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Organizing Your Kids for School: The Morning Checklist

Does the thought of preparing your kids for the new school year completely overwhelm you? For me, it's not just the school supply shopping and thought of having to pack lunches for the next 180 weekdays that gives me instant agita, it's also the idea of selecting outfits without a fight, getting breakfast on the table (and eaten, too!), and encouraging my little ones to complete all of their hygienic tasks independently before having to push them out the door.

Well friend, if you can relate to any of this, then I say it's time for a change.

Instead of beginning each school day facing the unknowns of "Which mismatch outfit will she choose to wear today?" or "How many breakfast options will I have to offer before he just picks one?", I am committing to getting my kids' morning routines organized with the implementation of the following three strategies:

  1. Morning Self-Monitoring Checklists

  2. Breakfast Menus

  3. Weekly Outfit Prep Stations

In this post, I am going to guide you through the first strategy of developing a self-monitoring checklist for each of your kids to complete, which will help your children to build autonomy, systemize your morning routine, and take some weight off of your parenting shoulders!


The Purpose of the Morning Self-Monitoring Checklist

Before diving into the creation process, it's important for me to explain the purpose and function of the morning self-monitoring checklist.

Do you ever feel like your kids have selective hearing, particularly when it comes to their names being called or them being asked to complete a chore around the house? I'm here to tell you that they don't mean to ignore you... they literally just don't hear you. Your kids are so used to hearing your voice call for them that after awhile they truly become numb to it. It's kind of like the feeling of being able to commute to and from work without thinking about or remembering the drive itself... it's a task that we become numb to after repeating it over and over and over again.

So when you have to remind your kids ten times to brush their teeth, it's most likely the case that they heard you the first time, became distracted, then did not hear you the other nine times.

Providing a child with a visual and tactile checklist gives him or her step-by-step guidance on which responsibilities need to be completed--and in which order--before another task can be completed, without having to be told to do so. This is the beauty of a checklist; it is a quiet reminder of the jobs that need to get done, and which parent wouldn't love that?


Step 1: Creating the Morning Self-Monitoring Checklist

Ok, I will be the first to admit that my experience as an elementary school teacher is taking over with this one, but that should actually make this strategy more trustworthy. Having children use self-monitoring checklists is a great way to get important tasks done while encouraging independence, which is what all of us parents want in the end, right? To not have to do everything ourselves?

To create an effective morning self-monitoring checklist, begin by brainstorming the tasks you need your child to complete before heading out the door for school. Additionally, think of the order that these tasks should be completed in that makes the most sense for your family. For example, my kids' ordered morning needs are as follows:

  • Eat breakfast (this comes before getting dressed because my kids are notorious food-and-drink-spillers)

  • Brush teeth (my son likes to use the sleeve of his shirt to wipe off frothy toothpaste remnants, so yes, this also comes before getting dressed)

  • Get dressed

  • Hair brushed and styled

  • Shoes on (this is a big issue in my house, so it absolutely needs to be added to the checklist)

After brainstorming your list of need-to-do items, add this information to an 8.5 x 11 PowerPoint Slide, GoogleSheet, or good old-fashioned piece of paper. At the top of the printed or handwritten sheet, be sure to add a title and your child's name/picture in order to personalize the checklist.

Next, insert an X to identify the incomplete task (which gets reset each day) and a check mark to identify the completed task. I will address the purpose of this in the next section.


Step 2: Creating the Tokens

Now that the body of the personalized checklist has been developed, it's time to add the tokens. The tactile tokens are what your child will use to keep track of a task being incomplete and a task being completed. As previously mentioned, the tokens will be reset each day to land under the X that was inserted into the chart as part of Step 1, and as each task is worked through, your child will be able to physically move the token from the X column to the check mark column.

Although moveable tokens are not 100% necessary (you will read about dry erase options in just a moment), they bring more accountability to the self-monitoring checklist and--quite frankly--make it more fun for your child to engage with!

Here are some suggestions for creating the tokens:

  • Digital clipart (*best for non-readers): Have your child help to select a clipart image to use for each token. This will help him or her to know what the focus task is without having to read anything.

  • Draw quick pics (*best for family fun): Work with your child to sketch out and color token pictures that relate to each focus task.

  • Pennies, buttons, or other small manipulatives (*fun for kids who can read): Place a Velcro dot on the back of each token and you're good to go! No printing necessary!

  • Dry erase markers (*zero-ish prep): This is a quick, zero-ish prep solution to the "creating tokens step". Just have your child use a dry erase marker to check off each completed task instead of using the tactile tokens.

Note: If you are choosing one of the paper-based options shared above, know that lamination may be required to ensure that the tokens will stay intact all year long.


Step 3: The Final Details

After the body of the chart and the tokens have been created, it's time for the final touches. I'm sure you're wondering how on earth you are going to preserve this checklist so that it will make it through an entire school year. Well, I have a couple solutions for you!

  1. Lamination: Laminating the checklist and the tokens, then using either Velcro or sticky tack to make the tokens moveable is my favorite solution.

  2. Sheet Protector/Clear Board: No laminator? No problem! You can use a simple sheet protector or a clear board to place your child's checklist in, then use Velcro or sticky tack to set up for the token movement (*as an Amazon Associate, I may receive a small commission for this purchase). With this option, tokens are not needed as a dry erase marker can be used in their place; the use of tactile tokens is recommended for younger children, though.

  3. Freezer-Sized Ziploc Bag: Similar to a sheet protector or clear board, your child's checklist can be stored in a freezer-sized Ziploc bag and drawn on with a dry erase marker. Added bonus: You now have a place to keep that dry erase marker!


Optional Step: Incentivizing the Checklist

If this is your child's first time using a self-monitoring checklist and he or she is the type of kid who needs a little extra motivation, I would encourage you to tie an incentive to it.

I know the idea of tying an incentive to your little one following through on a basic set of responsibilities may not sound very fun to you, but hear me out. We, as adults, are motivated by incentives all of the time. Overtime pay, bonuses, time off, coffee breaks... these are all great. So are things like verbal praise, acknowledgement, and extra play time. And how do we receive these extrinsic and intrinsic gifts? By completing a job. So, why shouldn't your child be celebrated for completing this important set of jobs? By rewarding your child for completing all of the ordered morning tasks, he or she will feel accomplished and become more committed to engaging in the activity again the next day.

In the case of tying an incentive to your child's morning self-monitoring checklist, you can stick to the free stuff if that best suits you. For example, at the end of the list of tasks that need to get done, you could add "Activity Station" where your child could engage in Play Doh time, ask Alexa to play a favorite song and have a 3-minute dance party, or have a 2-minute tickle fight. Whatever floats your boat! Just know that this simple addition to the morning self-monitoring checklist may make all the difference in your child's buy-in.

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Holy blog post, huh?!

I hope the information shared in this post will be of major value and will help you to better organize your kids for the start of the new school year!

Want the basic template for the morning self-monitoring checklist?

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