Why Does the Last Hour of Work in Childcare Seem SO Long?

Why Does the Last Hour of Work in Childcare Seem SO Long?

Do you know the phenomenon of the last hour of work in childcare everyday feeling like it drags on for hours on end? Ugh! I hate that feeling. Every day about 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon, I just feel spent. It’s a universal problem in all jobs and it’s much worse on Fridays.

By the time the last hour of work in childcare comes, we are pooped.

Why Does the Last Hour of Work in Childcare Seem SO Long?


In family childcare, most of us work at least 10 hours a day. That’s a really long day. One of the reasons that last hour drags on and on for ninety thousand minutes is because we are just plain tired. We’ve been caring, loving, cooking and cleaning longer than most people do in their occupations.

I am really a morning person. Most days, I love getting up at 5 am to work on my blog. I’m alive in the morning, alert and full of energy and ideas. During the afternoon, I start to slowly loose speed and by 7 pm I am always ready to go to bed. I don’t go to bed for another 2-4 hours, but everyone in my family will tell you I should. I’m not as much fun then.

Another reason it seems to drag on is because our kids are tired. They are ready to see mom and dad. They’ve had enough of us too. They start becoming more rowdy and there is more misbehavior from 3-5 than any other time of day. Face it, they’ve been doing their best to be good for a really long time.

The kids miss their parents too and they are tired of waiting to see them. Everyone is more comfortable at home and no matter how comfy we make our facilities, they are not home and that last hour of work in childcare seems to drag on for the kids too.

By the time the last hour of work in childcare comes, we are thinking of other things

We have given our best to the kids we care for and now we are thinking about what we are having for dinner, the evening plans, and all the cleanup and chores we are facing before we can chillax. Everyone’s minds are on to the next thing.

We tell the kids it’s almost time to go home so we need to start cleaning up our messes and their minds go to other things as well. They are thinking about going to someone’s house, or getting a hug from their parents. They might be getting hungry and wondering what they are having for dinner or getting ready for the big game.

Once the kids start thinking of other things, the last hour of work in childcare drags on for them too. That’s another reason you see more rowdy or naughty behavior then.

I remember this episode of Arthur on PBS where Arthur and (the bunny) are waiting for school to get over with and the seconds on the clock tick by slower and slower until the second hand is shaking and barely moving. I cracked up for weeks about that because it really is how it feels when you are anxious to see the end of the day.

When I worked in an office job, around 2-3 every day, I was ready to get the heck out of there too. I was good until then, but at that time I started feeling anxious to leave. I wanted to pick up my baby. I wanted to see my sweetheart. I wanted to rest and change in to comfy clothes. It always seemed like that last hour took an eternity! The last hour of work in childcare is no different. Click here to see some thoughts people have in the last hour of work. It’s a universal problem.

By the time the last hour of work in childcare comes, we are out of ideas

As childcare providers, we are always having to come up with more and more activities or distractions to keep the kids busy. If we don’t keep them busy, they’ll keep us busy and not in a good way. Having plenty to engage the kid’s interest goes a long way in dealing with behavior problems.

By the last hour of work in childcare, I am out of ideas most days. I can’t come up with one more funny thing to say or question to ask after I’ve done it for 9 hours straight. I just can’t. I feel anxious trying to think of something the kids can do that they can leave in a moment’s notice when their parents arrive. I wrack my brain, but nothing comes.

Many providers have the tv on at the beginning of the day and at the end. If your parents come in and see the kids watching tv at the first hour and the last hour of work in childcare, guess what they think their kids do all day? Is it easier to let the kids watch tv all the time than to engage them? Heck yes. Is that what’s best for them? Absolutely not.

I do let my kids watch a Netflix movie for 20-30 minutes a day while I cook lunch because it helps keep down incidents while my attention is elsewhere. My parents do know we do this. I am upfront with them about what we do here. My parents also know that the tv is not on all day long just so I won’t have to do anything with the kids. Most of my parents really appreciate this. Don’t forget that what your parents appreciate is what they are telling their friends about and that’s how you stay full with new business.

