The term “witching hour” is a common one among parents, and it seems to generally refer to the same time of day: the pre-bedtime, post-dinner zone, which in my household has become something of a daily cross to bear. We’re always trying to keep Dylan awake for just a bit longer (I’ve learned that 7 is the earliest he should go to bed, but that definitely doesn’t mean he’s a happy camper for the preceding half hour or so), we’re trying to deal with Riley who is alternating between bouncing off the walls and channeling Satan, we’re trying to bolt our own dinner, we’re simultaneously wanting to grab as much quality time with the kids as possible and wishing like hell they’d just go to bed already.

We used to deal with this time of day by taking the boys for a walk around the neighborhood, which was a perfect solution — they stayed entertained, and JB and I could chitchat while getting a little exercise. Now it’s just too damn dark outside, so we rattle irritatingly around the house like marbles in a can. Dylan gets fussier and fussier, Riley fine-tunes his ability to detonate people’s skulls with the sheer force of his whining, and I find myself staring glassy-eyed at the clock: has it really been only five minutes since the last time I looked, DEAR GOD IS THERE NO MERCY.

Those of you who have similar evening-time challenges, how do YOU deal with the Witching Hour? I could use some inspiration, because last night around 6:47 I spent a few minutes just sort of fondling a bottle of liquid Benadryl and thinking, would it really be so wrong?

I don’t even want to acknowledge Daylight Saving Time. That is going to suck, if you’ll pardon the expression, a giant bag of baboon assholes.

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Felicia
Felicia
13 years ago

Probably not the best advice in the world, but Jeopardy comes on at 6:00 here and for some reason my (nearly 22-month-old) son likes it. I figure it can’t hurt him at least and it might teach him some trivia.

I think he likes the sound effects. Whenever the audience claps, so does he. He also likes when they find the daily doubles and he screams “YAY DOUBLE!!!!”

Anyway by the time it’s over then we only have a little time to kill before we start the bed time routine because he’s in bed by 7:00-7:15 every night.

I have no idea if this would work with two but we will find out soon!

Jen
Jen
13 years ago

When Orion was 8 weeks old and at the ER for what turned out to be refulx, the hospital Peds attending looked at our haggard faces and said quietly, “The secret we don’t tell you, is that there’s nothing wrong with Benadryl.”

What we actual do though, is take Orion outside and lay him down where he can feel a little bit of breeze and see some trees and sky. If we can get him out there in time to catch the end of the sunset, we do. It seems to turn his little clock to “night time” mode and my husband and I get to sit on the lawn chairs and watch the sun set.

Naomi in Oz
Naomi in Oz
13 years ago

I found that putting my kids to bed when they were tired (regardless of the time) worked for me. If I allowed them to get too fussy and tired, they would wake more frequently during the night and wake earlier in the morning. Have you considered that now Dylan has reached the age where he will be expending more energy (crawling and hte like) he needs more sleep?
I actually like daylight savings time. Where I live it means the sun stays up until 8 or 9pm BUT if we didn’t have it, the sun would rise at 4.30am!! My kids wake with the sun, so that would be a very early morning, but they go to bed at 8pm because I say it’s bedtime (and they are tired).
Just remember, like all other parenting things, this too will pass and there will be another challenge just around the corner

Melissa H
13 years ago

We’ve got a new routine of turning on a cd and “dancing” around the living room like complete idiots. I try to “dance” crazy enough to call it a work out and it gets the giggles/wiggles out of the three year old without going outside in the dark.

Good luck!

Casey
13 years ago

We divide and conquer to make it through the day. One feeds the six month old, gets her ready for bed while the other one feeds the 22 month old and gets him ready for bed. Then we quarantine ourselves in his room for the remainder of the night. My daughter goes to bed earlier so she goes off to bed and then we all play/read books and wind down. I’ve started doing something, anything out of the house in the afternoons to tire him out and kill as much time as possible. Even if it’s only running up and down the driveway, it works.

K
K
13 years ago

How about a long leisurly bath? I let my 3 1/2 old stay in the tub for about 20-30 minutes some nights pouring water into cups. He talks so much I can hear him in the next room easily, with the occasional pop-in and shout out to make sure he hasn’t drowned.

