With Halloween just around the corner, the back-to-school excitement has faded and kids are settled into their classroom routines, hopefully feeling confident about what to expect day-to-day while at school. Once school lets out for the day though, some parents may find that things go a bit haywire! Children who are doing amazingly well socially and academically at school suddenly start acting out or being defiant at home after school. This juxtaposition can be especially apparent in younger children who are in their first few years of school. One theory is that kids work hard to rise to expectations during school, but then get home and are maxed out; they need a break from conforming to adult expectations. While this is true, we’ve found that keeping a loose schedule and routine in place – especially after school – is extremely beneficial to our little ones.
Sometimes, the simple act of NOT having a basic routine in place can cause anxiety in kids. Let’s look at this from your child’s perspective: They have just had a very structured day at school, where every minute is essentially planned out for them. Then, they get home and have no expectations of what will happen next. The unknown can be scary and confusing for our little ones. It’s hard for them to process that they are now at home with a much less structured (if any) routine.
As busy parents, we understand that having to come up with – let alone implement – any type of after school routine can be daunting. That’s why we want to give an example of an easy after school routine for kids (most of which you’re probably already doing in some form or fashion) to help both parents and kids get what they need out of their day together.
Here are some ideas to help create a good after-school routine:
- Snacks & Free Play
- Homework & Reading Time
- Dinner & Family Time
- Bath & School Clothing Prep
- Sleepytime Rhymes
Read on to get some more details & helpful examples.
Snack Time & Free Play
- Try to have a healthy snack ready as soon as possible to keep blood sugar levels steady. Here are some great after school snack ideas if you need inspiration. (Bonus: You can prep and make most of them ahead of time!)
- If the weather permits, allow at least 30 minutes (ideally, about an hour) of unstructured time for your kiddos to run around and play outside after their snack. Kids don’t necessarily have the vocabulary to talk about the things that may have upset them throughout the day, but if they are given the time and space to play, they often can process their feelings through playing and physical activity.
- If playtime needs to happen inside, that’s okay! Just try to limit screen time because being on electronic devices does not allow children the creative space necessary to process their own reality. When our kids are able to create their own storyline through imaginative play, they process what they need to without being prompted. This is the whole basis for play therapy and it’s something that parents can easily implement at home.
Dinner & Family Time
- Have as many members of the family as possible sit down together for dinner. Eating together is calming for kids and creates a positive association between food and family bonding.
- Ask your children questions about their day to engage in some active conversation. Not only does this make your kids feel important, talking together on a daily basis also allows parents to sense when something may be off at school or upsetting to our little ones. Not sure how to get the conversation flowing? Never fear! There’s an article for that.
- If your child is old enough, have him or her help you clear the table and get ready for homework (if it’s a school night) or a family game (if it’s a Friday or the weekend).
Homework & Reading Time
- Depending on your child’s age and the school’s policy on homework, this is a great time to tackle any required school-related projects or tasks – if there are any.
- If there’s no homework to do, you can spend some time talking about what is going on at school the next day or setting expectations for an appointment or activity after school the following day.
- Taking just a few minutes per day to read together at home sets kids up to be more successful at school than those who don’t read on a regular basis. Here are some other advantages of reading time.
Bath Time & School Clothing Prep
- Whatever your nighttime hygiene routine is for your kiddos, it’s a good idea to get it going at least 30 minutes before bedtime to give kids a chance to wind down. If you have a spa bather like Callie’s son, Henry, who likes to relax in the tub until his feet and hands turn to prunes, then you may want to allow even more leeway time!
- After bathing, brushing teeth, and getting into pajamas, you can save lots of time in the morning by letting your little one help pick out two different outfit options for school the next day. In the morning, they can pick their favorite of the two and you can avoid any outfit meltdowns. Again, setting expectations and narrowing down options allows your little one focus and retain a sense of control.
- Our Slumberkins Sleepytime Rhymes were specifically created to be soothing, melodic, and rhythmic – just like a relaxing song. Whether you choose to sing or to read the Sleepytime Rhyme to your little one, you can rest assured that you are also providing a skill-building routine for your child as you read. Ending the day with a snuggly connection is always the best!
Photography Credit: Amy Bell, Modern Nest Photography