How we get 3 children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

When I mention to people that our three young children are in bed, in the same room, and lights out by 6:15 every night, we often get the same response.

How do you get children into bed before 6:30 pm?

They want to know the answers.

Know that we are far from perfect. We are works in progress. Some nights it is later than this. Sometimes they wake up.

But honestly, changing our bedtime routine has been a game-changer for us.

When our third baby was born, my then two year old stopped napping in the day. He still needed to – he was desperately tired and cranky come mid afternoon. He simply wouldn’t nap unless I lay next to him. I couldn’t figure out how to get a newborn and toddler to sleep at the same time or stop one from waking up the other. I eventually gave up and just focussed on my baby getting the sleep that he needed.

I needed a solution to get through the long afternoons without going insane, and to help my toddler cope. I had to bring bedtime forward. Initially, this was just going to be a short term thing. Something to help until he adjusted to the longer days. It ended up working so well that I decided to make it our new thing.

Like many other young children, my boys wake up early. Regardless of what time they go to bed, they almost always wake at 6 am. I figured that if I could somehow bring bedtime earlier and shorten the dreaded witching hours, we’d all be happier.

With our new bedtime at 6:15, this is what I did before then to make it work.

  1. Screen time after lunch (12:30)
    This time of day I find tricky. Everyone is tired. It gives me a chance to tidy up lunch and grab some of my own, feed baby and put him down for his nap, and ideally prep dinner (and put a load of washing on the line). My toddler and then preschooler watched their favourite shows. This kept them quiet while bubs slept, and enabled me to get a few things done. By having screen time out the way earlier, they had enough play time after this to wear them out before bedtime.

2. Outside play (2-4). Both in the morning and after rest time, I aim to get my boys outside. Fresh air, vitamin D and endorphins all help to make us happier and healthier. My children fight less outside and love exploring. They use their imagination and creativity. I can focus on them rather than the dishes and the jobs. Being outside makes them hungry and tired. I love the 1000 Hours Outside movement and ideally aim for 3-5 hours every day.

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

RELATED : 5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

3. Bath (3-4:30). When my first baby was born, I know that routine was important. Every book I read or person I spoke to told me to do bath after dinner. This is because it cleans them up after a messy tea and helps calm them before bed. I understood this, logically, but found it difficult in practice. I used to wait until my husband got home from work so we could have dinner as a family.

He got home late though so it was hard to juggle a late dinner and squeeze in a bath. One day a kind friend shared that she did this in reverse. She gave her boy a bath in the afternoon, then dinner, then bed. I was so surprised. I’d never thought to try this! I gave it a go that night and I’ve never looked back.

I love this approach because it gives flexibility in the afternoon. If my boys are extra tired or fighting more than usual, I might give them a bath at 3pm (later now I have school pick up). I can give them a bath individually, in a pair or all three.

I can do a quick one if we’re in a rush or stretch it out to over half an hour. It breaks up the afternoon and it’s no longer a task that I have to fit in. Once they are out the bath, they have an urgency to play until it’s dinner time, and know that the countdown is on. They seem to make the most of this bonus play, giving me a chance to do a quick tidy up or last minute dinner prep.

4. Dinner (5-5:30pm). I generally give my kids dinner by myself while hubby is driving home from work. It’s not easy but I see it as the final push of the day. When I had a newborn, I would be trying to get the older two food while often breastfeeding. It was ridiculously hard and I felt like I needed another set of hands.

Now with my boys 5,3,1 at the time of writing, it is still very busy and chaotic but we make it work. They eat dinner and drink milk, dessert on weekends. They know that once they have left the table they need to go straight into the bedroom (otherwise they won’t want to stop playing!).

5. Teeth and stories in bedroom (5:30-6:15). Ideally we would brush teeth in the bathroom but we just make it easy for ourselves at the moment. Brushing teeth with a timer on, and often ‘Daddy dentist’ helps for this (boys take turns to lie down on his lap so he can inspect their teeth and help to brush them).

