Tucked inside No Regrets Parenting, a book of simple ideas that aims to help parents “turn long days and short years into cherished moments with your kids,” is a life-changing parent hack called the pajama walk (I do not exaggerate).
It’s as simple as it sounds: taking a just-before-bedtime walk with the kids in their pajamas, but somehow the idea feels like a magic secret you wish someone had told you months ago. PJ walks (or “jammie walks”, as our toddler calls them) generate unanimous approval in our family.
As parents, we love them because it’s a no-stress way to debrief about our kids’ day. Somehow the night air brings out parts of the day that have been left out; it’s as if the pajama walk is a safe place to confide in mom and dad about something that happened at school or with a friend. The kids love PJ walks because it feels like we’re postponing bedtime by a few more minutes (even if not) and what’s more exciting than walking around the block at night wearing pajamas? If you’re lucky, your walk might even be lit by streetlights and moonlight.
Here’s how to do a pajama walk:
1. Complete the entire bedtime routine: read all the stories, brush all the teeth, take the last gulps of water, turn down the sheets, click on the sound machines, draw the blackout blinds, you get the idea. The goal is to jump in bed immediately after you come inside, so prepare everything before you walk out.
2. Stuff pajama-clad feet into slip-on shoes or hard-soled slippers—something that doesn’t take too much time getting on or off. We’ve even been known to do pajama walks barefoot. Grab a jacket if it’s cold enough.
3. Leave your phone behind. You won’t need it, and kids have a sixth sense about when we’ve drifted off into work brain.
4. Step outside! But remember the goal is to keep calm and get their bodies and brains and get ready for sleep. Running and loud voices won’t exactly do that.
5. Keep it short—around the block or up and down the sidewalk once should do the trick. Listen for nighttime nature sounds and observe how your street looks different in the darkness.
6. Head back inside and to bed straightaway. There’s a good chance everyone will be a little happier than when you started—the perfect way to end the day!
Pajama walks aren’t a magic bullet for bad moods and insta-sleep, but more often than not you’ll feel a sense of family connection when you walk back inside. Ending the day on a positive note is always a good idea.
Nighttime in the city
We also love the sense of place that comes out of these pajama walks. The activity builds memories and develops a sense of belonging in our neighborhood and of our place in the city. In urbanist-speak that’s called placemaking, and it’s tremendously important in the process of people developing a sense of responsibility toward the place where they live.
When it’s all said and done, pajama walks are more than what meets the eye. Take your kids on a short walk at night in their pajamas and you’ll be creating a safe space for dialogue, building memories around the place you call home, and deepening their sense of place in the city where you live. Just add slippers.