Routines For A Happy Little With Gail McGee

I’ve learned the first 5 years of a child’s life can determine their trajectory. No pressure, right. With this said, it can be extremely important to cultivate realistic routines for your child that helps them learn and grow into their best selves. This is where today’s guest comes in. In this episode of the Routine and Things Podcast I chat with Gail McGee who’s a wife, mom, and experienced educator. Her roles have included classroom teacher, instructional coach, District Literacy Specialist, and most recently Assistant Principal, so you know she has some practical tips to share. Grab paper and a pen and get ready to learn how to cultivate amazing routines for a happy little. 
Connect with Gail: @lessonswithmylittle

Episode Mentions
Word for Word 

Ashley Brown 0:00
I've learned the first five years of a child's life can determine their trajectory. No pressure right? With this said, it can be extremely important to cultivate realistic routines for your child that helps them learn and grow into their best selves. This is where today's guest comes in. In this episode of the routine and things podcast, I chat with Gil McGee, who's a wife, Mom and experienced educator. Her roles have included classroom teacher, instructional coach, district literacy specialists, and most recently assistant principal. So you know, she has some amazing practical tips to share, grab paper and a pen and get ready to learn how to cultivate awesome routines for a happy little.

Ashley Brown 1:00
Hey, hey, and welcome back for another episode of a routine and things podcast. So happy you are joining me this week. Okay, so this week, we have another episode to help you make your children's routine amazing. So I absolutely love thinking about what my children are doing. You know, I have two girls, and they're little, they're two and four. And if anybody has littles at home, you know what I am going through, they are precious. But you know, sometimes I get on my nerves too, don't tell them I said that. But today, I'm going to be speaking with someone that I absolutely adore. She has such a wealth of knowledge and experience with educating children, which I absolutely love. Because this is not my cup of tea. I'm an educator, but I usually educate older students. And so this is really great to be able to chat with her today. So my guest for today is Gail McGee. She is a wife, mom and educator. This is her 19th year in education. Wow. 19th year, her roles have included classroom teacher, instructional coach, district literacy specialists, and most recently, assistant principal. She's passionate about sharing her professional and personal experiences with other moms to help prepare their little ones for school. I had such a fun conversation with Gail, you're going to absolutely love it. Go ahead and get out your notepad, paper, pen, because this is going to be a good episode with so many practical and realistic tips. I'm telling you, you're going to want to take notes. So let's go ahead and get into my conversation with Gail.

Ashley Brown 2:57
Hi, Gail, thank you for being here. I am so excited to have you because you are helping us with our children's routines. And that's something that I personally I don't do much with my girls, I was telling you this before before we got on to chatting but I don't do much with my girls. But I feel like what you're going to share today, I might be adding on some things, which I'm super excited about. But before we get into our conversation, let us know a little bit more about who Gail is and also what you do.

Gail McGee 3:29
Okay, so Ashley, let me first of all start off by saying I am so humbled and honored that you selected me to come on and just kind of share a few routines with other moms in your audience. So I am currently an assistant principal in a K five elementary school building. First and foremost, I am a mom, I am a wife and a Christian. And so I absolutely love this little space that I've taken up in on Instagram and making sure that I help moms to understand what are those few things that I need to do prior to my kids getting to school, so whether that's preschool or kindergarten, that is really my main goal when I created lessons with my little ones.

Ashley Brown 4:22
I love it. So did you always know you wanted to work with kids?

Gail McGee 4:28
Early on, yes. As a kid myself, I was the one that had the gradebook. I don't know if you remember back in the day, they our teachers had the grade books, they would record your scores. That was me. I had my chalkboard. I had my grade book and I would line my little stuffed animals up and I played school all the time. And so when it came time to decide what career choice I wanted, I knew I wanted to work with kids. But I took on a volunteer job my sophomore year of high school and I really realized in the hospital, I did not like the sight of blood. And that is what made me decide teaching over being a pediatrician.

Ashley Brown 5:11
Oh my gosh!

Gail McGee 5:12
I could do it. I couldn't.