I also have a reward for “no crybabies” i.e. if he doesn’t whine through dinner, bath, whatever, he can have an ice cream sandwhich or an episode of Ninja Warrior.

Trina
Trina
13 years ago

I have nothing. I tend to rot my child’s brain with anything that is ondemand (except Caillou because I HATE HIM!). I feel your pain though because my kids get real crazy too.

Jess
13 years ago

Baths seem to help. And uh… well, we (me and the mouse in my pocket. husband doesn’t get home until 730) anyway… I always turn on Sesame Street (the old school dvds are AWESOME)and let them watch for an hour. I know. Rockstar. But they enjoy it and then I have time to prepare dinner. My 15 month old goes down at 645 and my 2 year old goes down at 745 (so she can see dad before going to sleep). It works great for me. They love the songs and the characters and it’s so funny I don’t mind watching it over and over again. I also usually pull out some crayons so they can color while they watch.

So yeah. In conclusion. TV. Nice.

Mary
13 years ago

Can’t you still walk? It’s not as fun as it is in the endless summer evenings, I admit, but I still go out in the dark. I carry a flashlight, and if I didn’t have sidewalks to walk on I would get one of those funky orange reflective vests, maybe. In January, yeah, it’s too cold for the little guys, but right now it’s not too bad. The other suggestion I would make for Riley is making sure he gets plenty of exercise during the day. I used to be a regular at McDs playgrounds for that very reason. Ugh. Don’t miss those days. You have my sympathy.

Swistle
13 years ago

Um, TV. *sheepish*

Or! Sometimes we do races in the hallway (“Now race like a lion! Now hop-race! Now crawl-race! Now race as slowwwwwww as you can!”), and sometimes we roll a ball back and forth between two hallway teams, with the baby in the middle.

Sometimes we read books, but it depends on which kids are at which stages: some kids like books more than other kids.

Hue
Hue
13 years ago

Actually, won’t Daylight Savings work in your favor? 7PM will be the old 6PM…

Nancy
Nancy
13 years ago

No read advice here. Our twins are 15 months old and begin to melt down between 6:15 and 6:45, so it’s always a delicate balancing act between trying to feed them and still have a little play time as a family before they have to go to bed, and getting baths in, and letting them practice walking behind their pushtoys which helps to tire them out a bit.

No day is quite the same — we’re always flying by the seats of our pants, it seems.

We just figured out by about 3 months that 7 was the latest they could stay up. They were so much happier after we old folks figured that out! Now we wish they could stay up a bit later so we could all eat together (it takes time to get dinner ready and there just isn’t enough time between when I get home with the girls and meltdown time)

C.L
C.L
13 years ago

I am right there with you. We also did the after dinner walk thing and oh why oh why has that been taking away from us!

My 20 month old son has recently discovered his love of watching videos of himself. So, after dinner we do bath, a couple of books and then HandyCam movie time. It is working so far but of course now that I have said that it will shortly end.

Bumbling
13 years ago

I was sick of letting them watch TV tonight, so I popped my Mp3 player in the speaker unit and blasted some music. We danced, danced, danced and at the end they were so tired that they went right to bed with no trouble.

k
k
13 years ago

Our secret weapon is the movie Cars – my 3.5 year olds favorite, and we only turn it on in the late afternoon – usually lasts through until bathtime

NancyJak
13 years ago

I recall my son’s bedtime was 7pm for a very very very long time – years!
I’m in agreement that there’s nothing wrong with taking a walk in the dark unless it’s really dangerous with cars. Evening walks in the fall are fabulous and you can look at the stars and in people’s windows and stuff!

Half Assed Kitchen
13 years ago

Ah, yeah. Total suckiness. It does get better as they get older. My husband takes both kids upstairs, which is kind of a change of scenery since they don’t spend much time up there during the day, and I clean the kitchen. It works out pretty well. Another two years for you and it’ll be quite a bit better than it is now. I know that sounds like forever…

Eva
Eva
13 years ago

We play soccer in the playroom or all go to the grocery store. We have also extended storytime so we can start it earlier. Like 6:45! Baths are good time-killers, too.

kirsten
kirsten
13 years ago

TV and Free to be You and Me on YouTube with everyone dancing. Best songs: Free to be You and Me, When We Grow Up and It’s All Right to Cry.

