Does the thought of dinner, bath, storytime, and finally getting the kids to bed at night make you want to pull your hair out or, better yet, plan dinner with friends so you can skip it all? The evening routine can be rough when you’ve got little kids. It can be even harder when both parents work and commute, and you feel like it’s a mad dash against the clock every single night. Young kids need to be in bed early, and that’s not easy when you get home and only have 60-90 minutes to accomplish everything.
How can you create a better evening routine for your family?
If you’re both working parents and you barely make it home from work and preschool by six, and you need your kids in bed by 7:30, that’s not much time to cook dinner, feed everyone, clean up, bathe, and spend some quality time with your kids. There are ways you can make it work better, and things go faster.
If you know, you’re going to be late one night (or if you’re consistently home late) focus on quick, easy dinners that you can serve almost immediately. If you have a crockpot, use it. Walking in the door and knowing that dinner can be on the table in 10 minutes is a great feeling. If you have an Instant Pot, you can prep dinner quickly as well. If you’re going to make a sheet pan dinner, you can prep everything the night before and store it in a gallon zipper bag in the fridge. When you get home, all you have to do is preheat the oven, pour the contents of the meal on the pan, and bake. You can do the same thing if your crockpot has a removable crock, prep everything, and store it in the fridge overnight, pull it out and start it before you leave for work. Planning saves time because you’re not standing in the kitchen, staring at the fridge wondering what to serve.
If you want to make things easier on yourself, plan your meals for the entire week and then do your grocery shopping. You’ll know exactly what you’re making every night and have the ingredients on hand. No more trying to squeeze a last-minute stop at the grocery store into an already overloaded schedule or picking up take out or ordering pizza because you didn’t have time to think about dinner.
If the kids are big enough to be in the tub on their own, you can start dinner and then give the kids a bath while you set the table and get everything pulled together. If they’re smaller and you can’t leave them on their own yet, make a sheet pan dinner and cook it while the kids are in the tub and getting their jammies on. It’s OK for the kids to eat dinner in jammies if it makes the evening less stressful and helps you. You’re creating an evening routine that works for your family. That’s what matters.
Help kids wind down
Turn off the TV before dinner, and don’t turn it back on. Help the kids wind down for the evening by playing a game together, reading stories, or coloring until it’s time for their bath. By removing the stimulus of the TV at the beginning of the bedtime routine, you help children prepare for sleep and relax.
As you close in on bathtime, have the kids help clean up the games, books, or toys they’ve been playing with. This helps signal to them that it’s time to go to sleep. Put the toys and books away to play with another day. If they’re upset about having to stop, give them a 5-minute warning and have them choose one more thing to do. Both of these ideas can help children feel that they’re a bit more in control of their time. They’re not merely being told it’s time to go to bed now in the middle of something fun. They’re able to transition a bit easier.
Make bathtime fun
When it’s time for their bath, make it fun, add bubbles or color drops, or something if they fight you on taking their bath. Some kids don’t want to take a bath because they know it means it’s the end of playtime, but when the bath itself is inviting, it’s more fun.
Buy towels and washcloths that are specific for little kids. Let them wrap up like monkeys or dinosaurs or whatever they love when they get out of the tub. Bathtime can be a lot of fun for kids. If you have one, who likes to linger in the tub, start bathtime a bit earlier, so you’re not stressing.
Read a few stories
Studies have shown children who are read to have larger vocabularies, learn to read easier, and are better prepared for school. https://www.parents.com/fun/entertainment/books/the-brainy-benefits-of-bedtime-stories/
Reading to your children provides both brain development and emotional development. The one on one time you spend with your kids, cuddling and snuggling, helps them feel emotionally connected and bonded to you as well as creates a good transition to sleep. If you have more than one child, you can read stories together if they’re close in age, or you can read to the younger kids and then read with the older kids when their bedtime arrives. Choose a set number of stories or set amount of time that you’ll read every night and once that time has come to an end, tuck your kids in.
Evening routines can make a big difference for parents and children both. Kids thrive on routine. They feel safer and are easier to work with when they know what to expect. If you create an evening routine and set timeline, you’ll see when you should have a few minutes to yourself too. Once you finish your stories with the kids and tuck them in, you have time to either read, prep for tomorrow, or relax yourself. Try to schedule the kids routine to end at a time that still allows you time to wrap up the chores and then have some time to yourself after.
Klein-Spring Montessori has been part of the Spring Community for over 35 years. We’d love to be part of your family too. Contact us today to learn more about our Montessori daycare and preschool.