A Night-Time Routine Everyone Will Love
Updated: May 11, 2021
After a long day of parenting, working, and running your home, the end of the day can feel like a bottle neck. Everything needs to be squeezed into a short space of time and the convergence of tired children, tired parents, dinner time, bath time and bed time can be overwhelming and stressful. But it doesn’t need to be. With a bit of planning, you can put a routine in place that will calm the chaos and, most importantly, you’ll look forward to, rather than rushing through the evening and wishing it was over.
Why routine matters
Whether you’re highly organised or approach life with more of a free spirit, routine works for everybody. The ideal routine is flexible but offers consistency, and makes families feel safe in their environment.
Studies have found that predictability of parent interaction with a child is associated with the child's ability to better control and regulate their own actions and emotions, as well as an important factor in brain development.
Also, it’s just good common sense: if everybody know what to expect and when, over time you can become like a well-oiled machine.
The three evening pillars
At the end of the day as parents we meet 3 basic needs our children have:
Social (they need to interact with us and each other)
Physical (they need to be fed and clean)
Emotional (they need to wind down after a busy day and be calm so they can go to sleep comfortably)
Everything we do in the evenings should contribute to these.
An evening breakdown
We recommend breaking the evening down into 5 parts which all meet these needs in some way, one following seamlessly on from the other, ensuring predictability and calm.
It starts at the front door Coming home in the evening from school, work, or whatever activity your child has had on, can set off the most stressful hour of the day if it doesn’t start out right. Establish a returning-home routine to smooth the transition. Have your children wash their hands and light some candles. Create a space for backpacks, ensure they are unpacked and then repacked ready for the next day. Banish hunger with a plate of apple slices and crackers, and sit down together to chat about the day.
Family dinner Try to ensure that dinner is eaten at the same time every evening. It’s not always possible for the whole family to eat together every night, but if you can aim for a few nights a week that’s enough. If you’re not eating together, still ensure you join your kids at the table while they’re eating - don’t be tempted to let the eat in front of the TV. Check out our tips for fun family dinners, and how to make them a natural part of your family’s life.
Tidy-up time After dinner is a good time to set aside a few minutes (10 is enough) for an evening tidy-up. This means putting away dinner things and stacking the dishwasher, packing away toys and games, and readying your home for the next day. It’s important for children to be involved in this process - giving them specific jobs to do makes them feel included and empowered, and gives them a sense of responsibility that’s a good foundation for life. This is also a good moment to lay out clothes for the next day - practising forward-planning and preparation.
Bath time and unwinding Even if your children didn’t get particularly dirty during the day, having a set bath time every night is a great way to draw a line between “awake time” and “sleep time”. Warm water and steam are just as relaxing for them as it is for us, and after bath time it makes perfect sense to brush their teeth and then transition seamlessly to their pyjamas and have a little bit of relaxation time in their room.
Bed time Although you may not have realised it, bed time started right at the beginning of this chain of events. Giving your children a predictable evening routine every night relaxes them and prepares them to go to bed and fall asleep soundly. Even so, don’t rush this part of the day. This time of closeness and connection is for you just as much as it’s for them. Enjoy reading to them as they curl up next to you; the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they will be. As children are drifting off to sleep it is often the time they will tell you something that worried them during their day, so take it slow and create a space for this to happen. As tired as you are, don’t let these moments pass you by - it doesn’t feel like it now, but there are a finite number of stories we will read out loud to our little ones. Before we know it, they will be putting themselves to bed.
No family is exactly the same, and we all experience seasons that are busier and more chaotic than others. No routine is set in stone, and when you divert from it don’t feel guilty. Take a bit of time occasionally to re-assess if it’s still working for you, and change what needs to change. The important thing is to design the time you spend with your family in an intentional way, making your home a sanctuary and the time you spend together precious.
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