How to Avoid the Post-Dinner but Pre-Bedtime Craziness

We have an early bedtime in our house, which means we also have a relatively early dinner time. My husband gets off work around 5:00 and we eat dinner by 5:30. Bedtime usually starts around 6:30 and everyone is brushed, bathed and asleep by 7:45. However, the time gap between 5:45 and 6:30 had started to become the most dreaded 45 minutes of my entire day.

The boys are ALWAYS tired by dinner. They are awake and ready to play by 6:00 in the morning. They have busy days of learning, playing, eating and more playing. So by 5:45 if they haven’t taken at least a 30 minute nap to take the edge off, they are sometimes slap-happy, giggly, can’t listen to anything but the sound of their own voices, little boys. This often ended with chaos, rowdiness, toys and/or food thrown all over, running, just general mayhem. I was often losing my cool, which is not how I like to end the day. Also, it was hard to keep the mayhem from finding its way into bedtime.

So, I decided to use a Plan it Out support to loosely structure that 45 minutes. We decided which activities the boys enjoy, that are also somewhat calming, to start taking the activity level in the house down a notch before starting bath time. We decided on: reading books, doing puzzles, playing board games, coloring, or going to bed. We added “going to bed,” because we wanted to give them a way to recognize that they were tired and go ahead and ask to start bedtime instead of spiraling into the over-tired craziness.

I reviewed the choices with the boys, then I posted it on the kitchen island where the boys can both see it from the dinner table. Now, after they take their plates to the sink I can say, “Pick an after dinner activity.” They both know to look at the choices and pick what they want to do. Most nights they pick to play a board game with us, but we have also done a lot of puzzles and reading! This support transformed that 45 minutes of craziness into nice quality time before we start the bedtime routine. This particular choice board has been in action for about 3 weeks. I’m sure in another week or two I will change it up a bit by adding a new activity. What fun activities would you add for your family to help them start winding down before bedtime?