While hubby does this, I spend fifteen minutes racing around like a crazy person clearing the table, putting things back in the fridge stacking the dishwasher, wiping table, cleaning the highchair and sweeping the floor. We both hate having to face the kitchen later on so I really try to work hard to get this finished or almost finished in this time. I join hubby in their bedroom to put nappies on the younger two and remind the eldest about pull ups. Then for the next half an hour or so, we read as many books as we can together.

RELATED : Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting.

One of us often climbs into a bed with a child, the other sits on the floor with one while bubs crawls over the top of us. There are two single beds (that can turn into bunks) and a cot mattress that we put on the floor.

The boys won’t always share but right now it works for us. At 6:15 (or 6:30 at the latest) we put the books away, tuck them into their respective beds, turn out the lights and put on the white noise sound machine ($40 from Big W). We have a snuggle and talk about the best part of their day. We say prayers and give them a kiss.

How we get three children into bed before 6:30 pm (and how you can too)

I still feed our youngest to sleep and then sneak out of the room. They love being in the same room and we think the company helps them to stay asleep. One of them will often pull their pillow and quilt onto the floor to lie next to our one year old. It’s pretty cute.

Bringing their bedtime forward was meant to be a short term thing. Something to help our 2 year old cope with the long afternoons. The crazy thing is it’s worked so well. Even over summer with daylight savings, not once did our older boys question why we were going to bed while the sun was still up. They just know that they go into the bedroom after dinner. They know that lights out is at 6:15.

We can’t really believe it ourselves, how easily it’s worked for us. How it’s been a game changer for our family and sanity

Once they are in bed and asleep, we use the time to get things done. We

  • finish packing up the kitchen
  • vacuum and / or mop
  • pack up the toys
  • organise paperwork or bills
  • prepare lunches for next day
  • hang washing off the line or put it away
  • miscellaneous jobs that need doing

We try to get the jobs done so we can have dinner as a couple, every night. It feels like a mini date night and we love how quiet it is. By then the house is clean and tidy, so other than putting the plates in the dishwasher, there is nothing to do afterwards.

RELATED : How to declutter your children’s toys for good

One of us might go for a run, I might read or have a bath, sit on my massage chair, work on my side hustle or watch a show together. Evenings always go too quickly but because we work hard to get the boys in bed early, we have more time than most. It allows us to get a few things done, spend time together and fill our tanks before facing another big day tomorrow. We are more rested and happier for it.

This won’t work for everyone. For those who both work or work long hours, it will be too tricky. For those with older children, they need to stay up later. For those with lots of extracurricular activities after school, they will get home too late. But for us in our season, with our boys 5 and under, it works.

Brilliantly. I’m so grateful for my friend who encouraged me to try something different with our routine. I’m not sure I would have thought of it myself. It’s made my afternoons more manageable, the evening routine shorter, the boys less grumpy. I am less worn down. It works for us, and it might just work for you too.

5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

5 gift ideas for children (that aren’t toys)

Gift ideas for children

We all have children in our life who we need to buy presents for, whether they’re our own, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and when our children go to parties. Sometimes it is hard coming up with an idea, especially when the child seems to have enough stuff already.

When a child receives lots of toys for their birthday or at Christmas time, they are initially excited. Most kids love the thrill of opening up a present to find a new thing inside. Once the shine has come off a bit and the gift doesn’t seem so interesting anymore, the following two things tend to happen:

There is an increase in overwhelm for the child. They have too much choice about what to play with. They get distracted. They don’t delve into deep, meaningful play. There is too much mess to clean up.

Secondly there is overwhelm for the parents. This tends to affect the primary caregiver, the one that is home the most. They have to find a spot to store it, create systems for toy rotations, tidy it up, manage the pieces.

