To discover the origin of a nighttime routine called The Children’s Hour, we will head back to the mid to late 1800’s. During the Victorian ear, upper and middle-class mothers and fathers relied on hired help to raise their children including managing the nighttime routine. Live-in governesses, nannies or nurses and nursery maids were employed to take care of the day to day tasks of feeding, dressing, bathing, entertaining and teaching their charges. Nannies were also expected to instill the parents’ beliefs and morals into the children.
The father of a Victorian family was relied on to be the bread winner and worked long hours. He was not meant to take part in the rearing of the children. Most mothers in the 1800’s did not have jobs spending their time socializing, organizing and attending functions and tea parties. However, these hands-off parents did participate in part of the regular nighttime routine the Victorians named The Children’s Hour. Each evening from the nursery, the fed, bathed and ready-for-bed children would run downstairs to enjoy this precious opportunity to spend time basking in their parents’ love and attention.
Today’s hands-on parents enjoy a more modern version of this cherished nighttime routine. If mom and dad have been home all day working and interacting with their children, come evening The Children’s Hour gifts families the opportunity of a regular, uninterrupted time together. Gently ease into the close of day. It is a cherished time set aside to draw near for comfort, warmth, reassurance and security. Routines provide these needs for children. If it’s been a long day and not what a parent feels like doing, persevere as it may be just what the soul needs. The following list offers ideas included in a family’s nurturing bedtime ritual, The Children’s Hour.
Turn off phones and electronics
The magic of The Children’s Hour is that it is uninterrupted. It is a time for parents and children to mindfully engage with one another leaving all influences of the world outside. Turn off phones and electronics and place out of reach (or cleverly hide them). It is a welcome winding down time devoted to family, a nurturing transition from day into night.
The nighttime routine begins with a parent drawing a welcoming bath. Add bubbles, soap on a rope or a colorful washcloth for an alluring bathtime. For safety, a parent is always in attendance when children are bathing. Children’s pajamas and nightgowns can be put in the dryer for a bit. It is a snuggly, comforting luxury on a cold, winter’s night. (Parents can toss theirs in too!) When children finish the bath, they are dried off with a towel. Skinned knees or other owies are attended to and covered with a clean bandage. While still in the bathroom, children are dressed in their warm pajamas and cuddled in thick, terry-cloth bathrobes.
Next, children step up on the stool at the sink to brush their teeth. This essential component of The Children’s Hour nighttime routine also includes parent/child interaction. Watching children as they brush and instructing them about proper dental hygiene is important. A pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste is all children need and spitting out rather than swallowing is necessary. Parents can make brushing teeth fun by singing a made-up teeth brushing song for a couple of minutes while children brush until mom or dad stops singing. Children need to floss too.
When children are clean, refreshed and warm in their robes, the routine continues with children putting toys, clothes and other personal items away. Dirty clothes go in the hamper, playthings are stored in their baskets and books are placed on the shelf. Not only does the bedroom become more comfortable, children learn responsibility for tidying up after themselves. It also gifts parents the opportunity to get to know their child. In our home, some of our children naturally enjoyed when toys were put in their place while others didn’t notice if the room was orderly or a land mine of scattered toys. They would yelp tramping left foot, right foot on Lego bricks then mindlessly move on. Note: All children are expected to join in tidying up.
Story time is often the most enjoyable part of The Children’s Hour for everyone. A chosen book, much loved and tattered or new to both parent and child, brings the reader and audience together to share a sacred time. Picture books gift both a story and illustrations to experience together. Reading a chapter a night from a children’s classic book, even to young children, becomes a conversation topic bonding parent and child. Our now adult children often share fond memories of their story time years as we read classics including Thomas the Tank Engine, Little House on the Prairie Series and Treasure Island together as part of our nighttime routine. Story time is an opportunity for parent/child connection like no other.
Quiet, nurturing conversation
Communication is key to relationships, parent and child included. After experiencing a nurturing evening together, souls are connected. This creates a primed opportunity for heart-to-heart talks and a sharing of close confidences, if desired. Some children feel comfortable expressing their feelings and experiences while others are content to keep them close. Parents are the same. The safe environment is there and hearts are open and full whether wanting or needing to be voiced or not. It is also a time when a child’s fears may be lightened by a parent’s reassurance or transgressions that may have occurred during the day smoothed over and put to rest enabling a free conscience for an untroubled sleep. Saying a goodnight prayer together offers another sharing of heartfelt beliefs and goodwill.
Tuck in and turn off the light
It is time to sleep. With a loving hug and whispered expression, children drift off to sleep basking in safety and security, knowing all is well. Good night. Sleep tight.
The Children’s Hour nighttime routine is a family’s regular gift to one another with the ledgers of love being balanced every twenty-four hours. Our Victorian ancestors were on to something way back when and we thank them for the inspiration to attune this practice to our lives today. Although times have changed in many ways, a child’s need to feel safe, secure and loved remains the same. Families practicing the art of The Children’s Hour can lovingly and respectfully meet those needs together.
Add a childhood classic to bath time with an animal-shaped soap-on-a-rope. Your child’s personal soap makes bath time fun! I remember getting a rabbit-shaped soap-on-a-rope for a birthday and wearing it as a bracelet in the bath. When bath time was finished, I hung my bunny soap on the bath faucet handle to dry until next time.