Looking for an after school routine for kids that will allow you to connect with your children, ensure you’re able to power through all of the things on your never-ending ‘to do’ list, tackle homework, and avoid those dreaded after school and evening meltdowns? You’re not alone! The hours between school pick-up and bedtime can be extremely emotionally charged, leaving even the most grounded and patient parents feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and defeated by the time their little ones are (finally) in bed for the evening.
The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this way. While we all have bad days, these should be the exception rather than the rule, and these tips and ideas for creating an effective after school routine for kids is here to help!
After School Routine for Kids: 9 Tips for a Smoother Evening
1) Bring a snack to school pick-up. One of the best tips I was ever given when my daughter started full-day school was to greet her with a snack when I picked her up each afternoon. My friends with older kids swore up and down that their kids’ after school tantrums have always been fuelled by hunger, and while I wasn’t convinced at the time, I decided to give it a try. My sweet girl is now entering grade 3, and I consistently find that she is much better at regulating her emotions after school when she’s not ‘hangry’. I try to keep non-perishable snacks in my purse at all times, and on the days I don’t have time (or forget) to grab something before heading to school pick-up, I suggest a mom-and-me date at our local coffee shop so my sweet girl can get a treat (and I can get a much-needed coffee)!
2) Limit questions. Does your little one give you one-word answers when you ask about his or her day? Mine used to, and I found the more I pried, the more closed off she became. I initially found this a bit disconcerting – why didn’t she want to share all of the cool things she learned with me?! – but then one day I decided to back off completely. I didn’t ask one single question when I picked her up, and while it was secretly killing me inside, this strategy ended up working in my favor. My daughter ended up sharing so much information with me throughout that afternoon and evening, and I’ve since learned to back off and let her open up to me when she’s ready.
3) Avoid after school errands. As tempting as it is to hit the grocery store, fill the car up with gas, stop at the bank machine, and run other seemingly mundane errands on the way home from school pick-up, I urge you not to. Remember that your child is tired and in need of some downtime after a long day of sitting still, following rules, and trying to keep his or her emotions in check, and opt for a minimalist after school routine for kids instead. Try to organize your day such that you run errands while your little one is at school or in bed for the night. And on the days this is simply not possible, save your errands until after dinner when your child is fed and has had a chance to unwind.
4) Listen to what your child needs. While some kids need to run off steam at the end of a long day at school, others crave time alone. Figure out what works for your child and create an after school routine for kids that compliments these needs. If your little one needs an outlet for all of the energy he or she has kept bottled up all day, hit the park or enroll your child in an after school sports program. If he or she prefers a little downtime, go straight home and allow your child to read, color, or watch their favorite TV show.
5) Don’t do homework first. This is kind of an extension of the point above, but it bears repeating. Kids need time to decompress after a long day, and while it can be tempting to force them to sit down and power through their homework the minute they walk through the front door, they will have a much easier time focusing and concentrating if they have the opportunity to unwind and get some energy out of their system first.
6) Choose extracurriculars wisely. Extracurricular activities offer a great way for our kids to focus on the things they’re passionate about while also cultivating friendships outside of school, but use your best judgement when enrolling your child in multiple activities. If you have a high energy child who finds it difficult to sit still all day, enrolling him or her in after school sports and clubs may help blow off steam before you head home to tackle homework. On the flip side, if you find your child is tired, cranky, and moody at school pick-up, it may be best to avoid after school activities completely, or organize them for weekends instead.
7) Make quality time a priority. When creating an after school routine for kids, be sure to set aside 15+ minutes with your child each evening to spend uninterrupted, quality time together. Shut down your laptop, silence your smartphone, turn off the TV, and give 100% of yourself to your child so he or she doesn’t need to act out in order to get your attention. Remember that this doesn’t need to be complicated – it just needs to be deliberate. CLICK HERE for 75 fun, inexpensive, and spur-of-the-moment ways you can spend quality time with your child every single day.
8) Enforce quiet time. If your child struggles with self-regulation after school and/or has difficulty winding down before bed, make sure he or she is getting enough downtime to fully decompress. Some parents prefer to setup quiet crafts for their kids to enjoy after dinner as they wind down for the night, while others allow iPad or TV time. Play around with different ideas, and do whatever works for you and your children.
9) Opt for an early bedtime. My last tip for those who are trying to create after school routine for kids that minimizes chaos and keeps emotions in check is to prioritize sleep. If you need to wake your child up in the mornings and/or you find him or her feeling groggy and irritable when he or she first gets out of bed, an earlier bedtime may be something to consider. This is especially important at the beginning of a new school year when kids are transitioning from lazy summer days to demanding school schedules. If at all possible, try cleaning up your child’s sleep routine 2+ weeks before the first day of school to ensure he or she is well-rested and ready for the transition.
I hope these ideas help you create – and stick to – an after school routine for kids that helps you spend quality time with your children, tackle homework, and get through all of your household chores without meltdowns and power struggles. Remember to keep your routine as simple as possible, to limit questions, and to allow for downtime. And on the days things are busy and chaotic and everyone seems unhappy, remember that tomorrow is an opportunity to start over and try again!
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