It’s a lot. When I’ve gently asked some family members to avoid buying toys or less of them, I have been told, “but they like it,” or “they’ll be so excited opening the box.” Yes, of course they would be but in the end, as a parent I have to manage all the stuff. We have so many more things and toys than a generation or two ago. This wears us down and can steal some of the joy of motherhood.

I have been on a journey of decluttering and it has made the world of difference in our family.

Here are some gift ideas for children that won’t add to the overwhelm, go to landfill or break the bank.

#1. Gift idea: Toy library voucher

Toy libraries are amazing. My local one has gift vouchers for purchase for just $35 a year or $20 for 6 months. It is a brilliant way to give the gift that keeps on giving without adding to the excess in the family home. This can be bought with another family to keep cost down or even put money in the card to go towards buying the membership.

#2. Gift idea: Op shop voucher

Money doesn’t go very far in department stores. When my son went to spend some pocket money, the $15 barely bought one Paw Patrol car. We went across the road to Savers (a large op shop / thrift store) and he was amazed with what he could purchase. There were less options but there was a range of different things he could buy.

You could offer to take the child shopping to spend it, and could go towards books, clothes, shoes, dress ups, or art supplies. If there was a particular toy they wanted they could get that too, and when they get bored with it, sell or donate and then buy a different one. This reduces the impact on the environment because you aren’t buying a new toy with packaging, and the child is choosing something that they really want.

RELATED : Creative ideas for surviving lockdown with kids

#3. Gift Idea: Books

Growing up we had an uncle who only ever gave books as gifts. This didn’t always seem very exciting, but I secretly loved having a new one of my own to read. I loved being able to write my name in the front and keep it in my bookshelf. I could reread it again and again. Books can be expensive but they don’t have to be bought new. You could buy a set of books from Marketplace or Gumtree, or from an op shop for a fraction of the price. It’s nice to check first with the child or parents that second hand is ok. If they say it’s fine, money will go further meaning more books for them!

#4. Gift Idea: Audiobooks

Listening to a story in the car can help to pass the time, especially on long trips. It can be a different option to screens during rest time at home. They can be a relaxing way to wind down at bedtime. These can be bought as a CD format (new or secondhand) or downloaded on a device to listen on a speaker. Apps like Libby and Borrowbox even let you borrow audiobooks from the library for free!

#5. Gift Idea: Buy an Experience

This is my personal favourite gift and love when my boys are given one of these. The options are endless but here are some that won’t break the bank. Some could be money towards an experience, or pay for themselves and the child to do together as a special outing.

> Movie voucher

> Bowling

> Pony ride

> Waterslide

> Swimming pool

> Roller skating

> Play cafe

> Farm visit

> Ice skating

> Animal sanctuary

> Zoo

> Aquarium

> Boat or ferry ride

> Trout farm or fishing off a jetty

> Strawberry or apple picking

> Theatre tickets

> High ropes course

> Mini golf

> Rock climbing

> Cooking course

> Drive in

> Circus

> Plaster fun house

RELATED : Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

We have compiled a list of experiences and outings that our children have never done before. This is stuck on the fridge for ideas and inspiration for special weekends or if someone asks for a present idea. This helps our children to focus on less material things and helps us remember about the fun things we can do as a family.

Too much stuff can create stress in our lives, but meaningful experiences creates memories. I encourage you to be extra intentional with gift giving going forward. Toys themselves aren’t bad, but children can only play with so much. They only need so much. Less things to manage can help families feel happier too. 💕

Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

Parenting through a pandemic

This pandemic has affected all of us in some way, shape or form.

For some, it’s meant a halt to travelling overseas. Limited our ability to earn a wage or keep a business afloat. It has reduced social interaction and dating opportunities. Changed our retirement plans. For others it’s make it hard to visit loved ones in hospital or nursing homes, or say goodbye when the time comes.

For those of us with children, Covid has changed the way we parent. As a mum of three boys five and under, it has been a challenging time. We’ve felt stir crazy. I’ve missed my friends and know that my kids have missed theirs too.

