Morning Visual Checklist for a Toddler

Getting a toddler out the door in the morning rivals completing a marathon -- bursts of energy, self-doubt and unscheduled potty breaks can throw off your time. It's not because your tot is defiant, stubborn or naughty. The fact is, toddlers yearn for independence and the right to do things for their selves, in their own time. When parents' morning timelines don't jive with their toddlers', it can cause a lot of stress 2. Help keep your toddler on task in the morning while still giving her independence with a visual checklist.

Create a Routine

Each day is like an open book to toddlers -- they don't wake up with a to-do list or obligations to fill. When he gets out of bed, it's natural for him to be drawn to whatever catches his attention at that moment, maybe a favorite toy or a book. Maybe he just wants to spend time snuggling with his parents. You, on the other hand, are likely in "go" mode, trying to get yourself ready. A morning routine helps your tot understand how the day is supposed to flow 12. recommends creating a routine to follow every morning 3. Build a routine by completing the same tasks in the same order each morning, such as:

  • wake up
  • eat breakfast
  • brush teeth
  • get dressed
  • leave the house

Follow a Visual Checklist

The multiple steps involved in a morning routine can be overwhelming and confusing to a toddler 12. A visual checklist will help your child learn and follow the routine each day. Clinical psychologist Laura Markham, writing at, recommends creating a picture chart to display in several areas of your home for easy reference. Include simple illustrations of each task or take pictures of your child completing each task. Label each picture with one or two words. Consider using a magnet board or hook-and-loop fasteners to allow for flexibility in your schedule. Unexpected changes, like a visit to grandma's or a change in babysitter, will be more readily accepted by your toddler if they are on the chart.

Teach and Practice

Adults are familiar with the concept of a checklist and can easily follow one. Your toddler won't automatically understand how the checklist can help him unless you teach him. Introduce the checklist by showing your toddler the chart. Explain what each picture means. Practice following the chart when you are home with your child and don't have to rush out the door. Help your toddler role-play each task or play a game where you cover up part of the chart and see whether your child can guess what to do next, either by telling you or showing you.

Celebrate Success

Use positive reinforcement when teaching your toddler the morning routine. Consult the visual checklist with your toddler before and after each step is completed. Give her plenty of hugs and high-fives when she successfully completes each step. It won't take long for your child to know the routine well 1. The pride she feels for doing the steps herself might be all the motivation she needs to keep up the good behavior. When she veers off-course, direct her back to the chart and remind her of the next step instead of scolding her for being distracted.