No More Morning Nagging

October 16, 2013 by Michelle

The wee one are morning people (or at least Mister Man is if he wakes up by himself, which he does 99% of the time).  I am not a morning person.  Not by a long shot.  I stay in bed as long as I possibly can, which isn’t very long with two children who need to be shepherded through the morning process.  As much as they’re awake long before I am, they tend to not be very productive.

Though they know what needs to be done in the morning, they choose to read or play instead.  Needless to say, that leads to me chasing after them, constantly nagging them to go go go, move move move, and no one is happy.  They know that when they’ve finished everything they have to do, they’re welcome to go outside to play (something they can’t do in the morning before I wake up) or play on their Kindles (which I keep in my bedroom in a secret drawer) or read or whatever else they want to do, which gives them motivation to try to get ready in a timely manner.

Motivation helps, but it only goes so far.

I’ve tried various systems over the years to attempt to solve this conundrum in a way that makes everyone happy.  I’ve had some successes more than others, and my biggest success was using whiteboards to write down what the wee one need to do every morning. They erase each item as they complete it, and I rewrite the list from memory the next morning.

You can imagine how long that lasted.  Actually, for a few weeks I did keep up with it every day, but rewriting it wasn’t fun, and I didn’t always remember everything. Much as I loved the concept, I shelved it over the summer and it didn’t come back when school started.

Their bus this year comes a little earlier than it has the last few years.  And they started making their own lunches this year, too.  So less overall time in the morning plus additional chores equals a little chaos in our house, as you might imagine.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a new version of the old system, and I think I’ve got the kinks worked out.

Child's to do list laminated for each morning

I no longer write down what has to be done each day.  I have a set of laminated sheets that list what has to be done a day by day basis, since things on Tuesday aren’t the same as things on Friday, and Sunday is a whole new ball of wax.  While many things are the same, I need to capture the “extra” things like getting gymnastics gear packed up or returning library books or having the once a week homework that we might have done over the weekend make it into a backpack.

Each day includes the special items that need to be done on a Wednesday or Saturday

Knowing that things are changing on a regular basis, I included extra lines, too.  Sometimes there is laundry to put away.  Sometimes there is a dishwasher to empty.  Sometimes we need to make sure something special is packed in my car.  Whatever it is, I left room for it.

Each child has a box to check for every item that is relevant.  For example, I don’t have a box for Mister Man to brush his hair each morning (he’s a boy; they don’t need to brush hair, right?).  And I don’t have a box for Little Miss to get dressed for TKD on Saturday mornings.  That helps prevent confusion while ensure the customization each child needs is there.

Thursday's to do list includes putting laundry away

I printed my sheets front to back like a book before laminating them to save paper and lamination.  I punched a hole through the tops of the sheets and secured them with a ring.  That keeps us from losing just one sheet, and all they have to do each morning is simply flip the page to the next day to see what needs to be done.

Sheets are printed front to back and clipped together

The items on the list are nominally in order.  We start with getting dressed, and the list ends with putting on shoes and a coat.  The items in between can generally be done in any order (although please eat breakfast before you brush your teeth).  I like having it set up so that they have to use some judgement to determine what they want to do when.  It gives them some control over the process, which they like, while also teaching them about priorities.  If we’re running late, can we skip eating breakfast?  No.  Can we skip returning our library books this week?  Yes, but they you don’t get new ones.

I started out with a list that I thought was pretty thorough.  Silly me.  I purposely didn’t laminate them for a couple weeks of the trial to ensure I didn’t miss anything in our to do lists.  There was a lot I missed.  Little Miss eventually wrote in “put on socks” because though I consider that a part of getting dressed, she would habitually come downstairs without socks, having forgotten them.  I also added the need to clean up whatever they got out to make lunch and snack, as far too often I was left with a dirty counter filled with food that should be in the fridge.  I also realized I had to add flip flops to the specifics of getting the gymnastics bag ready, as Little Miss usually didn’t remember them otherwise.  And so on and so on.

After a week of fine tuning the lists and another week of ensuring they were adequate, I was ready to laminate.  And now?  They’re thrilled. Little Miss actually went to bed last night having crossed off several items on her to do list for today.  Why can’t she get her assignment notebook signed the night before?  Why can’t she get her TKD belt into her backpack or her library books ready to return?  They’re little things, but in the morning, they only add to the chaos.

Once we finish the list for the day, they can easily see how much they accomplished and where they might need to focus more the next day.  That helps them prioritize, as well.  And for me, it’s simple to just erase the marks the wee ones have made and have the sheet ready to go for the next week.

Laminated sheets means you can erase and start over the next day with your list in place

And this way?  Well, she had almost a half hour with her Kindle before school this morning because she was on top of things.  I’d say that’s a win for everyone.  This system isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!

Little Miss had time to play Mine Craft on her Kindle because she finished her to do list

Your list will be different from my list because your child has different things that need to get done. You have different expectations and activities.  Work with it.  Play with it.  And then laminate it so you don’t have to keep recreating it.

Some of the things on our list include:

  • Change underwear
  • Get dressed
  • Put on socks
  • Put pjs away
  • Make bed
  • Clean room
  • Turn off all unused lights
  • Eat breakfast
  • Put away breakfast dishes
  • Brush teeth
  • Make sure bathroom is cleaned up
  • Brush hair
  • Check cat food and water
  • Clean litterbox
  • Shoes (and coat, if needed) on

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m running the dishwasher right now.  I need to go add that item to the to do list before I forget!


  • Jackie

    What a great idea!! My girls are older and got the morning routine down pat but then again at 12, 14, and 11 it shouldn’t be to hard for them.

    My little guy who is 3… well that’s another story.

  • Emily

    Michelle, I love this idea especially for planners like myself. This is not only an awesome idea for kids, but adults as well! This would greatly help with daily to do’s, and task tracking. Thanks for sharing!

    • Michelle

      Thank you, Emily! I am obviously a bit of a planner myself. My days vary too much to use a laminated list like this, but I do a whiteboard of daily to dos instead for me. This has been a Godsend and makes everyone so much happier. I hope it works for you, too!

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