Evenings. A parent’ toughest time of the day. Without a doubt. It’s starts with that newborn witching hour. Turns into cranky toddlers. And then once they’re in school it’s endless running around: homework, activities, dinner and bedtime so that you can do it all again tomorrow. Not to mention that we, the parents, are also tired! But there’s a way to make those weekday afternoons a little easier! Set up a routine and stick to it as much as possible. Here’s how.
What is an evening routine?
I don’t like to give my kids a schedule where things are on a time table. That’s not realistic and adds stress for no apparent gain (especially before they can tell time). What I do suggest, though, is setting up a realistic routine for the things that need to get done in the evenings (and mornings– if that’s a pain point).
Think through the to do items you have to nag your kids about every day. Decide on what order they should be completed and stick to it. Better yet get it up on the wall!
One of the ways we are preparing for baby is by putting systems in place to help and encourage our older kids’ independence. Now truth be told, we have had some version of an evening routine posted on our wall off and on for several years.
But this is what they did to our most recent one….
That’s just real life with kids. They did not appreciate my drawings…More than that: they just did not want to follow the routine. But the routine is happening whether it’s up on the wall or not. These are the things we expect and request every day no matter what.
For Parents of Younger Kids
If I have one piece of advice for parents of toddlers and preschoolers, it is this: Start as you wish to continue.
That means, that even before they are old enough to appreciate a chart of their routine, or more than one step at a time, instill the habits you would like to encourage.
For example, when our kids were as young as two years old, we would prep them coming into the house. “What’s the first things we’re going to do? — Shoes and Hands“. Meaning: take off your shoes and wash your hands.
Does that mean they don’t still need reminders? No. But, this is far from a foreign concepts, and the big kids definitely do this just about automatically when they get home.
At our friends’ house, for example, toys only get taken out one at a time and it is expected that one toy is cleaned up before another one comes out. They have been doing this since their daughter was a baby and I am always amazed at how tidy their place is.
We, truth be told, are much more wishy-washy on this, but I wanted to give another example of starting as you wish to continue. It is much easier to keep something going then try to change habits as the kids get older.
Then again, change is a constant with kids. Which brings me to our next point.
Changing the Evening Routine
It goes without saying, that every change in life stage may require tweaking the routine. Recently I was able to make us a new rough schedule, with some adjustments because the kids are older.
You’ll notice the addition of homework and music into the routine now that two of our kids are in elementary school. Our routine begins once we get home, meaning after any activities. Your routine may be different if you come home and then go back out again. Adjust as often as necessary to stay relevant and realistic!
The best part, of having finally typed up our elementary school weekday routine, is that it can be easily reproduced if my little vandals get at it. 😉
Here’s a look at our current evening routine:
More Ways to Encourage Independence
In addition to getting our routine back up on the wall, we tried to brainstorm solutions for the pain points in our evenings.
One issue is that dirty clothes kept ending up on the floor. Or on the laundry basket, but not in it. With a trip to the hardware store and some paint swatches now in place, even the 3 year old knows exactly which laundry basket to put her clothes in.
Hooks the Kids Can Reach
A second theme that kept coming up was towels on the floor, the couch, the beds. Let’s say we were able to get them into the shower and out of it successfully. We then had a constant problems of towels being left all around because they could not easily reach the hooks we had. Six bucks and a trip to Ikea later, we had a solution. Hooks you can reach.
Simplify Your Evenings
A final suggestion I have, is to simplify your evenings. That may mean cutting down on activities, or scheduling them for the weekends. Analyze how disruptive or helpful it is to have play dates during the week.
What part of your evening is most stressful, and how can you improve it. Perhaps it would be helpful to prep weeknight dinners on the weekend? Or maybe the kids need more or less open-ended play time?
How Would an Ideal Evening Look?
Try to identify the toughest times of your evening, and see if maybe there is a creative solution to encourage independence and make your life easier.
Weekday evenings with elementary kids can be trying, but there are definitely some ways to improve your evenings. Start out small and good luck!