For many young children, the world with Covid is all they know. It has been amusing to me, to sit back and watch their play. I can’t help smiling at the ways Covid has started to change this. To them, they are just living out their reality of living through a pandemic. They are trying to make sense of the world they are living in.

Here are some of the ways my two older boys aged 5 and 3, have incorporated Covid into their play.

Social distancing

While playing with a wooden treehouse, my eldest carefully placed little stepping stones along the fake grass. He had some gnomes balanced on top of these. “They’re social distancing mum. They can’t go any closer. They need to make sure they leave gaps in between.” Other times they have drawn crosses on the ground in chalk so their bikes can be spaced apart. They stick masking tape on the wood floor for them to social distance when playing games. Matchbox cars have to leave a gap between each other. Teddies can’t sit right next to each other for tea parties. Pictures in their sketchbooks show space in between people.

There is always a clear spot to stand on and a gap to keep apart. My children take it very seriously because they see us doing it in real life. They don’t always like the rules but understand they need to be followed. They don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing. My eldest reads signs and asks questions about what it all means. It’s a lot to take in for anyone.

Hand sanitiser

My boys are used to washing their hands regularly, or at least being reminded to, and using hand sanitiser when out. One time we went to the supermarket together and went to the automatic dispenser. It deposited a huge amount into my son’s hand. “Ugh!” he exclaimed. He proceeded to rub it all over my arm. “All better.”

One day at kindy pick up, my then two-year-old argued over having to do hand sanitiser. I eventually won the battle and he agreed to put it on. He then crawled around on his hands and knees, licking the ground. “I’m a puppy dog. Woof woof!” He spent the next ten minutes grabbing things off the ground with his mouth, licking everything, dropping his dummy for fun so he could pick it up with his teeth and just generally being disgusting, much to the dismay and worry of the staff and parents watching on. At least he had clean hands.

My then four-year-old ran out to greet one of our friends. He grabbed the hand sanitiser we keep by the door and held it out for our friend.  “You need to use this before you come inside.” We were mortified. We’d never modelled doing this or asked them to do it but our friend was a great sport. He agreed that it was important and proceeded to clean his hands thoroughly before he entered the house. He commented that we had our children well trained.  Despite our embarrassment, it was a funny moment and we were proud of our boy for taking steps to keep our family healthy and safe.

Covid Safe Check In

When we visit shopping centres, church, play cafes or have appointments, my boys are used to the routine of checking in. They want to do the right thing and follow the rules so like to remind me. “Mum, don’t forget to check in! Can I do it?” This translates to their play at home. When my boys play pretend cafes and shops, they always make sure that there’s a Covid Safe check in at the front. They draw one and sticky tape it wherever they are playing. “Don’t forget to do your check in. Ding! Can I see the tick?”

They have fun creating QR codes to put around the house. Barcodes of all shapes and sizes have appeared in the most random of places. They even made one for our front door so our guests adhere to the rules. People have a little chuckle when they visit and sometimes get out their phone to pretend which of course the boys love.

Covid Marshall

When assigning roles to play, along with the typical mum, dad, cat, baby, princess, policeman etc, they now include a Covid Marshall, naturally. “I’m the Covid Marshall.  I make sure that everyone follow the rules, checks in and social distances. I get to wear a lanyard so people know who I am.” They enjoy getting to be this role because they of course enjoy bossing others around.

My toddler is slightly addicted to tv (confession time). Whenever he hears talk of Covid Marshalls, he finds it all a bit confusing. “Like Marshall from Paw Patrol” he exclaims. “Paw Patrol Marshall!” He breaks into an uncontrollable giggle.  It’s a lot for a three-year-old to comprehend. Even some of us adults, let’s be honest.

Covid testing

One of the new games that our kids like to play is ‘Covid testing.’ It’s a fun game where the balance board is placed on its side to form a semi-circle and the boys sit behind it. I drive my pretend car past, after booking in online of course. We all put our masks on, then they ask for my details.

