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Child Development

Morning Routine ADHD Checklist: An Example To Reference For ADHD Kids

November 7, 2022
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    Mornings can be hectic for all families, but they can be particularly tough for kids with ADHD and their parents. Parents of an ADHD child may wonder, "Is ADHD worse in the morning?" or "What can I do to make mornings easier?" 

    In this article, we will answer those questions and discuss how routines can help with ADHD, why symptoms might be worse in the morning, and how to build a new morning routine that works. Finally, we will discuss how the Joon app can help kids with ADHD succeed in their routines

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    Is routine good for ADHD?

    Although it can be challenging to implement a new routine at first, routines are highly beneficial for people with ADHD. Many people with ADHD find that routines are imperative to their success, in fact. Why is that the case?

    Routines can help one maintain order, build positive habits, and may even reduce some challenges related to ADHD symptoms, like forgetfulness. This is because when you create a routine that includes necessary tasks and follow it, the tasks within the routine become habitual over time.

    Is ADHD worse in the morning?

    People with ADHD often struggle with working memory, organization, timeliness, and executive function. This can make mornings challenging for kids with ADHD, as well as their parents or guardians.

    One study on 201 caregivers of children and adolescents who live with ADHD found that symptoms were reported as most severe during early morning routines and evening homework time. In this study, caregivers reported feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted as a result of their child's early morning ADHD symptoms. 

    Furthermore, issues like trouble sleeping, overwhelm with regard to morning tasks, and medication that has not yet set in can hinder a child's functioning in the morning. In other words, yes - ADHD can certainly appear worse in the morning.

    All of that said, it's possible to beat the morning chaos, and an ADHD-friendly morning routine can help.

    ADHD Morning Routine Checklist Sample

    Writing a checklist of tasks to complete in the morning can help families of children with ADHD stay organized. Here are some tips to use to build an effective ADHD morning routine for kids. You could write them on paper of use a to-do app.

    Set yourself up for success the night before

    First and foremost, to make mornings easier, you want to build a compatible nighttime routine. What does that mean? Essentially, any morning tasks you and your child can get done the night before will help you beat the morning rush.

    Here are some examples of what you can do to avoid morning stress:

    • Set out clothes the night before. This way, there are no choices to make the next morning; your child just has to put their clothes on when they get out of bed.
    • Get school supplies ready the night before. If you get school supplies ready in the evening, it is less likely that your child will forget to take them to school.
    • Decide what your child will eat for breakfast the next morning. To avoid feeling rushed, parents can decide what their child will eat for breakfast the night before.
    • Pack lunch at night. Similar to making clothing choices and deciding what a child will eat for breakfast the night before, if you prepare lunch in the evening, it is one less task to complete the next day.
    • Bathe in the evening. Add baths or showers to your child's nighttime schedule to make mornings less stressful.

    Similar to adults, your child might not be a morning person. If you plan ahead using a compatible nighttime routine, your child will have less to do the next morning, which can set them up for success.

    Complete hygiene tasks upon waking

    Right when your child gets out of bed, get the tough stuff out of the way first - the things you really don't want them to miss before they head out to school. Hygiene tasks to complete upon waking may include:

    • Getting dressed.
    • Washing one's face. 
    • Oral care.

    If applicable, you may also include a child’s medication first thing in the morning. Since ADHD symptoms can make it hard for individuals to remember to take their medication, adding it to your routine check-list can be a game-changer. 

    Ask about "pre-wakeup" medication

    Speaking of ADHD medication, there are times when adjustments to a medication routine may be valuable. Though ADHD medication often acts quickly, even the effects of medications such as CNS stimulants generally take at least a half hour to set in. As a result, a person with ADHD may not be as focused or attentive first thing in the morning. That is why sometimes, the best time to take ADHD medications is in the morning. For parents of ADHD kids who take medication and who find that their child has an extra tough time in the morning before it kicks in, it may be advantageous to ask your child's pediatrician about a "pre-wakeup" dose of medication. 

