All moms know how it goes.
The clock strikes 4:30 p.m., maybe 5 p.m. if you’re lucky, and your children transform from the sweet angelic beings you’ve been dealing with all day into demons. I swear, some days I really feel like I see horns sprouting out of my twins’ heads as soon as the clock strikes—of course, it could just be hallucinations due to extreme angst at this truly terrible hour.
I might sound dramatic, but after a casual survey of other moms, I know the majority of us feel the same—the witching hour is a real phenomenon, and it is the worst.
I dread this hour daily and am constantly thinking of new ways to combat the whining, the crying, the sass, and the overall feeling of being entirely done with the day. And it doesn’t help that it’s basically the busiest time of day. It’s right at this very awful hour that dinner needs to be prepared and served (let’s have a moment of silence for the many morsels of food that wound up on the floor or in my dog’s belly instead of in my child’s mouth), baths need to be given, teeth need to be brushed, stories need to be told, and then BAM! My precious children return, and I’m actually kind of sad they have to go to bed.
Here’s how I try to stay sane and keep my children from absolutely losing it.
1. Get Outside
There’s nothing like a little bit of Vitamin D to give our children a boost knowing that they still have to make it a little bit longer until the day is over.
As soon as I sense the witching hour signs beginning to show, I pack my kids in their stroller, leash up the dog, and walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes we make it to the park, sometimes there is no real destination. Most of the time, they’re into it. But, if they’re especially fiery, I’ll pack some extra toys and a snack to keep them at bay in the stroller. This late afternoon walk almost always gets us to dinner time without too many tears from any of us.
If leaving the safety of home base sounds too dangerous during witching hour, set up a blanket in the yard with some toys or some bowls filled with water and let your kid have at it. Bath time is just on the horizon anyway.
2. Switch Up the Environment
Your children likely spend most of their time in the same spaces of your house. I get it—it’s the only way to keep them from absolutely destroying the remaining parts. The thing is, by the end of the day, they’re probably pretty bored of the same rooms, the same toys, and the same entertainment (as are you, I’m sure).
Witching hour is my favorite time to let them hang out for 20 minutes in uncharted territory, supervised of course. I let them crawl around on the floor of their closet, play with the shampoo bottle in our master bathroom, or totter around the bed in our bedroom.
It might sound silly, but it’s like hitting the reset button on their brain, and the crankiness dissipates, even if only for a couple of minutes. Whatever the time, I’ll take it.
3. Involve Them in Dinner Prep
If dinner needs to be made, let your kids in on the fun.
For toddlers, this might mean adding ingredients. For older kids, this might mean peeling or chopping veggies. Little ones might not be able to help, but they sure love to watch. Give them a good view of whatever you’re doing, and let them have a taste or two along the way.
My son is especially fascinated every time I meal prep, so I prop him safely on the counter, and he quietly watches dinner come together. This is an awesome opportunity to make your child feel important and like part of the meal making process.
Bonus: it might even make your little one a more adventurous and eager eater.
4. Bring Out the Extra Special Toys
This might sound mean, but I hide my children’s favorite toys. Yep, you read that right.
Throughout the day, they get to play with their second favorite and third favorite toys, and all the other toys that fall at the bottom of the totem pole, but the one that really makes them happy is stashed away specifically for this hour. I re-gift it weekly on the nights when I need a few minutes of peace in this hurricane of an hour, and it works like a charm.
We also limit screen time in our home, but when we do allow a short sing-along video or a few rounds of Baby Shark, you better believe it’s almost always during this hour.
5. Take a Breather
Your energy typically directly affects your child’s behavior, so if you’re on a short fuse and overtired, chances are your child will behave the same.
If you know the dreaded witching hour is on deck, take a few moments to reset your mood. If you’re coming in from a long day of work, try listening to some relaxing music, unplugging and signing off from emails and apps, or even meditating for a few minutes.
If you’ve been at home all day with your children, your patience might be running dry. If you can visualize the peaceful night you’d like to have with your family, there’s a better chance of it becoming a reality.
Like with everything else parent-related, there will be good days and bad days (and some really bad days). But the good news is every day provides us an opportunity to try again.