3 Simple Strategies for Surviving Toddler Witching Hour

Simple strategies for surviving toddler witching hour

Although we play regularly and often throughout the day, I have been finding that Immy is becoming much more whingy and demanding in the late afternoon when I am trying to make dinner, it is definitely becoming our or ‘witching hour.’

I think it is a combination or her being tired after the busyness of the day and getting hungry, at the same time as I am in a hurry to complete the tasks of my least favourite part of the day – dinner preparation. Whatever the cause, it led to a number of recent occasions where I have ended up rushed and frustrated and I often find myself turning on the television for her as a way of (not!) dealing with the situation.

Realising that this is probably not the most effective way of managing our late afternoon long term, I have been looking for ways of improving the dynamics of the situation. I am now using a combination of the following three strategies on a day to day basis.

3 Simple Strategies for Surviving Toddler Witching Hour

1. Turning our day upside down by wherever possible pre-preparing all, or parts of, our meal in the morning. This includes using our slow cooker more often.

2. Involving Immy in the preparation. She loves to ‘mix’ and taste whatever I am preparing so as I chop, she accumulates a little bowl of pieces to taste and has a spoon to mix. The great thing about using the slow cooker is that I can usually put in all of the ingredients for the ‘sauce’ part of the meal and she can mix to her hearts content as I cut up the meat and/or vegetables to add.

activity bags ideas3. Even with pre-preparation, there are usually some tasks that still need to happen in the late afternoon, shortly before our meal is served. To help manage this time, I have made two little activity bags which now hang on the back of our kitchen door.

Each bag contains an activity that Immy can sit down and play with as I finish getting dinner ready. She can sit close to where I am working so that we can continue to talk and interact but as these toys only come out at this one time of day, the novelty of playing with something fun and ‘new’ keeps her engaged as I make a mad dash to get everything finished.

We used to use activity bags at my child care centre for the children who did not sleep to play with whilst the other children rested. This way they could have some quiet, independent play time without disturbing those who needed sleep.

Activity Bag Activity Ideas to Get You Started

  • Little collections of figurines representing whatever your child loves – dinosaurs, fairies, farm animals, sea creatures
  • Small construction sets
  • Little puzzles
  • A few musical instruments
  • Magnet sets to use on the fridge – matching pictures, letters, numbers or words for making sentences are great for older children
  • Matching cards
  • Beading or threading
  • Stickers and notebook
  • Sorting games
  • Lacing cards
  • A small photo album of family photographs
  • A small chalkboard and chalk or whiteboard and pens

Obviously it is the novelty of these toys only coming out at this time of day that makes them work so make sure you stick to that rule. It is really easy to regularly rotate toys in and out of the bags and it is good to change what is in each one reasonably regularly.

What are your tips for surviving witching hour in your house?
Related Posts


  1. Julia (The Kids Depot) says:

    We use a similar thing to your bags – I call it a busy box. The latest crazes are dot to dot pictures and stencils. I do dot to dot drawings with texta of numbers, boats etc) and leave a crayon in there too so Ollie can do them, or a piece of paper, some magic tape and a stencil. The other big thing I have found is as we eat at 6 – afternoon snack needs to be at 4.30 – that helps me no end! Jx

  2. Narelle Nettelbeck says:

    I found that too Julia – the later the dinner, the later the afternoon snack needs to be. My boys love frozen peas and corn kernals so sometimes a snack of these as I cook can be helpful (and not filling or rubbish food). My boys are older now so meal prep is no longer a problem. Oh and I use my slowcooker heaps in winter, I love it 🙂

  3. 6p0120a79bd72b970b says:

    Those bags area great idea. Even for other times when you are cooking and the little one needs to be entertained!
    I'll be writing these down in my ideas book for sure!

  4. Love this idea! Thanks for sharing.

  5. When we do cook we make double quantity and freeze – that way we have lots of meals that can be easily zapped in the microwave & perhaps just need rice or pasta to be cooked.
    Omlettes are also really good – my boy loves cracking the eggs and if he does it into a cup first any bits of shell can be removed.
    Leaving the lunch dishes for when I'm cooking dinner has also proved a winner – the boy stands on a chair and washes dishes to his heart content. He is really good at it now. Any water on the floor is easily moped up with a dirty bath towel.

  6. Hearth-mother says:

    Brilliant idea. Going to try it tonight. Thank you very much for sharing it!

  7. Such a good idea. I've shamelessly copied it. Again. x

  8. KambingBujang says:

    i love the idea. Will try on my son later. what im doing now is switch on his favorite CD or i'll showed him what im doing and when he get bored, he will continue watching his CD

  9. Maggie Macaulay, SM Ed says:

    Great idea! A link to your blog and this post will be in the January 26th issue of Parenting News You Can Use, the free weekly e-zine from Whole Hearted Parenting to encourage our readers to subscribe to your blog. Please visit our website, http://www.WholeHeartedParenting.com to subscribe to Parenting News. Thank you, again!

Comments are closed.