Do you experience the “witching hour” at your house? I love time with my kiddos so much, but I gotta be honest: sometimes weeknights after work are plain hell. We’re all tired and hungry and stressed, so 5:00 until bedtime can feel like…total chaos.
But then, I changed things up: Now, we walk in the door and our evening STARTS with a family snuggle—and sometimes it ends with “bowling” (but not the kind with a ball 😉).
A “cuddles first” policy goes a long way—really! It’s tempting to jump right into chores (or if you’re like me, hide in the bathroom for a few minutes to decompress 😏) as soon as you walk in the door, but giving your kiddo a little undivided attention now can keep them from fighting for it nonstop for the next 3 hours.
Even if you’ve been home all day with the little one, your evening can go more smoothly if you mark the switch from day to dinnertime with a special signal and a moment of connection—a song you sing, a secret handshake, a quick walk outside, or silly game that lets them know the day is wrapping up, with a positive spin.
Next, it’s great to get the kids busy so they’ll have something to do besides scream or bounce off the walls. Let little ones (even toddlers!) help with simple tasks to get dinner ready Plus, it might get them more invested in the meal so they’ll want to eat it (bonus!).
If helping with the food isn’t their thing (or if you just don’t have the patience to supervise it—I’ve been there), let them draw placemats for everyone, create a crazy centerpiece with craft supplies, or simply set the table instead.
Want to know how I make dinner itself as stress-free as possible?
First, don’t get hung up on what dinner’s “supposed” to look like. If your child’s hangry at 5:00, let them eat some healthy snacks—who cares if they eat less at mealtime?!?
And on super busy nights at my house, we go “bowling” for dinner—just a bowl of cereal, fruit salad, or something else fast and simple. I love the break from cooking, and my boys have never complained!
During dinner, we have a nightly routine to get the whole family talking & reconnected—like everyone reporting on two emotions they had that day, complete with super-dramatic faces. 🎭
If your little one’s too grumpy to participate that day, don’t make them—but you might catch them cracking a smile at the rest of the family’s antics anyway.
After dinner, build in time for quiet (ideally without electronics), easy (no clean up required) activities like reading books together or coloring with crayons, before attempting to march the kiddos off for teeth brushing and pajamas.
It can still be tough at the end of the day, especially on busy weekdays or after major outings, but I hope these tips help reign in the chaos.