The morning routine with your preschooler

The morning can be a busy time for many families, especially when both parents work outside the home; everyone needs to eat breakfast, get dressed and be ready to leave at a certain time. Get Set for Life's Comfort, Play and Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting program can be used to make this time of day more enjoyable for you and your preschooler and to support his language development in various ways.

Establishing a morning routine
Preschoolers, like younger children, take great comfort in predictability and in having some control over what they do. As part of your morning routine, whether you are at the breakfast table or in the car, help your child prepare for the rest of the day and practice his language skills by asking him what he will do later on and what he looks forward to. Encourage him to expand on what he said by asking lots of questions like “What games will you play when you go outside?” or “What will you do with your toy truck?” to develop his ability to talk about events and give explanations.

You can also play guessing games such as “I spy” when you are getting ready in the morning, by taking turns saying things like “I spy something that is blue. Can you guess what it is?” This helps your child learn new words, practice asking and answering questions such as “Is it my bowl?” or “Does it have white spots?” and jogs his memory as he tries to remember the names of the objects in his environment.

Talking about the events of the morning is also an effective way for you to teach your preschooler how to reason his way through problems by talking about them. For example, “Your favourite shirt is dirty, and we don't have time to wash it. Let's see what other shirts you have and you can decide what you want to wear today...” or “There are three glasses on the table but there are four of us. How many more glasses do we need?”

If your child is a baby:
Your baby communicates with you from the time he gets up in the morning, so be on the lookout for cues and clues such as crying, reaching for an object, turning his head away from the light and cooing with pleasure. This will help you determine whether your child is in a good mood or whether he is hungry or still sleepy and needs to be cuddled.

Little by little, he will begin to understand that his actions “tell” you something. Every time you “read” your baby's cues or signals correctly and respond sensitively to his needs, he will feel comforted and secure.

Babies tend to be wide awake in the morning, so it's the perfect time to play. Keep him close as you are preparing for the day and interact with him by responding to his smiles and making eye contact, sharing in his delight as he discovers his foot or the pattern on his shirt, and handing him the out-of-reach toy that he is looking at or pointing to.

These simple things go a long way to establish communication between the two of you, and provide a solid base to build on when he starts to use language. As you are dressing your baby, touch and name his arms, hands, tummy and legs to start teaching him the names of his body parts. Repeating each word often, by themselves or in sentences, helps babies learn to recognize these words.

If your child is a toddler:
Help your toddler learn the phrases that help him get the comfort he needs, such as “Hug me”. Even if you are rushed in the morning, it is important to respond to those needs and to show him that words can help him get your attention and fulfill his needs more effectively than crying or behaving badly. Give him the affection he is asking for and add some encouraging and loving words of your own to help him face the day with confidence.

Play with your child by creating nonsense rhymes together as you are getting ready. Exploring the possibilities of his language and using it creatively will help him become more and more familiar with its sounds and structure, and give you and your child a chance to laugh together before you leave for the day.

Toddlers can communicate quite effectively and they start to put words together to form sentences, but they leave out bits and pieces. For example, they say things like “Want juice” instead of “I want some juice”.

Take advantage of your morning routine, when your child is alert and awake and you have lots to say to each other, to teach him how to use these words that “glue” the sentences together. Simply expand on his sentences to model how these words are used, without making him repeat them. The idea is not to correct your child, but to expose him to these words and structures so he will know how to use them when he is ready.

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