My eldest child is a very active four year old boy. He loves school and playing racing with his friends on the way home. By the time we get home from school he is tired, hungry and grumpy. Having an evening routine that he follows during the school week allows him to feel in control of the situation. He knows what is going to happen throughout the evening, but he still has the opportunity to make his own choices.
Step 1 – Snack Time
As soon as we get in the door from school he needs to eat. He has a drink of milk and a small snack which he can choose from his snackbox. Then he plays with some Lego at the kitchen table while he eats his snack. He likes this time to unwind and play by himself, so I don’t ask him anything about his day. This is his time to not have to communicate after being at school and having to talk all day to other people.
Step 2 – Reading and Homework
When he’s had some time to relax he will usually ask to do his book bag. I have encouraged him to get this done early since he first started at school so he can enjoy his own books as part of his bedtime routine and not have to do school reading books. We will read his books, play reading games and learn his keywords. Then I fill in his partnership book and he chooses a sticker for his book (he loves to do this). I try to spend this time with him everyday, just 15 minutes. I don’t always manage it, some days he really is just too tired. On these days I try to do one really quick two minute activity with him such as checking he knows three of his keywords.
Step 3 – Free Play
He goes to change out of his uniform so he can crawl around the floor and get dirty. I used to make him do this as soon as he came in the door but I found it was a battle. He is much happier to do this after he’s had something to eat. Then he has free play he can choose whatever he likes, but I try not to have any screen time. I use this time to cook the dinner.
Step 4 – Dinner Time
We sit down as a family around the kitchen table when daddy gets home from work. While we eat our dinner we like to all tell each other a good bit of the day. By modelling this behaviour for him, it has encouraged my son to be more open and we now find out all sorts of interesting and funny things about his day.
Step 5 – Bath Time
Both of my children love water and can be in the bath for ages so I leave plenty of time to play. Then we get our pyjamas on, have a vitamin and clean our teeth.
Step 6 – Story Time
We read two stories of his choice every night. I make sure we stick with two otherwise he can really drag out bedtime. This is one of my favourite times of the day, I love sharing books with my children and my son has learnt so much from the books we have read.
Step 7 – Bedtime
He turns on the Groclock and his nightlight as part of his bedtime routine. Then we have a cuddle in bed and leave him with his door partly open to put himself to sleep. If he has trouble falling asleep he will look at a book or listen to a story CD for ten minutes on his own. I have found it a much calmer bedtime if he thinks he has some control over when he is going to sleep.