Ashley Brown 5:13
Oh Gosh, I love that because I'm a nurse. And everybody knows. Yes, I'm a nurse, which is so funny. That is hilarious. Um, and specifically a nurse educator now. And so I do. Yes. So I definitely teach. And I love educating. So we're just in kind of different realms, and I definitely do not work with kids. So this is the story behind I, when I was a nurse and working at the bedside, I work primarily with adults and older patients, which I love the geriatric population. And I knew when I was in school, I did not want to work with kids. I was like, Oh, no, I am not doing anything with kids. I am not a kid person. If people are always talking about I'm like, I'm not a kids person, like, Yes, I love my babies. But outside of that, I can't get on they level, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, I think I'm just too much of a heavy person. So I can't really get on their level. And it feels really awkward for me.

Gail McGee 6:11
And the most important thing we have to scaffold for our kids. And I think that's why I wanted to create lessons because the thing everything that we do at school for our students moms can be doing at home with their children. The earlier we start the better.

Ashley Brown 6:28
Yes, I totally agree. I totally agree. I know I've seen that with my oldest daughter for sure. Like I remember I was a stay at home mom for some time. And I would do flashcards for her over and over and over and this girl her vocabulary be something else. Now I'm like, where'd you get this from? How you know about that? what you're talking about? Like just how she puts her sentences together. I'm like, oh my gosh. But then when my youngest. I'm like, because I went back to work more so with her. I'm like, oh, and it could just be a difference in the personalities and who they are. But um,

Gail McGee 7:06
yes, they are listening. Sure moms know, don't compare those kiddos. They are all different. They all develop differently. Their brains work differently. So yes, no comparison, no compare,

Ashley Brown 7:19
Okay, so I'm gonna stop, I'm gonna stop. I will sit up here and be like, and I try not to do that I really do. Because I'm like, she's gonna come into it. She gonna get there and just give her some time, she might be more so process a little bit slower, she might need a little bit more of this a little bit more of that, which is perfectly fine. So that's what I'm learning now. Which is such a beautiful thing about being a mom, because you think your two children are going to be similar, but it's like, no, most of the time they are not. They are not. And I know you have a child.

Gail McGee 7:52

Ashley Brown 7:53
So how old is your son? I know you have a son.

Gail McGee 7:56
My son is 33 months. So he will be three in June. So yes, so just turned three.

Ashley Brown 8:07
So in terms of well, when I was listening to you, and you were just saying that it's best to start early. It's best to start early. What does that actually look like in terms of us as moms being able to, you know, get our children on a path so that they are doing not even that they're at a certain level, but that we feel comfortable where they are when it's time for them to go to school? Or even to be homeschooled when you know, both? Where do you think we need to start? What do you think can is a helpful place for us to start?

Gail McGee 8:42
So I think the first thing we have to do is remember that play is so important. And I I am a firm believer that kids can learn just about anything through play, and books. And so it comes down to us being intentional with some of those routines and things that we set up for them. So what I would say is, if parents are having their kids build, whether that's with blocks, it's with Legos, it's those Duplo little blocks that our kiddos have, if they are talking to them, so engaging them in conversation, that is the most important. Take the cell phones, the iPads out of their hands and talk to them, play games with them. Have them tie their shoes, have them zip their coats. All of those, you know, skills that we don't really consciously think about are the things that our kids need to do. And guess what, that's what they have to be prepared to do when they go to school. We're starting now building independence. If I have you put your shoes on, and put your pants on and learn to snap. When you get to preschool or kindergarten, guess what you can now go to the bathroom by yourself. But at two and three and four. We're just playing can you show me which pants you want? these or these? Okay, great. You chose the ones. That's it. So now we get to practice if zipping and snapping. But if you choose, you know, let's just say shoes, I definitely recommend Velcro or, you know, a slip. And if initially if kids can't tie because that's a huge skill. But you know, making sure that we just do a lot of those things prior to in play, because it will pay off dividends later.

Ashley Brown 10:28
Play, Yeah.

Gail McGee 10:29
Oh, like play, play, play And books, play and books. I mean, we have I think if you play with the book, add a prop or two, you know, you're going to teach that love of reading, without it being I have to read, it's more I'm going to get this book because I cannot wait for you to read that story. I can't wait for you to change your voice. I can't wait for you to make that facial expression and talk like the character. So we have to set that up for our kids. And especially when they're young, because that's when you build that foundation.

