The witching hour

I’ve often referred to the time between after-school pickup and dinner as “the witching hour.”

Especially with my youngest children, the time between 4 and 5 p.m. is often the most difficult time of the day. After a long day, my young children crave my attention — and I want to relax and spend time with them.

But our reality is that dinner needs to be prepared, the dog needs to get out and I don’t have fairy godmother who is going to wave a magic wand and get it all done for me each day.

The witching hour isn’t going away, so we as parents just have to be smart about how we go about this time of day with our children.

Over the years I’ve learned these valuable lessons, which have helped make the transition to home smoother:


Know that this time can be a challenge, and do what you can to adjust your schedule so that it isn’t packed full of errands with children in tow. I try to run quick errands on my lunch break, if I can, instead of after work.

It also helps me to set a meal plan for the week (ideas for meals sketched out for the week, along with all the ingredients for those meals on hand). This takes some thought and planning, typically on the weekends, but it can be a sanity saver for busy weeknights.

Acknowledge your own needs

It took me a while to figure out that I had to address my own witching-hour needs before I could be the mother I wanted to be for my children after a full day of work.

For me, I’ve found it’s best to schedule a little pause between the end of my day as a kindergarten teacher and the start of my afternoon after-schooling my own children.

Even a few intentional moments to myself on a quiet commute or a short break for a bit of aromatherapy or calming music can help me to transition from work to home.


Without getting caught up or worrying about the tasks ahead, I try to connect with my children for at least 10 minutes, working to be fully present, before I start my responsibilities of home.

I know this mindful connection is beneficial for me and my children.

Help your child calm down

Encourage your child to participate in some relaxing activities to decompress after school.

On weeknights when I’m preparing dinner, my youngest kids may be found at our family table decompressing (and having fun!) with some sensory activities such as playing with balls of playdough or running their hands through shaving cream on a tray.

Other simple activities such coloring or painting, or working on sticker books and mazes, are ideal ways for young children to decompress and stay occupied while you’re nearby, working to make dinner.

Playing some calming music can set the tone nicely as well.

Work together

You may want to involve your children in the process of making dinner and family chores. 

Young children can be involved in simple tasks such as helping prepare dinner, setting the table or even sorting laundry or matching up socks.

These are all practical and purposeful activities that provide opportunities for children to contribute in meaningful ways.

The witching hour isn’t easy, but it’s possible to make this time manageable, purposeful and — maybe — even fun!

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four children in Northeastern Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @megtdevine. Write her at