It is MUCH easier to have smooth transition times at the first and last hour of work in childcare with the tv on, but it’s not good for your business, so come up with a new plan. I like to get out a special toy for when the kids arrive in the morning. It distracts them from any separation feelings they are having and helps them start their day off right.



Here are some ideas for what you can do during the last hour of work in childcare to make it less hectic and easier for you.

Why Does the Last Hour of Work in Childcare Seem SO Long?

What can we do about the last hour of work in childcare feeling so long?

Plan activities for the last hour of work in childcare that make it more fun and distract everyone from the boredom of waiting and the excitement of getting to see their parents again. In childcare we have no idea what time parents will pick kids up. It varies most day between 3:30 and 5:00 here.

Some parents pick up at the same time every day, but most come at different times for a variety of reasons. It’s a good idea to plan an open-ended activity for kids to do that distracts all of you from being anxious about everyone leaving.

You may just be plain ole burned out. If so, please find a way to change that or find something else to do with your time. This is one of the jobs that you just can’t force yourself to do. Everyone suffers if you try. Click here for some great tips to avoid burnout.

Here are some things I have done to make the last hour of work go by faster:

Puzzles-set out a few wooden puzzles on the table and let the kids put them together and trade until it’s time to leave.

Playdough-the great distractor. When I’m having an extra tough time keeping the kids from running, wrestling and screaming through the house at pick up time, I’ll whip out the playdough and it never lets me down.

Drawing-you can let the kids do color pages or give them some plain paper and some crayons, markers, chalk, or colored pencils and get their creative juices flowing.

Dance party-you can turn on some kicking jams and get your groove on with the kids. My kids like it when I sing or dance for them. They also like to pretend like they are rock or country stars that play the guitar and sing. They love a good old fashioned session where we all dance together too. Whatever your style is, go for it.

Singing songs-my kids LOVE for me to sing to them and they love to sing as a group. Any kind of singing brings us all together.

Reading stories-the kids love to look at books or for me to read to them as a group. This always helps calm things down and kill the boredom of the last hour of work in childcare.

Scooping activities-get out a few measuring cups and mixing spoons and let everyone dump some pebbles, beans, or whatever you have on hand from one container to the next. It’s great for fine motor development and teaches kids a lot in addition to helping pass the time.

Sorting-you can do the same thing with some manipulatives, pieces of paper, foam shapes, feathers, marbles or whatever you have to sort. You could give the kids cups and have them sort them into different ones or you could just have them all count them together.

Simon says, ring around the Rosie or other simple group games-are to pass the time.

Finger plays-like songs are a great distractor from the pain of waiting.

Paper dolls-or other fine motor building activities a great idea for sitting quietly and being engaged in what they are doing.

Stickers-kids just need a sheet of stickers and a piece of paper to stick them on for a long while of concentrating and fun. They are great for fine motor skills as well.

Sidewalk chalk outside-you could take them all out and let them draw on the driveway while they wait for parents as long as you have a way to keep them safe from traffic.

Cars and car rugs are super fun for changing activities so kids will be focused and not get bored.

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There are so many things you can do to make the day not seem so long at the end. Let some of these ideas inspire you to come up with something new to prevent that last hour of work in childcare craziness.

Give yourself a pat on the back and have some tea or chocolate and realize it was a job well done. Childcare providers are superheroes and we work hard to make life better for everyone else and for the future. Good job!

Don’t forget to pin for later.

Why Does the Last Hour of Work in Childcare Seem SO Long?

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4 comments

  1. Kayla says:

    I’m not a childcare provider, but I can definitely relate to a neverending work day. I’m a morning person mostly, so by the time 5 o’clock hits, I’m done for the day. Thanks for sharing these tips to help it go by faster!

  2. Cindy Cooper says:

    Great article❤ I fully understand~Being a licensed childcare provider 23 years❤

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