    If the physician approves, it would mean that you briefly wake your child to take their usual morning dosage about thirty minutes before their alarm clock is set to go off, and then, allow them to go back to sleep. That way, when they wake up, the dose will have kicked in, improving your child's ability to get up and go.

    Make breakfast a priority

    Regular, nutritious meals and snacks are a critical part of self-care. In order to set themselves up for success throughout the rest of the day, it is important for your child to eat breakfast. Eating breakfast can aid school performance, memory, energy levels, and mood, so in any case, make sure that they don't skip it.

    It can help to have a list of quick, ADHD-friendly diet meal ideas ready. One thing that can be advantageous, too, is to create a "menu" for the week before you shop for groceries. The more responsibility that you can take off of your future self, the better. 

    Be sure to include choices that have fat and protein, as this will provide necessary calories and energy that lasts throughout the day, rather than the “quick energy” of a carbohydrate heavy breakfast. This is particularly important for children who take stimulant medication and may experience a decrease in appetite in the middle of the day. 

    Note: If your child has trouble with daily routines and obligations, try Joon. Joon has over 3.5k ratings in the app store, and it's a great way to make tasks fun. Designed specifically for kids with ADHD and their parents, Joon promotes good behavior and makes life easier. Click here to try it for free.

    Avoid social media and morning TV

    Kids with ADHD are often sidetracked easily. So, it makes sense that, if your child watches TV or uses social media in the morning, it'll make it a lot harder to get out the front door. To combat the problem, consider making TV and social media "after-school-only" activities. Some parents even use a certain amount of time for social media and television as rewards for their kids. 

    Make sure your child's sleep is in check

    As discussed, many kids with ADHD struggle with sleep, which can make the next morning more difficult. Studies on people with ADHD often find differences in their circadian rhythm, so you aren't alone if bedtime and inadequate sleep affect your child.

    What can you do? Read our tips on how to help your child with ADHD sleep here, and make sure to contact their pediatrician if nothing seems to work.

    Keep a checklist of necessary items

    One inattention-related symptom of ADHD is forgetting important items, such as items needed for school or work. To make keeping track of necessary items easier, create a checklist of objects that your child needs for the day. Right before you head out the door, confirm that they have items such as:

    • Their lunch box
    • Their coat
    • Their books 
    • Pens and pencils
    • Any necessary electronics 

    As with all of our other tips, this is absolutely customizable. For example, if your child eats breakfast either at or on the way to school, you might add that to your checklist. You can even hang the checklist on or by the door handle if it works for your family.

    Use other external tools

    If your child is forgetful or struggles to complete tasks, there are external tools you can use to help them stick to their routine. These tools act as visual cues, which many individuals with ADHD find beneficial. In addition to the checklist mentioned above, some practical external tools for people with ADHD may include:

    • Alarms. Alarms are highly beneficial for people with ADHD who struggle with timeliness. They can serve as reminders and help you stay on track timewise.
    • Charts. A chart or list of tasks can help individuals who find them useful stay on track. If your child has a chore chart, consider adding morning routine activities.
    • Sticky notes. A sticky note makes for a great physical reminder if your child needs one!
    • Apps. Try a chore app for kids to help build a routine. We'll show you, Joon app, a tool that can help kids with ADHD succeed in the morning.

    Kids with ADHD are highly motivated by rewards, and it's safe to say that most children enjoy games. But, how exactly does it work?

    Maintain An Effective ADHD Morning Routine With Joon

    It takes time to build positive habits, and the Joon app can help. Joon is a game that lets parents input a list of real-life tasks for their child with ADHD. Once a child completes the tasks, they get rewards that allow them to take care of a virtual pet, called a Doter, in the game. When you create a morning, nighttime, or after-school routine for your child, you can add tasks from that routine to the game. 

    The Joon ADHD routine app aids executive function, motivation, independence, and task completion and is backed by child psychologists, occupational therapists, and teachers. Many parents even say that Joon has helped them improve their parent-child relationship. 

    Parents must have an iPhone* to use Joon, but kids can connect with an Apple, Android, or Amazon device. If you're ready to try it, download Joon today


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.