Jenn
Jenn
13 years ago

My daughter goes a little crazy around 7pm and to stall her for her 8pm bath, we have “pants free hour” where she wears a diaper and no pants. The girl is in heaven. She’s always been happy without pants. I’m not sure I want to know what that means for her future.

Joanne
13 years ago

I take them both up at 6:30 every night, whether they’re tired or not! Sometimes we eat dinner after they’re in bed, sometimes we eat ‘with’ them. It always, always backfires on me if I try to keep my 9 month old up until a certain time, she always goes to sleep like crap when I do it.

So … I don’t know. You can’t walk, I wonder if you could have something you do every night at 6:30? Like reading time or something? I find that if I have something going on, like a plan, it makes the time go by faster. Because I know *exactly* what you mean about that damned clock moving so slowly.

Ashley
13 years ago

Wish we had talked about this earlier. I seem to have found a sweet spot lately, boys have dinner 5:30ish, then I throw them in the bath for as long as they want which is usually 20-35 mins. Then it’s to the living room for the giant drawing pad, puzzles, general floor time. During this time I sneak in and out to make the grown-ups dinner. Dad gets home and we eat while the kids run around us in circles. Dad says goodnight to August and I put him down then Owen usually plays on the computer while dad takes a shower. Then the 3 of us play a game and it’s off to bed for reading. Works like a charm every evening. Off to sneak back to the living room now :)

kayla
13 years ago

such a great blog some how i found you lookin for things on our sons birth defect esophageal atresia

Cameron
13 years ago

Sounds oddly familiar. We usually read books (over and over and over again) until it’s close to bedtime, then we do the new potty / diaper pajama thing

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

My wife use to have the kids run a circle between the kitchen and living room. That would tire them out. When they were a bit older (3-4) they got ‘chores’, clean off the kitchen table, feed the dog, etc. Once they started school homework kills their free time. Good luck, glad mine are older. ;-)

nancy
13 years ago

I am seconding the dance party vote. It is a great classroom time filler, it gets everyone moving, and you can start out crazy and move to cool down music as it gets closer to bedtime.

christine
13 years ago

I feel you Linda. My baby is 8 months old and her current bedtime is between 7:45 – 8:00. Our schedule right now is: dinner between 5-6, then bath at 7. In between 6-7 I try everything from a walk around the (dark) block, to bringing out a toy she hasn’t seen in a while. Our savior is the bath at 7… Then we try to stretch the bath out to close to 30 minutes, as she loves the bath. It’s the great equalizer for us. However as soon as the bath is done, we can’t get her to sleep fast enough.

Katie (the Yap)
13 years ago

“Riley fine-tunes his ability to detonate people’s skulls with the sheer force of his whining”

That is just a genius description right there. I know EXACTLY of which you speak.

And, I have no suggestions once it is too dark at night. What the hell are we going to do all winter? We’re all going to LOSE OUR SANITY. Obviously, I am in need of my own suggestions, so I’m going to keep reading your comments and taking mental notes that I’m sure will instantly vanish by 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Sara
13 years ago

I sure as shit don’t have any solutions for you, as we go through the same thing with our almost 3-yr-old every single night. His baby brother is due in February and OH JOY OF JOYS, can’t wait to see how that throws a wrench in our routine! (I am very excited about having another child, though, don’t get me wrong.)

Anyway! I was relieved to hear you talk about how Riley winds up like a squirrel on crack-cocaine before bedtime. What is UP with that? There have been several times this past week where my husband and I just stop and look at each other wide-eyed, like we are waiting for our son’s head to explode AT ANY MOMENT. I’ve never seen anything like it before. He is relatively calm during the day, but by 6:30 p.m. I’m desperately trying to remember if I maybe accidentally gave him a King Size Snickers bar for dinner. BATSHIT CRAZY, I say. Jeeeebz.

Gah, kids.

Amy
Amy
13 years ago

We always did dinner at 6pm–and until my youngest was 2 or so, that meant dinner for kids only–and then bed by 7pm. We could start the bedtime routine right after dinner–on bath nights especially and then the adults could have adult time by 7:15. My kids do need a lot of sleep though, so I suppose such an early bedtime wouldn’t work for everyone. My five year old still goes to be at 7 a couple nights a week, and 7;30 the others.

