Morning Rituals, Part 1 – Why You Should Add Music to Your Morning Routine with Kids

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Photo by August de Richelieu, obtained via Pexels

As you gear up for a new school year, you’re no doubt thinking about the logistics of your morning routine with kids.

What time does everyone need to get up? Who needs a lunch packed? How do I keep this kid focused on eating breakfast instead of making a fortress out of the cereal boxes?!?

Those things are important; no one wants the stressful morning chaos that results from a lack of planning.

But starting the day off right is about more than brushing teeth and loading backpacks.

The morning is also an opportunity to remind your kids how much they’re loved, and to empower them to begin their day with a positive mindset.

Today I’m kicking off a four-part series on simple rituals to add meaning and connection to your morning routine with kids.

First up? A morning playlist!

How a Morning Playlist Benefits Your Morning Routine with Kids

Have you ever noticed how young kids don’t wake up gradually?

Once they’re out of bed, BAM! No gentle “Good morning, Mom, how did you sleep?”

Nope, it’s straight to random questions about waterslides, animal facts from Wild Kratts, and fighting over who gets which bowl.

If, like me, you’re not a morning person, that instant intensity can make you want to hide.

But alas, the day must begin. And that’s why I’ve come to love having a playlist as part of my morning routine with kids.

Here are the benefits of starting the day with some upbeat songs.

Morning music…

…makes talking optional.

You might not be up for much conversation in the morning (see desire to hide, above), and maybe your kids’ early-in-the-day interactions often evolve into fighting. Listening to music together gives a pleasant atmosphere without requiring talking.

…provides motivation. 

You can challenge your child to finish getting dressed by the end of a certain song, or choose an upbeat tune to accompany a morning chore. My son, for example, relies heavily on “All Star” by Smash Mouth to get him through unloading the dishwasher.

Photo by StockSnap, obtained via Shutterstock

…creates structure.

You can also use a playlist to guide the structure of your morning routine.

Say your kids have a total of 45 minutes to get ready. Make a playlist of that length, then listen to the songs in the same order each morning.

Your kids will come to know that by the end of “This is Me,” they should be done with breakfast and by the time “Fight Song” comes on, they should be working on their backpacks. (More song suggestions below!)

…gives an outlet for all that energy!

If you have a kid who wakes up with a ton of physical energy, dancing offers a positive way to release it. It’s way less stressful for everyone if your little ball of energy rocks out to their favorite song in lieu of tackling siblings.

…lowers stress.

For parents, it’s stressful to keep everyone moving toward the goal of successfully exiting the house. For kids, it’s stressful to be reminded (and reminded and reminded…) to keep moving toward that goal.

You or your kids might also be anxious as you anticipate certain parts of the work or school day.

Listening to music reduces stress both by lowering levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, and by providing a positive distraction.  

…acts as a comforting ritual.

Hearing the same music at the same time each day can provide further comfort and anxiety reduction. Scientists have found that “rituals and traditions offer a rest for the brain because they are known events that provide structure”.

…generates happiness.

When you listen to music you love, your brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter.

…fosters a positive mindset for the day.

You want your kids to start their day with confidence, with a commitment to be curious, be kind, be brave. Music has the power to frame your kids’ mindset, as well as your own, as the day begins.

Tips for Creating a Playlist for Your Morning Routine with Kids

Photo by Andrea Piacquad, obtained via Pexels

Agree on songs that a) your kids love and b) YOU also love (or can at least tolerate!).

Ideally you and your kids have overlapping tastes in music. Inevitably, there will be songs they love that aren’t your jam and vice-versa. Create a list that has at least some of everyone’s favorites.

You’ll have to grow accustomed to some selections that aren’t your favorite. Avoid, however, the ones that make you cringe as soon as you hear the opening notes. An example from my household is “The Gummy Bear Song” (if you don’t know it, oh, you’re SO very welcome).