Ashley Brown 11:02
First, I love reading so I'm so I love reading books to my kids, let me say that. See I'm sitting here about to tell a lie. I don't love reading But I love reading to my kids, I love me a good children's book, I cannot. I love we have a million and one books in this house. I actually just donated some because it was like it was too much. I was like, Oh my god,

Gail McGee 11:22
I understand.

Ashley Brown 11:23
So I love reading and just hearing that just brings me some comfort, because I know that's something that I that I do and that I enjoy doing. But I want to go back to you know, saying, I know you mentioned, you know, try to remove the cell phones, remove the iPads, I know for many moms that that may be a challenge to remove the cell phone or remove the iPad, thank God. For me, you know, we try not we I do allow my girls to be on the iPad sometimes. But children can get so used to them when you try to take them away. That can be a huge feat. Um, any advice for how to basically kind of wean your children from iPad at all. I mean, you may not if you didn't experience but if you have some advice, I would love to hear what you have to say about it.

Gail McGee 12:14
I think the one thing that I would say is maybe think about those times that you would want them to be on their phone or on the iPad. So for my son Grady, we give him a cell phone when we're in the car, because it's a short ride. So that's five or 10 minutes that he might be you know, watching the video or you know, singing whatever the songs, we also might let him listen or you know to some of the songs or videos while like right after dinner. So we have like two or three times throughout the day that he will get on the iPad or get on this cell phone. Other than that, we put it away and we pull out the blocks we pull out the books we have, you know, flashcards, any any toy item that is just in available in our playroom, we have like I have little baskets positioned throughout the house. And they might have books, a set of flashcards, they might have crayons, I do a lot with crayons and playdough. You know, so just some of those things that we play with as kids, I think we have to pull back out for our kids and just make sure that we have them available. So it's not that we're scrambling and trying to look and like Oh, just forget it, just give them the phone, you know. So I think that is part of what I love about your routines is it makes me think I have to be prepared. And I have to be intentional. So I think if moms can have three or four, go to items or go to activities, then you can reduce that cellphone time. Also make sure you know those one or two times throughout the day that you want them to use the phone, and then you can plan and prepare for that.

Ashley Brown 13:57
So just being proactive, right, and then also designated specific times to use the phone. Oh, I love that. So I know you mentioned you know him watching videos, any if not even advice or suggestions for videos or like apps that are really good for for kids in terms of learning that you love.

Gail McGee 14:21
You know, I see a lot of the commercials for ABC mouse. And I'm not opposed to ABC mouse. So I think that would be one you know that kids could get on. I think another one that we use a lot is still Starfall there are a lot of educational videos that are on their songs that they seen. And they're the other group that I really like. Who does videos. It's called bounce patrol. And we watch just about every one of their videos and I am a stickler for letters sound so I always go to the video that whoever has recorded and I listened to how they say the letter sounds. And if some of those are off, then we don't really watch a lot of those videos. But and I know in if parents have any questions about like, hey, well what you know, that might spark another thought like, well, what sound? You know, would you question or What sound do all the letters make? You know, I am happy to, you know, talk with people about that. But that's kind of the way I go about selecting those. I would have to think and kind of get back with you on a couple of the others, you know, as I look through his iPad to see because we don't use a lot of apps, I think we watch more videos.

Ashley Brown 15:44
Gotcha, gotcha. And you say Starfall, and bounce patrol.

Gail McGee 15:48
Starfall yes, starfall is definitely a website. And I do have an app that you can download. And then bounce patrol is a group that has, they have created lots of videos on like YouTube.

Ashley Brown 16:00
Yay. Okay, so with that, I'm definitely gonna link to that in the show notes for sure. Because those are really good resources. Another one I know it's kindkids is really, I love kindkids for my girls, they absolutely love it. So that's another.

Gail McGee 16:14
Cosmic yoga, that's another one that we do. We watch her videos, a lot of times right before bed. As part of our you know, like, kind of calm down, we might watch one or a portion of one of the yoga videos just for the stretching and the relaxation. So that's another one that I'm a huge fan of.

Ashley Brown 16:36
Oh, thank you. Thank you for sharing that with me and the girls would love that. Yes. Thank you so much. So you say cosmic yoga.

Gail McGee 16:47
Cosmic yoga.

Ashley Brown 16:48
Thank you. So let's get into some tips. Because I know you have so much knowledge, so much expertise in this area. So what are some tips that you can share with us that could help us with our children's routines?