Chris
13 years ago

ahhh, i remember well those days when i fondled the Benadryl and/or the Baby Tylenol. All I can tell you is that it gets better. I expect Riley will turn a corner in a bit, as will Dylan. It’s just a matter of time. I wish there was a more magical answer :-) you and JB do a bang-up job with your boys and you’ll all do great.

wm
wm
13 years ago

Why do you feel the baby can’t go to bed before 7? We put our little guy down when he’s tired. For quite a few months that was 6:30. Now he’s asleep by 8, but the change is due to his own cycles changing. I read somewhere that putting them down later doesn’t mean they will sleep any later, but just be more tired. If our 10 month old was tending toward very late bedtimes I might try to push it forward. But if it’s early, I’d say let him sleep.

bouncingoffwalls
bouncingoffwalls
13 years ago

We too used to walk for about an hour after dinner each night. We moved our walk time to just before dinner; I heat the first course early, then take the kids out for a hike, then do a quick reheat and have dinner when we get back. Dinner is about 15 minutes later, but it’s worth it to not miss our walk.

I bought the kids a mini trampoline and a “wonder horse” type bouncer for kids age 2+. We go down to the basement after dinner, turn on some music, and jump / bounce / dance / tumble on the old couch / whatever.

Then we come back up and after they play with their upstairs toys or the piano for a little while, we do a systematic cleanup together before beginning their bedtime routine.

This routine uses up their physical and mental energy without having them bouncing off the walls, then helps them wind down. Evenings are pretty enjoyable for all of us.

Samantha
13 years ago

Well because it seems to take my 3 year old forever to do one task like cleaning up his toys, to getting into pj’s, to brushing his teeth, to picking out a story I’m usually saying “OK, hurry up, it’s getting late we gotta go to bed.” Our nights seem to fly by so I can’t say I have the same problem of watching the clock.
But to be a good bloggy friend I try to give you some ideas like play a game with them, something that they both could be part of. You could also just talk to them, sing to them, read to them. I don’t know..sorry, hope this helps. Good luck and I’m hating this darker earlier thing too.

Carolyn J.
13 years ago

My mom used to drag us around the neighbourhood on a sled (after a snowfall of course) when my brother & I were small. Looks like you’ve got the triceps for it!

wendy
wendy
13 years ago

We used to use a GREAT CD called “Kids in Action” by Greg and Steve. It is more focused than just dancing around – – so at the end of the day when your imagination has left the building, it’s nice just to go on autopilot and let Greg and Steve run the show. I know that Amazon has it. Benedryl in a jewel case.

Heidi
Heidi
13 years ago

Hi there, I lurk here often… I have two little ones. My little guy is almost 4 (next month) and my little girl is two. Our hour starts at the dinner table EVERY night. Just as they are done, we look at the clock begging it to be bed time!! Never is of course. We have learned that the more that we just go crazy with them, the better they behave! Wrestling with daddy on the floor, playing chase with the blanket over the head, hide and seek or simon says. Helps them get their wiggles out and also keeps them focused and less whinney.. we too did nightly walks until the blasted dark came! This seems to really help us get thru. Good luck!!!

Joanne
13 years ago

Ugh, my son used to wake up *exactly* 30 minutes after he went to sleep. Exactly! Every night! I hate to mention it, but we just had to let him settle himself back down after he woke. I knew he wasn’t hungry or anything after 30 minutes. I hope the witching hour gets shorter, however you do it!

