Evenings with Kids

October 29, 2019

Last night, I suggested to the kids that we take a walk around the neighborhood to assess the Halloween decorations. Annabel in particular wanted to take notes on the best houses to plan her trick or treating route. (She brought a notebook, because she is definitely my child.)

Josh came home at around 6:15, which was an unexpected added bonus, and ended up coming with us. And it was so nice! We came in and had a snack (grapes & a couple of small TJ’s pumpkin cookies) and everyone went to bed pretty effortlessly. We were able to tag team so that Josh did the big kids while I took G, and all kids were asleep by 8:30.

This sequence of events felt nearly magical. Also, atypical. More common is a slog (nagging for kids to finish piano, pick up toys, etc), me feeling lonely and bored amidst the chaos (and salving myself with Instagram more often than I’d like to admit), me feeling GUILTY for feeling lonely and bored because shouldn’t I be cherishing these moments, fights breaking out in various combinations, and somehow a later bedtime for the big kids in particular. UGH.

I am going to try to remember last night because it shows that evening peace IS possible. And perhaps going outside and actually getting out of the house once in a while is a missing ingredient. While I don’t think I’m up for a nightly outing quite yet, once or twice a week is probably reasonable.

dark but not cool

Of course, I am making this realization just as the time is about to change, rendering it dark by 5:30 pm. Still, though, I am going to think of some things we could do to break up the monotony. List below and more ideas welcome.

  • bake something
  • break out a new craft supply or a new puzzle
  • take a walk in the dark (I mean, it’s not going to be pitch black around here; there are lights)
  • go on a quick errand (CVS, etc)
  • ???

PS: Our podcast ep is on this topic today, so this is a timely post.


  • Reply Cassie October 29, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Assign most nights a theme- Monday: games/ Tuesday: Baking/ Wednesday:Art/ Thursday: Building Projects-Blocks and Legos/ Friday: Movie

  • Reply Sheryl October 29, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Yes! The nightly slog is real. We’ve started having our eight year old daughter practice her piano (20 mins) in the morning before school. Seems torturous to even suggest it, but it has worked out so well! Now, the focus can be on homework and other things after school without the nagging that piano (often) requires. Not sure if your morning schedule allows for it, but might be worth a shot? Also, I too have a husband whose schedule is unpredictable and requires him to work late many nights during the week. Having him home really helps lighten the mood– and not in a making dinner/cleaning up kind of way, but in a reducing the monotony/loneliness kind of way! When he’s there, I realize how much I miss his company on the nights he’s not.

  • Reply Awayemily October 29, 2019 at 8:53 am

    We try really hard to get the kids outside every night after dinner (we eat at 5:30). Sometimes a scooter ride in the neighborhood, sometimes a wagon walk, sometimes just throwing a ball in the yard. It seems to make a huge difference to everyone’s mood. And bonus, the house gets less messy. We often let them bring an apple or carrot sticks with them, too, which for some reason they are way more willing to eat when they are outside.

    • Reply Ana October 29, 2019 at 12:16 pm

      How do you manage to eat at 5:30? Do you get home earlier? One of our problems is that by the time we get dinner on the table, its often 6:30 or 7 for us (maaayyybe 6, if its leftovers or hot dogs), since I don’t get home until 5:30 most days and several days the kids have activities that go until 5:30-7:30 (those 6:30 pm soccer games).

  • Reply Ana October 29, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Oh wow, you’re in my head today, I was thinking about this very thing. Especially now that the days are getting darker (and soon, colder), the evenings just feel like a rut of nagging/chores/fights/etc… and I really look forward to any nights out (with friends). But as a family we also need some novelty to keep the mood more light & interesting. In the summer we would do after-dinner park trips fairly often, and it DID make the evenings much more pleasant overall. I like the idea of loosely planning 2 nights/week of something “different” as a family.

  • Reply Gwinne October 29, 2019 at 9:18 am

    We’re restarting family efforts in this regard now that my teen is in a lull from night activity. We rotate which family member chooses what we do. Game night, dessert out are the two most common in our house. Not much works for 15 and 7…

  • Reply Lindsey October 29, 2019 at 10:05 am

    How late is your local library open? That can be a fun, easy outing.

    Also, it can be fun to give the kids flashlights when it’s dark and you’re walking. They like shining it at stuff and then they’re also more visible. (I’m in MN so it gets *pitch black* by about 5:30 p.m. after daylight savings ends).

  • Reply Lindsey October 29, 2019 at 10:06 am

    One more: dance party. Make a list of songs the kids love and bust a move. (also great for times when it’s too rainy/cold to spend much time outside)

  • Reply Amy October 29, 2019 at 11:21 am

    One thing we really like to do in the evening is read aloud. My kids (5 and 7) play with legos or modeling clay or whatever and I’ll read from a chapter book — we’ve gone through Ronald Dahl, now we’re reading some George MacDonald, next up is the Wind in the Willows. It helps them to calm down and get ready for sleep, too. And it’s really fun!

