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Does this sound familiar….
Your kids bound out of bed with the energy of 1,000 suns before your eyes even open.
You might be able to convince them to watch something on TV while you brew coffee, but you know you’ll never get through an entire hot cup before someone is melting down.
You struggle through making breakfast for everyone, while tamping down the sibling rivalry along the way.
By the time everyone has eaten:
- You’ve microwaved the coffee two or three times (do you even know where that cup is right now, actually?).
- Dishes have been corralled back to the sink to be washed at some magical time later in the day.
- And everyone is staring at you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready for the day’s adventures.
You’re already ready to crawl back into bed. Only it’s just now time to kick off the day. WHEW!
You’re probably stressed out just thinking about this scenario. Or maybe you’re literally living it as you’re reading this (in between flipping the eggs, calming the littlest one, and feeding the dog).
Either way… I promise you: You are NOT alone. Having a frazzled and frustrating start to your mornings is not an uncommon homeschool family problem. I’d argue, in fact, that it is one of the most common fixable problems amongst the families that I work with daily.
It’s no secret that how your morning begins affects your entire day. If everyone is grumpy, under-stimulated (or overstimulated by screens), it’s really hard to come back from that and turn the day into something that is intentional, meaningful, and enjoyable for everyone (yourself included).
The biggest gap or problem we find? Children wake up with ALL the energy. Parents…. Not so much.
But along with that energy comes focus, attention, excitement, curiosity… all of the things that make a learning and creative experience a thing of dreams!
When we wait until after all of the chaos of morning time to bring an experience to our children, we have potentially lost a lot of opportunities to engage and excite them.
ENTER: THE MORNING INVITATION
You may have heard of this idea before, as it has many names — morning basket, daily bin, provocation, invitation to play/create/learn, etc. Whatever you call it, they have the same purpose — to immediately engage a child upon waking (or very soon thereafter).
A morning invitation could be any number of things:
- A creative suggestion
- A sensory activity
- An exploration related to their current theme of study
- A writing prompt
- And the options are endless!
I’ll share some specific suggestions and ideas in a minute… but just know that you really can’t do it WRONG! Whew!
When your child has the opportunity to explore, create, or problem solve first thing in the morning, several amazing things happen.
WHY MORNING INVITATIONS?
HARNESS THE CREATIVE ENERGY FOR GOOD
- You are giving your kids a chance to harness all of that curious and creative energy for good. No more yelling out “Please stop putting X on your little brother/the dog/your face” before you’ve finished that first cup of joe (hopefully — no guarantees).
- The time immediately after this morning invitation engagement will be so much calmer and connected, making it a great time to connect as a family, keep everyone focused to have breakfast together or talk about the days’ plans, have a family read aloud time, work together on a family clean-up time, etc.
AN INTENTIONAL START TO THE DAY
- By “turning on” that creativity in a focused way, it’s a more natural transition to learning experiences later in the day — even if they’re not directly related! Any morning invitation that encourages your child to be creative, curious, engage their senses, or problem solve is fostering learning skills! This helps your child focus more intently on whatever learning activities you planned for the day later on (or the ones that just naturally emerge).
NATURAL FAMILY BONDING
- All ages can bond together! This is a beautiful side effect of the morning invitation — if you have multiple ages that you’re homeschooling, this is a perfect time for all of them to come together as a group, yet still engage in individual ways. You can keep things similar (give them the same art supplies, for example), yet prompt them to create different/more appropriately challenged things (no expectations for the younger ones, and a specific prompt for older ones, for example). Win win win!
So now you’re probably thinking, “Ok this sounds amazing but how much time do I have to give up to prepare these things…. And do I really have to do it EVERY DAY?”
THE TIME REQUIRED
First of all, not much time at all! I plan every Sunday night what all of my morning invitations for the week ahead are going to be, which might take me a total of 15ish minutes.
Then, each night before I go to bed, I set up the invitation, which is also rarely more than 15 minutes of my time. Ten to fifteen minutes in the evening for the sometimes hour plus calm and engaged time I get every morning? So. Freaking. Worth. It.
And do you have to do this every day? No.
But hear me out: children are creatures of habit. And having that morning invitation as a part of the daily routine is something that I promise you will ALL come to appreciate and live for! When you see the benefits, you won’t want to walk away from it!
Personally, we have a morning invitation set up Mondays through Fridays. Our weekends are spent doing other things, so the routine is already set up that way and it works nicely for us.
WHAT EXACTLY GOES INTO MAKING A MORNING INVITATION
Like I said earlier, you really can’t go wrong! As long as it is something that your child can engage in independently (because it kind of defeats the purpose if you have to be right there beside them the entire time), then you’ve nailed it!
If you think about these three areas to guide you, and mix them up throughout your invitations, you should never run out of ideas:
- Invitations to CREATE — These obviously encourage your child to create something. For instance, you could place a vase of fresh flowers on the table and set up a canvas and some watercolors and invite your child to paint the flowers they see.
- Invitations to PLAY — These are invitations that give your child a chance to explore materials in a playful and open-ended way. Sensory bins, playdough explorations, foil sheets and blocks, shaving cream in a bin, LEGO challenges…. All great examples of invitations to play!
- Invitations to LEARN — These are the more focused invitations that have a specific purpose behind them. You might be introducing a new concept in a learning activity later that day, so you set up some of the materials in a morning invitation for your child to have a chance to explore before you dive in together. Or you might invite your child to add onto or continue an exploration you started together the day before.
By varying the types of morning invitations that you setup, you’re constantly giving your child something new and exciting to wake up to!
Feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities here? Don’t panic. I’ve got you covered! CLICK HERE to download a month of morning invitation ideas for FREE!
I’ve also created an entire YEAR of Morning Invitations Calendar for you to keep this momentum going all year long!
QUICK LITTLE TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
Don’t overcomplicate the invitation! Add too much and it becomes overwhelming and cluttered. Always go for simple. Trust me.
- Example: A mirror on the table with some dry erase markers can ignite all kinds of creativity from a child!
For your children who are reading, write a simple prompt to start them off.
- Example: Glue some googley eyes at random on a piece of construction paper and write a prompt that reads: “Can you turn these eyes into monsters?”
However…. Have no expectations! This one is important! Your child should always be free to turn the morning invitation to anything they are inspired to create. Be open-minded and flexible and use this as an opportunity to observe what your child is thinking.
- Example: If you set up the before-mentioned invitation to paint flowers on a canvas, but your child pulls a flower out of the vase and paints WITH the flower!
When possible, include literacy. Prop a related book up on the table nearby to encourage your child to reach out and grab it. If they don’t, no big deal. Read it later together or include it in the reading nook for the week, but having it as an option never hurts!
- Example: If you have an invitation set up to make marshmallow and toothpick constellations, prop up a book about constellations to inspire your child’s creativity!
I hope this inspires you to try out morning invitations in your home!
P.S. I often share my morning invitations over on Instagram, so come follow me there for more ideas. I’d love to hear how this goes for you! Come share your experiences over in our free Facebook Group or tag me in your social media pics (@yournaturallearner).