Eve
Eve
13 years ago

I’ve been lurking here since before my daughter was born (she’s now 6 months) and I have to tell you that reading your stuff helps keep me sane! And always makes me feel better, because it seems like we have a lot of the same issues with our babe as you.
ANYWAY, same exact problem here. Babe gets so agitated in the hours before bed, but if I try to get her to go to sleep before 8-ish, she’s up an hour later, ready to play, and does NOT want to go back to sleep! Yarrgh.
I have no idea what to do. I basically just keep switching activities with her about every 10 minutes to keep her distracted, but man, it’s exhausting. First, play on the floor, then pick her up and sing while dancing around, then exersaucer, then more play on the floor, then bath, then stories (which she really just chews on, but whatever). Part of me is hoping that with Daylight Saving Time, MAYBE her body will be tricked and she’ll just want to go to bed earlier because of the darkness? Yeah right…

g~
g~
13 years ago

Books, Books and more Books. And that lasts for about 20 minutes. Interestingly enough (and to prove what horribly irresponsible parents we are) we let the kids (5 and 3) play Wii or watch the husband play Legend of Zelda–they LOVE IT! I also vote for extended bath times. What about letting them play in the backyard instead of walking around the block? Too much dog poop possibility in the dark?
g~

Erin
13 years ago

Television.

There, I said it.

Also we play music; I’ve got a decent collection of kids stuff and they have their favorites. Playdough comes out after dinner a lot too.

amber
amber
13 years ago

We do dance parties. That entails putting on fast songs the girls like, then we jump around and sing like crazy. Also, we let our oldest (she’s 2) jump off of the coffee table a lot. When I’m feeling really ambitious/lenient, we’ll pull the dining room chairs into the living room, making a “bridge” to the coffee table, and let the oldest go nuts.

Or, I let my husband deal with them for that hour before bathtime/bedtime and go for a run. Which maybe isn’t very nice of me, but eh. What are you going to do?

hannah
hannah
13 years ago

Another music and bath household here. Our witching hour is earlier (around 5:15 or so, because my son can’t really stay up much past 6 still) but our routine is walk at 4:30, dinner for him at 5, and then a twenty minute Mommy and Me CD that my husband got for free at work and which I have grown to love, followed by an extra long, bubbly bath.

Nathan sometimes dances along with the music and sometimes it’s just background noise to more playtime, but it helps him transition. He’s a kid that responds really, really well to routine.

Sonia
13 years ago

What works for us, is a routine. But there are still nights when I’m stir crazy and watching the clock because the boy is just FULL of it. We have dinner at 6:30pm, bath at 7pm, which usually lasts about 30 minutes. 7:30 to 7:45-ish is spent drying his hair (he’s doing it himself now, and it is SO cute), brushing teeth and getting jammie-fied. Then we snuggle on the couch with Daddy (when he’s not gone on a 10 day hunting trip…..I might be slightly BITTER) until 8pm, and then it’s bedtime.

On Benadryl? Our Pediatrician, whom I adore, suggested a Benadryl a night year round. Our son struggles with sensory issues, and her theory is that it helps to dry up his mucous secretions, which cause him quite a bit of trouble. She said that the other benefit is “Sweet, peaceful, harmless sleep help.” She told us that even when he’s not showing allergy symptoms, to give it anyway to keep his sleep pattern stable. Do not fear the Benadryl! ;)

Kaitlyn
13 years ago

When I’m alone with my girls in the evening (2 and a half and 5 months) and the loooooooong stretch between five and seven rears it’s ugly head, I draw the bath and plunk them in early. It’s a great time-kill for the two year old. She’s easier to entertain, because cranky babies aren’t so easily distracted… so I usually lay a towel on the floor for the baby and let her roll around naked. Sure there are sometimes casualties, but she *totally* calms down when she’s naked.

cherish
13 years ago

We do the bath thing and the dancing thing. Also, we watch videos together. I have four under 8 so bed times (and pretty much everything else) has to be really organized or I DIE. The baby (3 months) goes down at 7:15, the toddler (almost 2) goes just after at 7:30, and the older two (4.5 and 7) go between 8 and 8:30, depending on the video they chose to watch.

I think next summer Ill try walks in the evenings, it sounds like a great idea.

Jennifer Wilson
13 years ago

I drink red wine. Seems to help :-)

Lisa B
Lisa B
13 years ago

Ah the joys of living on the Eastside, in the land of no sidewalks. I can’t help you because my only experience is walking the dog after dark and she’s nowhere near as unwieldy as a stroller built for two. Altho what we do with her when it’s too rainy and we’re too wussy to go out is toss a toy between the two of us at either end of the hallway while she runs back and forth trying to catch it. Might work with Riley? Or it may make him so frustrated he starts to howl, so hmm, I think I’m no help. You have my sympathies, tho!