Educators and caregivers know that ECE classrooms are lively places, full of energy from the moment the day begins. As soon as the doors open, we are greeted by spirited young children who are ready to start their morning. It is important that we arrive at our classrooms energized and ready for the busy day ahead. Practicing easy self-care and healthy habits each morning can help us start our day on the right note.
1. Start the Day with a Morning Stretch
A gentle, quick “good morning” stretch is one of the easiest ways to start your day on the right foot. After waking, sit on the side of your bed with your feet on the floor and gently move your right ear toward your right shoulder and then do the same movement on your left side. Twist your waist, upper body, and eyes all the way to the right, and then to the left. Stand up slowly, stretch your arms up to the sky, and take in a few deep breaths before you start getting ready for the day.
A quick morning stretch with the children in your care can get your day together off to a great start. During circle time, lead children through a quick stretch and a few deep breaths. You might even include some child-friendly yoga poses to set a peaceful and mindful tone for the rest of the day.
2. Use the Night Before to Prep
Mornings can sometimes be hectic as we try to get ourselves ready for the day and out the door on time. Starting the day feeling rushed can make the rest of the day feel extra stressful and busy.
You can ease the morning rush by using the evening before to get everything set up for the next day. Pack lunches or snacks, fill up your water bottle, get your bag ready, and put everything by the front door so that you can easily grab it on your way out. You might even put together a simple, healthy breakfast for you to enjoy the next morning. These small habits can help mornings feel less chaotic so that you start your day feeling refreshed and ready.
Organizing your classroom at the end of each day is another way to limit morning stress. This can be especially helpful if you open your room by yourself so that you can focus on greeting the children and their parents.
3. Enjoy the Morning Sunshine
Morning light is a great tool for waking up our bodies and getting ourselves energized. If possible, try to get yourself outside for a few minutes each morning.
Neurologist and Sleep Medicine Specialist, Brandon Peters, MD, explains, “exposure to sunlight is most beneficial if it occurs in the morning just after waking, typically within the first hour after crawling out of bed.” Sleep specialists recommend at least ten minutes and up to 45 minutes of direct (without sunglasses) early morning sunlight exposure.
Walking around your neighborhood or sitting outside to have your morning cup of coffee are a couple of enjoyable ways to start your day with morning sunlight. Or if you’re short on time, open a few windows to let some light in while you’re getting ready or driving to work. If you avoid parking right next to your workplace entrance, you can get a bit of natural light exposure while you walk from your car to the building.
4. Get Quality Sleep at Night
Getting a good night of sleep is one of the most impactful ways we can take care of our bodies and our health. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel well-rested the next day. Healthy sleep routines can help us to avoid getting sick.
Winding down at the end of a busy day can sometimes be difficult. To help, Drew Ackerman, host of the podcast Sleep With Me, recommends spending time outdoors during the day to help with sleep at night. Ackerman also notes that avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and screens a few hours before bed can help us fall asleep.
5. Reconnect with your Purpose
When our days get very busy, we can lose sight of the fact that our work with young children is extremely meaningful. In these moments, it is important to reconnect to our sense of purpose, and remember what motivates us to care for young children. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center shares a few questions that you might find helpful for reflection at the start of your day so that you arrive feeling connected and engaged.
Why does the work I do matter to me? How does my work impact the lives of others? Working with young children is an especially meaningful job. Every day, we touch children’s lives, as we support their learning and growth. Reminding ourselves of this value can help us connect with the sense of purpose that motivates us to do this special work.
Who are the people that support me in my professional success? Think about the people you work with who are willing to provide support – maybe you have a director who is especially supportive, a parent who enjoys volunteering, or a co-teacher who lends a helping hand when you need one. Taking a moment to reflect on those who lift us up can help us when our work feels overwhelming, as we remember that we’re not alone.