Kids thrive off of routines, and with the return of the school season, it is more important than ever to create a sense of consistency for your little ones. The ideal routine for after school will combine fun, engaging activities as well as small responsibilities to ensure children maintain the independence they need in the classroom when they are away from home.
A great idea is to use an “after school schedule” that the kids can see every day and refer to.
– Example; 3:30 PM PUT AWAY BACKPACK & BRING LUNCHBAG TO KITCHEN
4:00 PM AFTER SCHOOL SNACK
4:30 PM HOMEWORK
5:30 PM PLAY BREAK
6:00 PM DINNER
Etc. until bed time!
This schedule is an example of a balanced after-school evening. The time slots are useful for parents to help keep kids on-track, but also to help teach them about the concepts of time and time management early on.
Below are some ideas for the play breaks in your child’s evenings that will keep their energy up, add some fun to their evening and keep them away from screens!
Outside Play: If you have a backyard or a park near your home, make use of it! A good round on the jungle gym is a great way to get your child’s appetite up before dinner-time. Additionally, you can use your own back yard and play a game of tag, hide & seek or catch. You can even bring some sidewalk chalk out onto the driveway and draw pictures, or perhaps create a hopscotch game to play!
Crafts: A simple, low-mess craft is a great way to spend 30 minutes before dinner and is a fun reward for completing homework! If you decide to make crafts a fairly regular part of your after-school routine, try adding a theme to them to make it more fun for little ones! Pinterest is a great resource for craft ideas. For the first weeks after school begins, try this super cute construction paper backpack craft, and have your child write one thing they love about going back to school on it!
After-School Programs: If your work schedule and your child’s after-school schedule conflict, you can seek out many of the great after school programs available for children in the city. These programs will give kids something to look forward to after school, and ensure that they are well socialized and involved in recreational activities. There are multiple programs available, one great one to look at is the After-School Recreation Care program, run through the city of Toronto. Check out more info here on their site.
Extra tips and tricks to keep evenings productive and fun:
– Have kids eat their after-school snack before they begin their homework, so that they are not trying to complete homework on an empty stomach.
– Have a quick five minute break about halfway through the homework hour. Perhaps your child can get up and get a drink, or you can make it fun and have them do stretches & jumping jacks with you to get their body moving and refreshed for the last half hour of homework.
– Keep all distractions removed during homework time.
– If your child runs into trouble during their homework, you can pretend you are the teacher and they are the student and help them figure out the way to get to the answer they are looking for by asking them questions. This makes rough patches in homework less stressful because it will feel less like a struggle and more like a game.
– Try to place play breaks right after homework time, so that kids have a motivator to want to finish their work, and a reward for when they complete it! It will also allow your child some time to truly unwind after coming home from school.
Structure, learning and fun do not have to be contained to the walls of your child’s classroom. With a simple schedule that has a good balance between fun, chores and responsibilities, your little ones can finish each day feeling accomplished, independent and engaged. Routine is great for the whole family, and creating these habits for children at a young age is sure to help them excel throughout their entire academic career and beyond.