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A Parent's Guide to Surviving "The Witching Hour"

Photo by: iStock



In our house, it’s all fun and games until 4:30pm rolls around. It’s like my boys have an internal clock that tells them to start fighting with each other and whining non stop. Basically, they turn into little terrors that make me question why I wanted kids so badly in the first place (I’m kidding. Kind of.). After talking to some mom friends who were desperate for play dates in the later afternoon and early evening, I now realize that I am not the only parent who despises that witching hour that occurs from 4:30pm-6:30 p.m. every day. But in addition to our griping, my mom squad and I have also teamed up to collaborate and create this guide for how parents can survive the witching hour.


Make them sweat. That’s right, get them moving as much as you can to get them to sweat their grumpies out. If it is warm out, send them outside to the backyard to play soccer or baseball, go on a family bike ride, or get everyone involved in the yard work.


Have a park play date. What’s so awesome about a park play date? You are on neutral ground, there’s no prep work, and everything is always more fun with a friend…am I right? If you are getting sick of heading to the same park, then put a fun spin on the traditional equipment. Create obstacle courses, races, games, etc. such as competing to find out who can race down the slide the fastest and who has the best style when completing the monkey bars. You can also go on a park crawl.


Go on a scavenger hunt. The reason why I love this activity so much is because it requires zero prep work and you can do it outside or inside. First off, decide what kind of scavenger hunt to go on…colors, letters, rhyming words, etc. It is especially fun to collect things from your hunt and turn them into an artistic collage once you get back home, especially if you go on a nature scavenger hunt.


Have a happy hour. I’m not gonna lie, I LOVE happy hour. It’s a time to reflect on the day and take a pause before the rush of dinner and bedtime. Now I’m not saying that your happy hour needs booze, but if you have had a long day, I would never judge (been there, done that, my friends). My boys and I love to put out a big spread of snacks on a platter and enjoy a drink in a fun and fancy glass. Cut up veggies with Italian dressing is a favorite, as is cubed fruit and cheese with an array of crackers. Lemonade gets even more exciting when herbed ice cubes are added.


Put on some music and unplug! I’m not sure what it is about Coldplay, but just the sound of Chris Martin’s voice will chill my kids out, even when they are in the midst of a tantrum. I have found that putting together a relaxed music list is great to have on hand during the witching hour. I play it while the kids and I zoom cars, build with blocks, put together puzzles, etc. Other great artists to play include Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Diana Krall, and Norah Jones.


Get messy. I know, I know…cleaning up after your kids is so incredibly time consuming and just plain annoying. And since I am a Virgo, I feel like I am ALWAYS cleaning up after my kids…and my husband…and the dog. Ugh. But sometimes the fact that you are encouraging your kids to get messy is a happy shock. Need some fun sensory play ideas? Here is one of my most popular play posts…and don’t forget about water beads, either! Then you can have a long, relaxing bath time before dinner. I recommend adding some glow sticks or bath colors if you want to skip the messy play and instead go straight into bath time.


Appoint a sous chef. Even the littlest hands can be helpful, whether they are using a salad spinner or chopping veggies. If you are a bit type A and don’t want them getting into the food, you can always provide them with their own “food” for creative play. Too tired to cook an extravagant meal? That’s basically the story of my life, so here are a ton of no fail, easy prep meals to please the entire family.


Create. One of the reasons why so many people experiment with art is because it is such a relaxing form of therapy. So plan ahead and create a bin/area in your house filled with artistic goodies for open ended, creative play. But what’s even more important is that you put down your phone, ignore the piles of laundry and create alongside them. You may not be as talented as Van Gogh, but then again, didn’t he cut his ear off?



Amanda Simkin, a lifelong Chicagoan, created her blog (queenofthelandoftwigsnberries.com) to share how she celebrates motherhood in Chicago. She offers “insider’s guides” for both well-known and off-the-beaten-path family-friendly gems. Her fans include Red Tricycle Chicago and Chicago Parent Magazine. You can also follow Amanda on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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