To save time, I have my printed form with a QR code ready to go. Once verifying my identity, they tell me what to expect. “Now this isn’t going to hurt. It will just tickle your tongue and tickle your nose. Be brave and you’ll get a sticker!” My test comes complete with a torch being shone down my throat so they can properly assess what they are dealing with. They are very thorough with their tickling.

One can’t be too careful with Covid testing. It’s a serious business. I must be a good patient because I am presented with stickers. Lots of stickers. I am also bandaged multiple times because apparently I’m very sick and need to rest. I am praised for my bravery and told to keep an eye out for my results. They will message me later.

I am told to come back and get tested right away, because it’s the game and otherwise it will be boring. I drive back into the waiting bay, and this time I go by a different name. This confuses my eldest, because I am still Mummy, but eventually he gets the idea that I’m just pretending to change my name.

I don’t have a printout with my new identity which bothers him. He quickly excuses himself so he can scribble a new one for me, I mean Cynthia Ashlee Harper Rosedale. My two big boys mask up and take turns looking down my throat and tickling my nose. It really is a wonderful experience. Off I go to await results. This involves lying on the carpet on my tummy.

I always hope that perhaps they might come and play cars on my back, play with my hair or give me a back massage. It looks more like being jumped on, stacked on top of, hair becoming a tangled mess or my back being karate chopped and wobbled. After a minute or two of fearing for my life and longevity of my back, I scramble to a different, somewhat safer position.

A few little random moments

  • Once we tested positive, my eldest put a sign on the front door. With my help he wrote, “we have Covid so please don’t come in.” He drew a self-portrait with a mask on.  He keeps saying to me, “I can’t believe I actually have Covid. Can you believe we have the Coronavirus Mum?” My three year old has been saying in a husky little voice, “I have Covid! I have Covid!”
  • When our boys play doctors, they now wear masks (sometimes two each), ask questions about their movement interstate and overseas, if they are vaccinated and if they are feeling well. They give each other pretend injections and booster shots. For some reason they particularly love giving their parents injections (clearly you can never have too many).
  • When they come to chat to me while I’m on the loo, they accompany me to the bathroom afterwards. “Mum, you need to sing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands! Two times!” Thanks Wiggles and Playschool I mumble under my breath as I agree that yes, I should wash my hands for longer and reluctantly join them in song.
  • During early 2020 when things were starting to get serious (but it was still far away from us in South Australia), my then three-year-old was trying to make sense of it all. He would cheekily say ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘cheese’ when posing for photos. This tended to be awkward out in public.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these moments are a nice reminder that it’s not all been bad. I knew I had to write them down or they’d get lost in the chaos of daily life. Our children can still find joy in the everyday as they navigate the world around them.

How has Covid affected the way your little one’s play?

I’d love to hear down below!

Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting.

Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting

Bluey is such a wonderful show. It’s clever, uplifting and funny. It’s loved by children and parents and has taken the world by storm. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s well worth watching.

However when Bluey comes up in conversation, I often hear mums make comparison to Chilli and Bandit. They feel bad for not playing with their kids so beautifully and so often like Bluey’s parents do. They want to but they just don’t know how to do it. This makes them feel guilty and get down on themselves.

I get it. I strive to be a fun mum, who plays with her kids, spends five hours outside each day, hikes our national parks, plays in the creek, goes to the beach. I love being present with my kids.

For the last five years I have either been awfully sick whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. I have had a child with a dozen specialists, needing constant appointments. Trying to balance work, home life, errands and the mental load is a lot.

Right now I have a preschooler, toddler and baby.

It takes forever to leave the house, even for a walk. I try to breastfeed whilst breaking up sibling fights. I put bubs to sleep and my toddler keeps running into the room yelling. I try to hang washing and having two children crying. I go to the toilet and having conversations about why I sit down to wee but daddy stands up.