Gail McGee 17:04
Okay, so first of all, let me just, you know, make sure like, I know that, you know, moms realize that routines are universal, they're global. But the most important thing is that we have to be consistent. And I know you've talked a lot about, you know, consistency. And the routine doesn't mean that it happens every day, it could be that it's that once a week, or it's the once every other day, but it's making sure that your little one knows that this is what we're doing, they know what to expect. And so I think my tips that I would give any mom would be one, create some type of schedule. And when I say a schedule, I like to use a visual schedule, so it has pictures. And so there's no more than five steps. We use them for a bedtime routine. And we also use them for storytime. And I'm happy to share some of those for you to link pictures that moms can click on. But I feel like that way, either the child can, you know, put each of the steps up as they go through them, or the steps are there and they take them down. So it just lets them know, like, Okay, I have two more things that I need to do. And then this happens, I have one more thing to do. So it really just helps them understand what to expect without the to reduce or limit the tantrums and the meltdowns. Because when kids know what they have to do when you narrate that for them, it's helpful. So that would be my one tip, some type of schedule, but that would be mom has to, you know, kind of think through those steps. Another tip that I often do is I like to put things in a story form because I do I love books. And so I often will create like a little story for Grady. So we can kind of read those steps, and then it matches his schedule. And I am happy to share, you know that with you as well, for moms. And then my last one would be just kind of this little three L philosophy that I've created, we have to have a limit, we have to make sure the logistics are together, and then our language. So let me briefly you know, just explain. And so in terms of limits, limit the amount of top end engagement so you don't get in a power struggle, and you don't end up with the tantrum. And so that is the power of that schedule, because it's not me doing a lot of talking once he understands each of those steps. So in the beginning, yes, I'm explaining it we're going through it we're practicing. I take pictures of him in action. So he knows like if it's brushing teeth, it's him brushing his teeth. And so that limits me saying Come on Grady brush your teeth, it's time he knows exactly what to do. In terms of logistics, we have to plan for the environment. So when it's bedtime pajamas are already out toothbrushes out, you know, the books that we're going to read are on the bed, we've got the video cued up on the iPad. So, I mean, I have made sure to kind of set up and create the environment that to make sure that he's successful. And then the last one in terms of our language, we always want to be precise, we want to make sure that it's stated in a positive, and we want to make sure that it's actually appropriate and kid friendly. So a lot of times we talk to our kids and we say things, they have no idea what we're saying. Or we might have to explain what one or two of the words are so that they do understand. So I think those would be my my three tips. I would love to, you know, talk more, you know, with moms about kind of those three L's and how to get some of those routines set up for their littles.

Ashley Brown 21:00
Those three L's are the bomb. I'm telling you that right now limit logistics and language.

Gail McGee 21:07

Ashley Brown 21:08
Oh, that is so nice. And it just is concise. And it makes so much sense makes so much sense, especially our language because like you said, we can just talk over their head. And then we wonder why they're not doing what we tell them to do, or why they don't know what's going on. And that that is really, really important. I know you said about the story, I would love to go back to that. Could you share that one more time me the second tip, you share the story.

Gail McGee 21:37
The second tip, it's called a social story. And so in school, we use social stories with children to help reduce the anxiety about a particular activity or event. However, what it does do is it sets them up and prepares them for what they are going to do or what they can expect. So if there's a mom who has a child with high anxiety, or if there's a mom who has, you know, a child who, you know, doesn't like change, you know, new things, freak them out. It's a really nice way. And I make them into like little mini paper books, I usually use pictures, you know, of the actual child. It's so small, all of our little social stories I can tuck in my purse. So again, when you say Oh, girl, what? How do you take that phone away? Guess what, I can give him the social story, even if he can't read the words. He knows what those pictures are. And so it's such a nice away, you know, for kids to kind of ease into some of their routines.

Ashley Brown 22:45
Oh my gosh

Gail McGee 22:48
I would love to make one for you and for your girls.

Ashley Brown 22:51
Yes I have to make sure that I connect with you after this because that would be so nice.

Gail McGee 22:59
If they're game changers, it would be a game changer.

Ashley Brown 23:04
Oh my gosh. Oh, I love I love all of the tips that you shared. I mean, I'm ready to get started on some of this stuff.