I can tolerate it when we have a family dance party, but if I had to listen to it every morning while the coffee’s still brewing, Lord help me.

The point of a morning playlist is to improve everyone’s mood, so don’t subject yourself to music that will result in net crankiness.

Adjust your playlist as needed.

You’ll likely find that certain songs you thought you’d enjoy listening to every day become tedious (“Call Me Maybe” was one of those for me).

There might also be songs that only fit a certain season.

For instance, when the days grow dark and cold here in Minnesota, we love dancing to “Where is the Light?” by Peter Mayer. In spring and summer, when we enjoy glorious days of ample sunshine, the song comes off the list.

Edit your playlist as needed.

Keep the playlist consistent.

Wait, what? Didn’t I just say to adjust the list as needed? Yes, and you should.

But you should so incrementally and in consultation with your kids.

Here’s how I learned that lesson: at my house, we’ve been listening to our morning playlist since last spring or so.

Recently, as I started thinking about the start of a new school year, I decided I’d give the morning playlist an overhaul. I googled “songs to listen to in the morning” and “positive songs” and “songs that make you feel powerful.”

Related: A First Day of School Breakfast Tradition

I previewed song after song, narrowing the field down to a dozen or so that I thought were worthy additions to our list.

At last I was ready to excitedly present the update to the boys. “Guess what?!? I found a bunch of new songs for the morning playlist!”

Shortly after I hit “play,” it became clear the kids’ enthusiasm level did not mirror my own.

By the time we got to the third new song, my oldest son gave me a look of exasperation. He said, “Look, you better not add any more new songs because then we’ll never get to hear the old ones!”

Oops. My bad.

I forgot benefit #6 – morning music acts as a comforting ritual. I thought I was doing a great thing in editing our playlist, but the kids prefer the old one.

They like the predictability of songs they know and love, songs they’ve come to associate with starting the new day.

While I still want at least a little new music – after all, I’ve now heard this playlist literally hundreds of times! — I’ve now moved most of the new songs to the end of the current list so they don’t crowd out the beloved existing ones.

The takeaway? Use extreme caution when tampering with beloved rituals!

Make Your Own Playlist for Your Morning Routine with Kids

Photo by Annushka Ahuja, obtained via Pexels.

Last but most certainly not least, time to create your own playlist!

To provide a jumping off point, here’s ours.

I used YouTube since it’s the music platform I’m most familiar with, but you could also create your list in Spotify or one of its alternatives.

Our playlist is eclectic. To kick things off, there’s a chill-yet-not-babyish song by Raffi called “Rise and Shine.”

Then we pump up the energy with the likes of Justin Timberlake and Shakira before adding in a couple mellow-yet-empowering tunes.

For a lot more inspiration, here are other lists I came across during my searches:

https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/science-says-listening-to-these-5-songs-will-make-you-really-happy.html – This article details research findings about music’s ability to make us happy. It includes links to five songs that seemed to particularly move people.

None would fit our current morning playlist since they’re instrumental pieces, but I’m keeping them in mind for the coming years (you know, when the kids declare themselves too cool for our current mix of pop songs).

https://thekindergartensmorgasboard.com/2018/08/music-in-the-classroom-morning-arrival-playlist.html – this guy seems like the kind of kindergarten teacher we all hope our kids have! Scroll down for an image showing his full morning playlist.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5oYO2Va7InpDRSkYpjyuDf – Big Life Journal has a “Growth Mindset” Mix on Spotify. Tons of positive songs.

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/uplifting-songs-inspire-optimism-positivity-stress-relief-music/ – this list features different people’s go-to songs when they were trying to keep a positive outlook at the start of the pandemic. This is where I discovered “Original” by Sia, which has become one of our favorites!

In the comments below, will you share with me any songs that you/your family love to listen to in the morning? I’d love to expand our playlist once I’m given formal permission to do so again. 😊

Hope that a morning playlist ritual makes as positive of an impact in your household as it has in ours!

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