Morning activities: start the day with play!

The following post is by contributor Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

What’s the mood like in your house in the morning? My girls happen to wake up early most days, ready to go. I, however, am not nearly as perky as they are. I’m not big on plopping kids in front of the TV first thing in the morning (at least not every day), so I needed an alternative for my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed girls.

When my girls were preschool age, I started setting out an art, exploration, or play activity at night before I went to bed. I chose very simple activities that the girls could play with independently, often using toys that had been tucked away or art supplies we hadn’t used in a while. The set-up time was always under 5 minutes.

When we got up in the morning, the girls could jump right in and start playing. They were always so thrilled by the surprise of seeing a project first thing in the morning – even if it was just a bin of Legos spread out on the table or a stack of forgotten coloring books and new crayons. I could sit with them, have some morning conversation, and wake up over a cup of tea or coffee.

butterfly tissue paper collage
Photo by Amy Anderson

My girls are older now, and generally grab a book or even fix breakfast on their own in the morning. I still set up morning activities for them from time to time. I usually place a morning activity in the kitchen/dining area, so we can continue to play and chat while making coffee and getting breakfast ready. Sometimes, the girls continue playing while they nibble on their breakfast.

Remember, you don’t need to set out a morning activity every day. I only do this once a week or so, and I keep it unpredictable. A big part of the fun is the element of surprise!

Starter ideas for morning activities:

painting with watercolors
Photo by Amy Anderson

• Spread out a puzzle on the kitchen table.

• Cover the whole table with paper and set out crayons and stickers.

• Fill a plastic tub with dry beans, measuring cups, spoons, and scoops.

• Offer play dough and accessories – birthday candles, shells, toothpicks, googly eyes, toy cars or animals.

• Tape a large piece of clear contact paper, sticky-side up, to a window or table. Set a basket nearby filled with tissue paper pieces, yarn scraps, cotton balls, and other lightweight things for sticking.

• Gather activity-type books from around the house – touch and feel, lift-the-flap, pop-up, I Spy, etc. Display them standing up all over the table.

• Spread out all the clean socks to make pairs – why not get a chore done at the same time?

• Gather a few nature items (rocks, leaves, flowers, bark, pine cones) and set out magnifying glasses and sketching supplies.

Whether your kids are early birds like mine, or they’re slow to get going in the morning, maybe morning activities are something to try in your house. I find that this morning activity time sets a positive mood for the day, especially for me. It’s a really nice way to wake up and ease into the day.

What are mornings like in your house? What activity would your kids love waking up to in the morning?

About AmyA

At her blog, Let’s Explore, Amy shares her family’s experiences creating, imagining, and playing together. You can read about her homeschooling journey at Early Bird Homeschool.

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  1. These are great ideas! I think my kids would love to wake up to some type of activity in the morning. And maybe it would give me a little bit of time to get some journaling and planning of our day done.
    Heather´s latest post: new books and baby vests

  2. Oh, that would start out the day wonderfully! We usually start by letting the kids watch tv while I finish up breakfast. Why do we always wait until later to do the fun stuff. Mostly because I’m not awake enough to deal with the mess in the mornings but it would be exciting for the kids. Thanks for sharing this great idea.
    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds´s latest post: Bullying and What Should Be Done About It

  3. We don’t do specific activities in the morning but I do try to spend the first 30 minutes after breakfast on the floor playing with my 2-year old. The whole day goes so much better if I focus on her uninterrupted first thing. She tends to be cranky when waking up from her nap so I try to have a specific play activity ready for her when she wakes up in the afternoon. Thanks for some great ideas.
    Steph´s latest post: Learning through Play

  4. What wonderful suggestions! I wake up pretty perky but I still struggle with morning activities. These are great ideas and I can’t wait to try some.

  5. Katie N. says:

    This is a great idea! Thank you so much!!!

  6. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! My children are 5 and younger, my husband is deployed and I am just out of it in the mornings! Over the last several weeks I’ve gotten in the habit of putting on a show from Netflix and I just want OUT of the habit. We homeschool and I feel like it just made for a chaotic morning because the other kids felt “entitled” to a show of their own since the one that woke earliest got to choose a show. I am going to set something up tonight to try it out!

  7. Thank you! This is perfect. I have been relying too much on the television this summer while I get the day going. I would much rather have something like this ready for my girls when they peek their heads out of their room.

  8. Such great ideas!! I needed these. Thanks Amy!

  9. Amy – thanks for a GREAT idea!!! Can I also ask what are the paints that the girls are using in the last photo? I am in search of some good water colors for our kids…

  10. Thanks for sharing these fresh ideas. I’m not a morning person, so I can use all the help I can get for starting the day off right with my kids. I love how you’ve taken regular activities and put in a little twist, even standing the books up on the table instead of laying them in stacks. And I appreciate the simple reminder to plan ahead and have the activity set out at night.
    Darcy @ Message in a Mason Jar´s latest post: West Palm Runaway {Gift from the Sea 2: Channelled Whelk}

  11. You are so right about this setting a tone for the entire day. Some days, I wake up and can just *feel* that I’m off my game. I’m going to file some of these suggestions away as an emergency plan for those days – a way to change the mood of the morning before it takes us both down!
    Megan´s latest post: Insert Sewing Pun Here.

  12. These are great ideas! I’ll definitely be using them in the coming weeks!

    At our house, with a 3 year old and twin 16-month-olds, I also try to rotate toys a bit almost every night — bringing up something new from the basement and taking something down in its place. As you said, the “surprise” keeps things fresh and keeps them interested while I make a big cup of coffee!

    My 3 year old also loves it when I set out watercolor paper, watercolors, and salt. See my blog post about it:

    Thanks again for a great post.

  13. Great list, thanks for sharing! I’m always looking for ideas for my oldest while I work and baby brother naps.

  14. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! I’m exactly like you, and my girls are yes, very bright eyed & bushy-tailed in the morning too. What a great idea…thank you so much for the suggestion.

  15. What wonderful, simple ideas! Perfect timing as I’m expecting LO by the end of July. I will definitely utilize these ideas with my almost 3yo to ease the transition. Thank you!

  16. Thanks for the great ideas! I think something like this could help deflect the negative energy in the morning when I’m groggy and the kids are energetically and annoyingly begging for this or that for breakfast. Having something for them to do would really help this sleepy Mama make them a decent breakfast.

  17. Wonderful ideas! I will definitely try this out next week as I have noticed of late that my three year old doesn’t want to rush directly to the breakfast table anymore :)!
    Francine´s latest post: Sister Sketch June 2012 | Bath

  18. Love this post! My daughter (who is an only child) usually plays really well on her own after breakfast, so that’s when I try to get my work done. By afternoon, though, she typically wants a LOT more attention, and it can quickly devolve into a “MummyMummyMummy”-fest if I don’t have a plan. This gives me some great ideas for things we can do together or (if I have more work than normal) she can do on her own while I do my thing nearby.
    Kathryn´s latest post: The Gingerbread Girl

  19. As the middle aged mother of a 3 yr old, with older daughters in their 20’s, I have found myself trying (sometimes successfully) what we did when the older ones were little. Pinterest has been a wonderful helper to get us motivated and crafting and that lead me here! Great ideas full of fun! Thanks for sharing. We did a fun salt and food color project and you can see our’s here:
    Lana´s latest post: Braided Rugs

  20. Any suggestion for two boys (3 and 7). I’m thinking about a some kind of games til we arrive to school and kindergarten.


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