  • Reply Erica S October 29, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    With G’s evening sports schedule (soccer is winding down though) we only get 1 or 2 nights a week where we can do something. one usually involves a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, and the other is just playing around the house. But in winter we have more nights at home and it’s dark here in NC. So we go to the library, sometimes a weeknight movie (especially around a holiday). That being said, all of this is much easier because we have two parents home every night – I don’t envy your evenings!

  • Reply Beth Cubbage October 29, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    I definitely identify with the nightly slog. When my husband is traveling, it’s not that it’s THAT much harder logistically, but the lack of adult company is tough. My kids LOVE doing flashlight walks in the evening after the time change. Sometimes I’ll put on some music or turn on the fire if it’s cold out. If I’m really feeling worn down I just tell the kids I’m going to read and spend 15 minutes on the couch with a book. It always revives me. We often start bedtime super early, too. They can play in the bath for as long as I’ll let them so I just lay on my daughter’s bed and read while the kids play in the bathtub.

  • Reply Dominique October 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I second dance parties and crafts. Watercolor is so easy – and all of your kids could do it. My 7-year-old learned how to finger knit at school which started this craft thing – crocheting and cross stitch are current favorites.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 29, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      Painting is great for the big ones. G will make a colossal mess and yet be done in 2 min. This is my challenge w a lot of things actually!

  • Reply Alyssa October 29, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    Big fan of the walk around the block! Sometimes even 10 minutes of fresh air offers a nice reset. We go visit the neighbour’s (very friendly) kitty, count the pumpkins, check on the apples falling from the tree, etc.

  • Reply omdg October 29, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    We take the dog for a walk. Sometimes we bring Dyl, other times we leave her at home to play on the iPad. I’ve been trying to go upstairs by 8 (I like to have MY lights out by 9 at latest), and do some family reading and hanging out. Last night Dyl, Luca, and I took turns reading a book of her choosing out loud. I do need to find more productive ways to spend the 6:30 PM to 8 PM time slot. I probably should be attempting to get things done, but I am often just totally spent by that point in time, and Dylan interrupts any work-work I try to accomplish then unless I hide in the basement. Instead I end up staring into space or scrolling. Rarely I will work out then. I feel you.

    @Ana — Don’t you have a PM sitter now? Can you have him give the kids dinner? Outsourcing this to our AP was great for our waistlines and a big time saver for us.

  • Reply Rinna October 29, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    When my big kids were younger, we used to take “midnight walks” in the fall/winter. They loved the idea that they were out in the dark when it was REALLY late (6 pm!), and it was a fun brek to the monotony. Now that the big ones are 15, 12 and 10, and the little guy is only 4, I find he misses so many of these types of things because we end up accommodating the older sibs’ busier schedules. But, then again, he basically lives like a maharajah where everybody adores him and goes through hoops for him, so maybe I don’t have to feel all that bad!

  • Reply Laura October 30, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Husband was traveling last night, but thanks to evening childcare I was able to get some time with each of the big kids, solo, including a walk with the 10-year-old. Plus I got some work done while the youngest was at karate. I highly recommend this!

  • Reply Lori C October 30, 2019 at 6:30 am

    My 4 year old and I have a baking night occasionally- nothing elaborate because I’m a horrible baker- just brownies from the box. He puts on his little apron and loves “doing it himself”- spraying the pan, pouring the mix, adding the water and oil, stirring and pouring. It takes a bit of time and he loves telling my husband the next morning that he made brownies for him (my husband is also thrilled of course! Lol)

    Love all the ideas on here, stealing the wall idea myself!!

    • Reply Lori C October 30, 2019 at 6:30 am

      WALK idea (autocorrect!)

  • Reply Amy F October 30, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Flashlight tag
    Board games
    Indoor forts with chairs and blankets (bonus points if you turn out all the lights and read by flashlight in said fort)

  • Reply Jamie R October 31, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    My kids are still v little but I super believe in this!!! I pair an activity for each night with our meal plan. If dinner is super quick (or in the crock pot), we go out to a local library or park or just take a walk. If it’s not, we still have something intentional inside which ranges from somewhere in the baking/crafting zone (often seasonal) to just sitting together and doing magnatiles or whatever. We also try to share a meal with friends one of the four weeknights each week. I just plan and execute, and if the rest of the night is a complete show, at least we made one happy memory together. Often it sets the tone for a more structured and meaningful evening (but I also have the luxury of a homework/practice/activity free lifestyle at this age.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns October 31, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I enjoyed your conversation with Sarah Powers! Our schedule is similar to what she described in the toddler/infant years as our son is in bed at 7pm, and he was in bed as early as 6-6:30 when he was barely napping in the infant room at daycare! But some day we will have some evening hours to fill. I kind of enjoy having time to myself now but I also look forward to a time when we can do some fun things in the evening with him like play board games, go look at Halloween decorations and look at Christmas decorations (in a month or so – obv not the season for that yet!). Right now he has the attention span of a fly so the last 30 minutes before he goes to bed can be challenging as it’s tough to keep him focused on anything!

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