If your house is like mine, the time between 4PM and dinner time is when we as parents really seem to earn our keep. That is when the hungry-grumblies make themselves heard. Even my older children seem to go through a grumpy funk during that time of day. It also doesn’t seem to matter if we have had healthy (or non-healthy) snacks and a successful quiet or nap time. With infants and toddlers and their dwindling ability to function without whining, the hour or two before dinner can become one large mess of frustration. Add to that the need to get dinner on the table and we quickly head toward major meltdown time–myself included.
Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years to at least diminish the volume of the hungry grumblies as you move through those witching hours:
- If you are a stay at home parent, prepare dinner in stages–it may take longer, but it should also remove some of the frustration. Cut up any vegetables, then take a break to read to your toddler. Set the table, then change the baby’s diaper. Start the water boiling, then give a spelling test to your 2nd grader.
- If you are a working parent, choose meals that are one-pot-wonders. Cut down on the steps you need to complete when you walk in the door and are bombarded by the needs of your family.
- Have a junior chef in the kitchen with you and rotate the privilege with any of your children who are old enough to “help”–a 3 year old should be able to do some work to help get dinner on the table. Setting the table, getting ingredients out of the fridge, putting out pre-filled sippy cups are all small tasks that you can pass on, that also won’t cause more work for you.
- Assign an older sibling to help with homework or read to a younger sibling.
- When the weather is nice and your children are old enough to play outside by themselves, send them out for a few minutes of fresh air. If you still need to be with them while they are in your yard, give yourself and them a break from dinner preparations for a few minutes, then continue meal prep after every one has expelled some energy.
- Save their video/computer time allotment for this time of day.
- Make sure you are reasonably available to your children when they come home from school–or camp in the summer–by avoiding unnecessary media interaction for yourself during this time. It’s so easy to “quickly check email” or send a “short text” and then miss an opportunity to catch a few phrases about how the day was. When this happens in our house it encourages the cranky attitude if they think I am not paying attention to them.
How do you make it through the Hungry-Grumbly time in your house?
Questions or comments for Lisa? Comment here or contact her at Lisa@thecharlottemoms.com