In this series on family routines, we talked about creating a morning routine to help keep your mornings calm and we discussed how to create an afternoon routine that moves you through unpacking backpacks, organizing school paperwork, and into homework and after school activities. Today we are going to focus on creating an evening routine for your children that ensures that everyone gets some one-on-one time with Mom or Dad, and starts to prepare them for the next day.
After Dinner is Done…
Our evening routine begins when the kids finish eating their dinner- and it starts with cleaning up the kitchen. All children need to clear their own plates, scrape them, rinse them, and put them into the dishwasher, but beyond that they know that they need to help out with some of the general kitchen clean up too. We keep a chore chart taped to a kitchen cabinet, and each night we rotate through the kitchen clean up chores. While my younger children mainly help with things like setting the table, the older ones take turns helping with the following jobs:
- “chief clearer” -they have to clear all of the serving plates and items that weren't used by a specific diner
- pack up leftovers, put them into the fridge and wipe down the kitchen table
- load the dishwasher with the serving plates and any other items left in the sink
- 1st floor cleanup leader- this person has to lead all of the kids (including the ones who have wrapped up the above jobs) into putting away all of the toys and books in the playroom, making sure that the family room has been picked up, and that coats, shoes, and activity bins have been put away. (and this is everyone's least favorite job because it is tough to convince the other kids to not get interested in and start playing with a toy that they are supposed to be cleaning up!)
Getting Ready for Bed
Once the chores are done, I ask the kids to brush their teeth and either get their jammies on, or if it is their bath / shower night, to get everything into the bathroom and start their showers. (This is a topic for another post- but in our house not all children get baths and showers every night.) While this whole process is going on, I am helping kids to pick out their clothes for the next day, asking them to select their books for that evening's reading time, coaxing some children to finish up their homework at their desk in their room, and generally urging everyone to move along and finish up. In short, I feel like I am everywhere at once during this time of day!
A Little One-On-One Time
Now comes the tricky part of the evening- where I strive to give each child some one-on-one time, reading the book to them that they have selected, or listening to them as they read to me. My husband and I usually start with the younger two in their own rooms, read to them individually, have them make one last trip to the potty, tuck them in, and maybe chat for a few minutes more. Then I have a little tradition that I do with the kids, where I sing to them each night when I kiss them good night. Last night I sang “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” for one of them, and “Over the Rainbow” for another. Then Steve and I will sit with the next two kids in our room (who share bedrooms with the younger ones, but have slightly later bedtimes), and have them read to us, and then we like to leave a little time to read a chapter of another book aloud to them, chat for a moment, and then send them off to bed. And finally we wrap up with the oldest two- who have usually finished their own reading homework before now, so we just hang out and chat about their day and what is going on. My oldest son, who has the latest bedtime, will often grab his book again, and read with me in my room until it is time for him to go to bed.
I think this quiet, wind-down, reading, chatting, and singing time is so very important to keeping us all connected with one another. Last night when I asked my oldest what his favorite time of day was- he said gym class, and also this before-bed-time when we are snuggling together and reading our own books. But I don't want to paint a picture that every night it is all lovely and perfect like this. There are still many, many nights when Steve and I are going from room to room to remind kids to stop talking and go to sleep. And the hardest part of getting this evening routine to work, is getting them to calm down when they get upstairs and start getting ready for bed in a subdued manner- so many nights we are raising our voices and telling them to stop running up and down the halls, and not to slam doors, and stop teasing each other, and on and on…….
I would love to hear your ideas- what's working for you in the evening? Tomorrow I will cover the evening routine that I follow- in addition to the routine for the kids!