Gail McGee 23:12
You know what, let me go back to one thing you said. So when you mentioned Okay, you know what I'm worried about this, my younger one. You know, maybe it's just taking more time. The one thing that I heard you say with your older child, is that you were really intentional. You showed her those flashcards with your younger one, you might not have been as intentional not on purpose. And I think that's what we have to sometimes give ourselves the grace for. And forget, like, you know what, I didn't have time to do that. But that might have been a little bit of it, you know, is when we're very intentional. And there are some things that we have to just explicitly teach, show, model, repeat and practice with our littles. And so I just wanted to say to you like no, it's, it's fine and she will be fine. You know, it's just, you know, we have to just kind of make sure that we realize when we are intentional with things though, it definitely makes a little bit of a difference.

Ashley Brown 24:11
Yes. Oh my gosh, so much. So, so much. So, thank you Gail. I mean, these were some really amazing tips and just this conversation in general has given me so much insight and just allow me to just took me back to just how important intentionality is always speak about it but intentionality is everything in life overall. So thank you so much. Um, the last question that I always ask is which routine are you loving right now and or working on improving?

Gail McGee 24:48
I am working to improve our morning routine. My son leaves with my husband in the mornings and as much as I've always thought I was a an early riser, that five o'clock rolls around so fast for me to get him up. But I don't give myself enough time. And so I feel like we're always rushing. We're always last minute. And so, you know, just as I was even preparing to talk to you and I have been sitting here listening, I say, you know what, it's a short amount of time. But if I had a schedule for us, I think that would help Grady and me, it makes sure that we are prepared. So morning routine, we are working on it, because then after they leave, then you know, I have my routine that I do, but I need I need to get that routine together with him.

Ashley Brown 25:38
Yes. Okay. I love that. And you will, you will definitely, yes.

Gail McGee 25:42
Oh, I have to.

Ashley Brown 25:44
Yes. Oh, my gosh. Thank you, Gail. So last but not least, I want everyone to go and follow you and to engage with you or so where can we learn more from you?

Gail McGee 25:58
Okay, so right now, my Instagram is where they can find me lessonswithmylittle I have started, you know, to create my website. And so is where, you know, if they need to find, you know, different the social stories or samples of visual schedules, any information about Parent Child workshops, I am a huge advocate of parents, talking to parents and kids so that that's the child is right there. And you can work on whatever it is or practice with them and ask me a question. So you know, that's one thing that I'm really, you know, working through is offering, you know, parent child workshops via zoom that week on various topics to help prepare kids for school.

Ashley Brown 26:50
Yes, so please, y'all go follow Gail lessons with my little, she puts up such amazing content that will really help you and will help you with your children. So definitely go go follow her and go to her website and engage with Gail because she's a lovely, lovely woman. So I just want to say thank you so much, Gail, for being here. This was a lot of fun. And yeah, I'm just so I'm just so happy that I was able to chat with you today.

Gail McGee 27:18
No, thank you. I appreciate you so much love, so much love. Thank you.

Ashley Brown 27:23
When I say I loved everything that she shared, I am not exaggerating. I loved every single thing that Gail shared today. And what I love about it, it was very practical, and just really creative ideas, and taking what she's learned throughout her experience as an educator, and bringing that here has brought me so much joy and I hope that you gained a lot out of it as well. I know that what I loved the most was the social stories, and then the three L's limit logistic and language. I'm going to make sure that I use these and just as an FYI, Gail can help you create your own social story for your child. So be sure to follow along with her to learn more from her at lessons with my little on Instagram. That is where she primarily hangs out and where you can find her. But yeah, let me know what you thought about today's episode. Take a screenshot of this episode right now. tag me at routine and things and tag Gail at lessons with my little and let me know your takeaway. Your biggest takeaway from today, where you're going to introduce into your children's routines so that they can just be their happiest selves. That's all we want for our kids. But that's it for today. I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed it because I know I did. Before you leave, please rate and review the show. It means so much. And until next time, continue to enjoy wherever you are, whatever you're doing, stay happy, and I'll talk to you later.

Ashley Brown 29:00
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today's episode, take a screenshot and share it on social I would love to know you're listening. And for tools to help you start maintain and enjoy your routines. Be sure to head to Here's to staying happy.

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