Evening Family Routines: Alternatives to Screen Time

Have fun together as a family: play a quick game of cards or take out a board game that can be finished in an hour or less.
Evening Family Routines: Alternatives to Screen Time
Have fun together: take out a game that can be finished in an hour or less. (JACK FROG/SHUTTERSTOCK)
Barbara Danza
Many families have fairly solid morning routines. We seem to understand the importance of starting the day off on the right foot and of staying consistent with our morning routines.
Nighttime routines, however, can be a different story. When all is said and done, we’re tired. We just want to plop down on the couch and let Netflix take it from there. Anything left unfinished is tomorrow’s problem.
There are alternatives, however, to ending the day in front of the television. In fact, doing so may be affecting your sleep and your children’s sleep (if they’re watching with you), which will obviously affect the next day. What’s more, there’s a missed opportunity here: that time could have been better spent in ways more valuable to you and your family.

An Intentional Nighttime Routine

A more intentional approach to your family’s nighttime routine can also ripple through the following day and beyond—in a positive way. The precious hours after the work of the day is done and before your head hits the pillow offer an opportunity for family connection, hobbies, other forms of entertainment (besides television), along with preparation for the coming day.
Here are some ideas:

Put Digital Devices to Bed

Long before anyone goes to bed at home, get those digital devices shut down, plugged in, and tucked away for the night. Among many other reasons, looking at that blue light is not good for sleep. Enjoy each other’s company for the rest of the evening before bed.

Dinner at Home

Eating dinner together as a family seems to be a dying ritual. However, it’s worth the effort so you can eat healthier meals as well as reconnect together after a long day.
If you can work this into your schedule, have dinner together at home more often than not.

Quick Tidy Up

Nothing sucks the motivation out of a day like a sink full of dirty dishes or a room with dirty clothes on the floor. Enlist your family to work together as a team for 10 minutes to tidy up the house. Play fun music, cheer each other on, and don’t drag it out into a long-term project. You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish in such little time.

Classical Music

Set up a playlist of calming, classical music to enjoy during your evenings. Listening to music discourages the urge to watch television and provides a lovely background for an enjoyable night in.

Something Fun Together

Life can get away from you and busy schedules leave little room for connection. Play a quick game of cards or take out a board game that can be finished in an hour or less. Perhaps you’re working on a puzzle or a creative project that you can spend some time on. You don’t have to wait for the weekend or even the next family vacation to enjoy fun quality time together.

Adjust the Lights

Slowly turn down the artificial lighting in your home as you move through your evening. This has a calming effect and signals to the body that it’s almost time for sleep. Candles or a fireplace can enhance the serenity of the atmosphere.

Solidify Hygiene Routines

Maintain consistency with the nightly must-dos—whether little ones are in the tub, big kids are taking showers, or brushing teeth. Do the same thing every night in the same order so that there’s never a question or protest from the peanut gallery.


One of the best elements of a solid family routine is story time. As kids get older, parents tend to forgo story time. However, enjoying reading aloud together can continue longer than you think. Audiobooks are also a great way to enjoy stories together.

Leave Time for Mom and Dad

Maintain a nice early bedtime for the kids so that they get the rest they need and Mom and Dad get some kid-free time.

Tomorrow’s To-Do’s Today

Once the kids are in bed, take a few moments to think through what tomorrow will bring. What needs to get done and what would make it the best day it can be? Making a list the night before sets you and your partner up to hit the ground running.
Other easy ways to prepare for the next day include setting out your clothes (and gym gear), setting up your coffee maker, and placing by the front door anything you don’t want to forget when you head out the next day.

Communicate With Your Spouse

Lastly, ensure when you and your spouse settle in for the night that you take advantage of the time to check in with one another and discuss anything and everything.


Lastly, if you have trouble falling asleep or find yourself itching to go and check your phone, have some enjoyable light reading at your bedside.
With a thought-out plan and less reliance on devices that take your attention away from what matters most, you can use your evening time for activities that will enhance your family life.
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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