If I have a spare minute, I look around at the chaos not knowing whether to duck to the loo alone, make myself lunch, make a coffee (now I’ve boiled the kettle three times), start thinking about what’s for dinner, empty the recycling, reply to that message, fill out that form, clean under the highchair, fill up the birdbath, hang out the washing or wipe down the sink. My toddler wants me to sit down and watch an episode but I know if I do that, I’ll be chasing my tail all afternoon. It’s a constant pull in multiple directions and it’s easy to feel guilty about whatever I’m neglecting in a single moment.

My evenings are spent catching up on the unfinished jobs of the day. Cleaning up, paperwork, watering the garden. Exercise. Time with hubby. Bubs is in our room so it’s difficult to tidy or organise or put the light on to read.

My sleep is broken and we often have a child or two in our bed, or on the mattress beside us. We are exhausted.

It’s just so constant and I don’t often have my hands free to drop everything and just play. If I do, it’s often interrupted and just so hard.

That’s ok. I’m doing my best. It’s a stage.

Coming back to Bluey.

It’s helpful to learn, or remember, that Bluey is 6 years old and her sister Bingo is 4.

Parenting a school age child is different to that of a preschooler or toddler. Your capacity is different. You might be getting more sleep at night and be able to get some things done in the day.

They will spend some time at kindy or school and you’ll have breaks from each other.

Their ability to play games is different, even just that much older. They have a longer concentration span. They can take turns. They enjoy playing pretend.

This age group doesn’t need nappy changes or day sleeps. These sisters don’t have a baby sibling requiring constant attention. Chilli isn’t pregnant or recovering from a caesarean section. It’s easier to be present with your children when you have both of your hands free.

It’s also just a cartoon. It’s not real life.

We can strive to be a better version of ourselves and be inspired by the wonderful show that Bluey is, and also remember that no one is perfect. Chilli and Bandit aren’t perfect parents and they’d be the first to admit this.

One day you’ll look back and wonder how you managed it all. How you coped during the wonderfully hard season of little ones.

Keep this in mind to alleviate some of the guilt that comes with not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting. Give yourself some grace. You’re doing the very best you can.

❤️

For those on Mother’s Day, or any day that you need some encouragement.

Mother’s Day

During the Mother’s Day service at church this year, I sat in the parents room feeding our third bub. He was only four months old and so I was in the thick of sleep deprivation.

I suddenly had a moment while looking down at my beautiful boy when I realised again how lucky I was. Yes I was incredibly exhausted but gosh I was so happy.

I thought about those around me who so desperately wanted to be a mother and it hadn’t worked out yet. I thought about those who had lost babies and children. I thought about those with empty nests, longing for the noise and chaos to return, even just for a day. I thought about those who had lost their Mum, and how incredibly hard this day in particular would be for them.

I felt a sudden urge to write down my thoughts. I excused myself to go to the bathroom so I could have a chance to write uninterrupted from my children. I sat in the car writing for a few minutes while my kids napped before unloading all the gear. I finally had a few more minutes once they went to bed.

I felt like this needed to be written. Sending love to you on Mother’s Day, and on all the days when things feel tough. ❤️

For the mother who’s finding
everything tough,
for the one who thinks
that they’re not enough.

The exhaustion, the mess,
never enough time,
you love them but miss
the life that was mine.

For those who long for
an extra one to meet,
not feeling like your
family is complete.

For those who never had
a daughter or son,
grieving what could have been,
that special someone.

To those who no longer
have their mum by their side,
who miss having that person
in who they confide.

For those who are longing
for a babe of their own,
hoping and praying
through the unknown.

For those who have lost,
a deep hole remains,
such grief and anguish,
unexplainable pain.

Those feeling rejection,
unwanted, disowned,
now single motherhood-
doing it alone.

For those who wonder
how long this season will last,
for those who are grieving
the seasons of past.

Life is messy and hard,
it’s really not fair,
I want to acknowledge
that I really do care.

So whatever it looks like
for you on this day,
I hope you find peace
and love in some way.

❤️