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Occupational Therapy Tips for Establishing a Wake-up Routine for Your Kids

May 4, 2024

Teen going to bed reading with mom

Struggling to get your little one out of bed in the morning? You’re not alone! Our therapists dive into the world of morning routines and offer some helpful tips to make those early wake-ups a little bit easier. From setting bedtime schedules to preparing the night before, we’ve got you covered. Plus, we’ll share some tricks for managing homework and winding down at the end of the day. Don’t let the morning blues get you down – read on for some expert advice! 

Take Note of Morning Behaviors

For some kids (parents included), mornings make us want to call it a day before we even get out the door. Your child is the golden key for a successful routine. When the weather is chilly, let’s say your child is struggling to wiggle their way out of a cozy, warm bed. As their ever-watchful parent, you already know a few tactics in helping them “raise from the bed.” Do they respond better to your voice? Setting an alarm on the other side of the room? Turning on the light? Maybe it is the whole lot. Either way, understanding your child’s morning behaviors tells you which moves to make for an easier morning.

If breaking up with the bed is a serious endeavor in the morning, evaluate if your child is getting enough sleep. Hitting the hay an hour earlier each night may just do the trick to ease morning discomfort. Most school-aged children require about 9 – 12 hours of sleep, which is more than the recommended amount for adults (8 – 10 hours, in case you were wondering!) Earlier bedtimes are most effective when your child has the same bedtime every night. Consistent routines thrive with consistent sleep.

Plan Ahead to Keep Things Simple

Mornings are particularly stressful because we often need to reach a deadline. School and work are calling and will start with or without you. Planning ahead is your best defense to peace of mind. For your child, you can lay out clothes, breakfast, and even lunch the day before. The fewer decisions to make in the morning the better. Another idea to try is to create a chart of morning tasks to complete before heading out into the big world. Post it somewhere your child will be sure to see. If they are younger, don’t be afraid to show off your art skills and draw your own pictures!

Pro Tip: Play upbeat music in the house. Make morning more fun!

Make a Time & Place for Homework 

Even though kids need opportunities to play and move around after school, homework needs a chance to shine at some point too. Setting expectations and goals for your child holds them responsible for completing this important task. Every child is different in how they respond to conquering the paper and pen. Some may need breaks while others can chug straight through. Even still, some will do better in their room while others may need to sit in the kitchen away from distractions. You get the idea.

No matter the method, keep it consistent in starting in the same place, without distractions, and at the same time. Allow there to be an end in sight, especially if homework takes a while. What activity can your child look forward to when they reach the finish line?

Turn Off Screens Before Bed

In the final hour before bed, winding down is our favorite routine to practice, especially after a long day. Low noises and dimmed lights in a room around 65 degrees Fahrenheit will settle your child down. Allow them to engage in quiet activities such as coloring, reading, taking a bath, or stretching. Keep screen time away from bedtime in the last thirty minutes to an hour. Screens are known to disrupt sleep quality, which can even make waking up more challenging. These subtle discomforts can be a ripple effect throughout the entire day, so enforcing rules for both you and your kiddo will leave a big mark in your daily dance.

Daily Routines are the Best Routines

Whether you are reestablishing, continuing, or creating a daily routine, the change will stand out. In fact, routines are so beneficial that they can lower problematic sleep disturbances such as waking up in the middle of the night. The reality is that consistent routines can make challenging transitions inside and outside of the home much easier. By bringing order and predictability into the mix, daily routines allow the whole family to rock their day and decrease stress, which equals getting goals accomplished today.

Incorporating consistent routines into your child’s daily life not only sets the stage for smoother mornings and evenings but also fosters a sense of security and stability crucial for their development. However, establishing and maintaining these routines can sometimes be challenging. This is where occupational therapy can step in to offer valuable support and guidance. Occupational therapists specialize in helping children navigate daily activities, such as morning and bedtime routines, by addressing any underlying difficulties they may face. Through personalized strategies and interventions tailored to your child’s unique needs, occupational therapy can empower both you and your child to cultivate and sustain effective routines, ultimately leading to happier, more fulfilling days for the entire family. If you’re seeking assistance in optimizing your child’s routines, consider reaching out to our occupational therapy team for personalized support and expertise.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information for parents and caregivers.