One of the big hurdles of getting used to the new routine after the kids go back to school is what to do in the afternoon once school is out! It can be hard to get the kids back into the routine of homework and more structured activities, but that doesn’t mean that all of the fun has to disappear. Here are 5 tips for creating an after school routine that will keep everyone’s sanity in check those first few weeks of getting back into the swing of things!
Make a Daily Checklist
Structure is so important in a child’s life. It helps them know that they have a place in the world and makes them feel secure with what is going on around them. Why should after school be any different? I love this Checklist for Kids that I saw over at TipsFromATypicalMomBlog.com that helps kids to know what their responsibilities are once they get home. Of course… the big one? Homework! But the others on this list are really great ideas to implement for children, as well. By making sure they have a healthy snack before homework time, you’ll make sure they have the energy and nutrition that will help to carry those little bodies through the new routines they are getting used to in the beginning of a new school year. And having a few minutes of reading time each day that isn’t focused around their homework will make sure they are getting their noses into some books that they enjoy for themselves, and will help to establish their own sense of identity. How great is that?! I love getting into the routine of having kids pick our their clothes for the next day. It’s one less thing that will hold everyone up the following morning, and it gives them a feeling of independence that they get to choose what they are going to be wearing without those last-minute fights!
After School Snacks
Making this as fun as possible for my little ones puts a big smile on my face every single time! I know in my house that when my little guy gets home from school (actually, when he gets into the car after walking out of the school doors!) he’s asking what he can have to eat. And I want to make sure it’s something nutritious, yet won’t make him too full before dinner. I tend to make a ton of things, then either freeze them or hide them where they won’t all get eaten at once, and the kids love it. You can find some of our favorite after school snacks here. This is definitely a big after-school routine in this household!
Another great place to find wonderful after school snack ideas is over at ThirtyHandmadeDays.com. They are absolutely perfect to get the inspiration to make fun and healthy snacks for the kids after school. I love all of the fruit and veggie ideas and they are so easy to make that you definitely don’t have to worry about becoming a slave to your kitchen.
Calming Activities to Establish
Let’s face it… school can be rough for little minds! That’s a lot of time that they’re being asked to keep their focus and maintain their energy all day long. It’s not a bad idea to spend a little time unwinding after school to make sure they are calm and relaxed in time for bed. Try these things to take their overworked brains down a notch and take the stress levels down:
- Head outside! What better way to take their mind off of the day at school than to hit a playground and let off some steam. Color on the driveway with chalk or even do little scavenger hunts.
- Coloring books and sticker books – my little guy absolutely loves to color and it is such a relaxing activity for him to do. Add in stickers, and it’s even better! I see this one being a favorite of his when he needs a small structured activity after school.
- Play music in the background – we love to have music playing in the afternoons after school. It’s always calming instrumental music and occasionally, I’ll even throw on a coffee house station that is a little more my speed while still being instrumental and soothing for the kids
- Play dough! How can play dough NOT be calming?!I love that it gets their imagination going with whatever they happen to be trying to make. And it’s great to get those sensory motor skills going. This is a perfect activity for the kids to relieve that school stress
Stay Connected As A Family
As my kids get older, I want to make sure that the family is staying connected and knowledgeable about what is going on in each others’ lives. This is something that we’ve started to implement around dinnertime and it’s the perfect way to make sure you know what is going on in your kids lives.
- Implement the “High and Low” of the day! It’s a common practice that I’ve read about a lot and this year we’ve started doing it a couple times a week, just to get the kids used to it. My kids are still pretty young, so it’s a little tough to get through this 7 days a week, but I want it to become a staple of our dinners together as a family. All you have to do is go around the table and everyone shares what their “High” was for the day and what their “Low” was for the day. We generally book-end the adults and have the kids go in the middle, so they have an example and know that they have either Mom or Dad to finish it off. My son is getting a kick out of this when we do it and he loves to hear what Mom and Dad have to share about their days 🙂
- Another great idea I saw, A Family Dinner Book Club, comes from GrowingBookByBook.com. Basically, this is a great idea to implement with the family as often as you want, though I think in my house, this would be a great monthly activity. Pick a book, be it picture books or whatever may be age-appropriate for your little ones, and grow the dinner theme off of the book! Make crafts that can be used as dinner table decorations, make a meal together that will incorporate certain things from the book, and find some conversation starters about the book to keep the talk going around the table once the family is gathered around. I love this idea! Choose your next book a month in advance and you’ll have all month to prepare for your big family book club night!
Both of these are great way to keep communication established and to stay connected as a family after school.
Structured Activities for the Kids
Many families have kids who are at the age where they participate in many different types of after-school activities. Whether it be sports, dance, music, or any other multitude of events, kids are pulled a million directions after school for their extracurricular activities. It’s so important to make sure that our children aren’t getting over-tired and over-booked at all of these different activities and that they are able to keep up with homework and the other things that matter in their lives as well. Make sure to talk to them about what they would like to participate in and try to limit things to 1-2 activities at any given time, especially when they are younger. I know I want to keep my kids as interested in what they participate in as possible, and if I’m over scheduling them and not making sure they are properly eating or resting as a result of their busy schedule, we’ll have to re-evaluate if after-school programs are the best for them. We all want to see our children thrive!
Who says that once school starts all of the fun has to be gone? While there are definitely some things that have to be taken care of before after-school fun can begin, there are lots of ways that new routines for your kids won’t be a dreaded part of their day.
Do you have any go-to activities that you break out after school to make the afternoons fun? Comment below and let us know! 🙂
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