Simple After School Routines

I often see people talking about their before school morning routines, but not as many talking about how they handle the after school time. If your home is anything like ours, this is just as important as the morning so we’re going to share our simply after school routines.

Kids can often come out of a school day full of pent-up energy and frustration. To go from their daily classroom routines into, well, a free-for-all can be overwhelming for them. I’m not saying not to give them some downtime – goodness knows they need it! – but adding in a little structure can help prevent that after school time from turning into utter chaos.

Simple After School Routines

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Simple After School Routines

1 – Dealing with the pent-up energy.

If you pick your kids up at school and walk them home, you might want to consider using that time to work off some of that energy. You could race each other part of the way (keep safety in mind!), or come up with fun actions for each other to do as you go (hopping, jumping, skipping, twirling around, etc). Or you might be able to stop at a park or spend some time on the school playground before heading home.

If your kids take the bus or come home via a car, you might want to plan for some backyard playtime before heading into the house. Or maybe you want to plan for a quick family yoga session.

Not all kids will need this time right after school. Some may have gym near the end of the day or their teachers take them outside to run around shortly before coming home and they’re just ready for some quiet time instead. Gauge your child’s needs and adjust accordingly.

2 – Feed them!

I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t come home from school HUNGRY. As with the pent-up energy, this is one of those “don’t ignore it” things. Hungry turns into hangry very quickly.

With Walter, I like to have a snack plate all ready to go before he ever gets home. This helps in several ways. It avoids the “what do you want for a snack” game because if it’s already there, he is quite happy to eat whatever I’m serving. It also gives me the ability to have some control over what he is eating. Don’t get me wrong – he is allowed to have some “treats” but I can also add some protein and other nutritious items that will give him the balance he needs too.

If you pick your kids up at school, you might want to bring a small snack item along with you for them to eat on the way home if they’re especially hungry at the end of the day.

3 – Make a chart.

Again, I believe that kids need some downtime after school. I used to tell my students that they should have an after school snack and schedule some time to just watch TV, play video games, play with their toys – whatever it is that they like to do for fun. But I reminded them that they still had some responsibilities too and needed to complete them as well.

You may find that it’s best for your child to complete at least some of their responsibilities FIRST before having their downtime. Others might be overwhelmed from all the noise and activity of the day and they just need some quiet time to themselves before going on to anything else.

Either way, we find that having a chart listing everything to be done is a really useful device. Kids generally get a kick out of checking things off (me too!) and it helps limit the amount of nagging you need to do because it’s all right there on the chart.

Some things you might want to include: hang up coat and other outerwear, put lunch bag in the kitchen, put school bag away, change out of school clothes/uniform, do homework, reading time, tidy up their toys, have a bath, pick out clothes for the next day, help pack their lunch for the next day, and so on.

TIP: You might want to split the list up into “before dinner” and “after dinner” tasks.

4 – Organize your home for the after school routine.

We have a basket near the front door and that’s where all outdoor accessories go – baseball caps, sunglasses, mittens, winter hats, and so on. This saves SO much aggravation in the mornings as we don’t have to go on a frenzied scavenger hunt before the bus arrives.

Have designated spots for the other things your child brings home from school – where should they put their coats? Where do you want their backpacks? What about any notes they bring home from school? Do you need to sign their planner? Where would you like them to put it so you remember and so it doesn’t get lost?

5 – Kids with extracurricular activities.

This, of course, can add another layer of planning to your after school routine. Do they need to change into some kind of sports uniform or dance gear etc? Do you have a snack ready for them or one that they can take on the go? What about a water bottle?

The more you can prepare for this ahead of time and have it all ready to go, the better. Be sure to add these things to your chart so your kids know what to expect. Most kids need some transitions from one activity to the next. Try using timers and cues (when the timer goes off, you have 5 more minutes and then we need to leave for soccer).

6 – The dreaded “What did you do at school today?” question

Few kids like to answer this question based on my experience and talking with other parents. Of course, you want to hear about it, but think about it from their perspective. Often at the end of the day, you’re tired and might not want to be bombarded with questions the moment you walk through the door.

We try to give it a little time (and let them get some food in their bellies!) before we start asking questions. The “what did you do today” question can seem big and overwhelming to kids so you might want to try more specific questions like: What was your favorite thing to do at school today? Who made you smile today? What did you do at recess? On a scale of 1-10, what would you rate your day?

With my daughter, we always found that it worked best for me to sit down and have a snack with her. We called it “tea time” (she has always loved going to tea shops with me) and so this helped with the idea. While sitting there eating our snacks, the chit-chatting naturally started and eventually led to us discussing her day at school. And without any prompting, she would often open up about anything bothering her as well.

Your after school routine doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, simple is best. Start by thinking through what typically happens after school. What problems do you generally encounter? How can you make those things run more smoothly? Start there and build your routine.

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