a few smaller lights creates a warm, cozy ambiance and feels like the perfect transition between night and day. It’s like dawn in the kitchen and I love how it allows us to keep a slow feel to our morning.
Protein-Packed, Filling Breakfasts
We used to be an exclusively cereal-eating family, but last year I started making some changes. My kids would eat a bowl of cereal at 7 am and be hungry for a snack by 9 am – to combat this, I started trying to incorporate more filling breakfasts. The kids will still do a bowl of cereal maybe 3x a week, usually with a side of fruit, but other days we’re doing things like protein-packed waffles, sausage, oatmeal, eggs and toast, etc. The snack requests have gone WAY down and as a bonus, we linger a bit more over breakfast and can chat together.
For me personally, I have completely stopped eating cereal for breakfast. Once the kids have their breakfast made, I will make mine. My new go-to is two over-easy eggs topped with salt, cracked pepper, and nutritional yeast, homemade hash browns (Justin makes a huge batch at once and it will last us for days), and half of an avocado. Sometimes I’ll add in a couple pieces of air-fryed bacon or chicken sausage for extra protein. It is delicious and keeps me full until lunchtime. It’s so nice to fuel myself with a solid breakfast and it feels like a treat – usually the kids are done and out of the kitchen by the time I’m sitting down to eat so I have 10 minutes of peace to savor every bite. It feels so good to prioritize myself in this way.
No Screens Until XYZ
I am now very firm with my boundary of no screens until 8 am. The kids both have Amazon Fire Tablets programmed in a way that they can’t even access anything until 8 am (highly recommend!) and the TV is an absolute no. Don’t get me wrong, they bickered, they whined, and they protested, but I have held this boundary and they adjusted. They had gotten used to the anything-goes newborn haze so it took some time to form new habits, but they now know 8 means 8 and rarely even mention screens before that. Sometimes they get so busy playing that it’s well after 8 am before they even realize it!
This boundary gives us from 7 am – 8 am to get ready. The kids eat breakfast and play in the playroom/draw/entertain themselves while I eat mine. They may have screen time starting at 8 am, but they also MUST first be fully dressed, including glasses, all clothing, and socks and shoes. It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. It must be both 8 am AND they must be fully ready to walk out the door. This has made a huge difference; we are no longer scrambling to find glasses or get shoes on as we run out the door! The kids can enjoy screen time until it’s time to leave, which allows me to have 30-45 minutes (we leave between 8:30-8:45) to get myself changed, get Ollie up, changed, and fed, and get their preschool bags ready. Then when it’s time to head out the door, everyone has everything they need and we can calmly just get in the van.
Of course, there are days where we get out of whack and are still scrambling to get out the door on time, but those are honestly few and far between (and usually, the culprit is that I didn’t do one of these listed things!) Implementing these changes has gone so far in making our mornings feel peaceful and enjoyable and I truly savor this time. Not matter how crazy and hectic the day ends up being, at least our mornings started out right.