Every parent with small children knows that waking up can be one of the most chaotic times of day. But routines help to make this transitional moment manageable. Incorporating rituals also infuses these times with meaning, transforming ordinary activities into something you can cherish.

Greet the day

Holding your child, look out the window and take turns wishing boker tov (good morning) to what you see outside. 

Give thanks

A Jewish mystical teaching suggests that as we sleep, our soul leaves our body and spiritually "recharges," returning to our body in the morning. This is reflected in a brief but powerful morning blessing: Modeh ani lifanecha, melech chai v'kayam, shehechezarta bi nishmati b'chemla, raba emunatecha. "I give you thanks, living and eternal God, for restoring my soul to me, great is your faithfulness."

sheldon lowThis concept can be helpful in transforming the morning from a time when we drag ourselves out of bed into a daily opportunity for renewal. We can recreate ourselves every day and join our children in experiencing the world with open-eyed wonder. A fun way to remind ourselves of this notion and introduce it to our children is to listen or sing contemporary musical settings of this prayer as we help our children brush their teeth and get dressed. Try Sheldon Low's CD It's All Challah to Me or you can find a somewhat more traditional recording of Modeh Ani on Kol B'Seder's CD Snapshots.

Inject Jewish flavor into a children's classic

If part of your morning routine involves popping in a video for your child as you prepare breakfast, try any of the Shalom Sesame DVDs. This adaptation of Sesame Street combines characters from the US version with the Israeli/Arabic version as a way of introducing Judaism and Israel to young children. You can find the episodes here.

In addition to the suggestions above, a great resource to help you get started is a CD by the group Mah Tovu called Days of Wonder, Nights of Peace. It includes songs, explanations of the prayers, and lyrics for evening and morning rituals.

Rabbi Sarah Reines

Sarah Reines is a rabbi and mother living in New York City. She served as a rabbi of Central Synagogue for more than a decade and is currently the co-president of the Women's Rabbinic Network.