What to do after your child ends the school day? Here are some ideas on creating a good after school schedule at home for your little one.
“After school” looks a bit different for us this year than previous years. Instead of school pickups, we have laptop shutdowns. Last year, I’d leave the house promptly at 2:30pm to walk to campus and arrive sharply 10 minutes later. This year, we sometimes don’t leave the house at all.
And whereas I’d be scrambling to finish up last-minute tasks to prepare for their arrival, these days I’m working during pockets of the day.
Still, no matter how different school may look for you, creating a routine—even after they’re done for the day—is so important. Right when the world can feel confusing, a routine can help ground your child in something reliable and predictable.
Creating an after school schedule at home
In fact, imagine the hours after your child has logged off of Google Classroom as a chance to establish an after school schedule at home.
You can choose to go by the clock for certain parts of your day (like having snack at 2pm). Or you can go with the flow, following one activity with the same one, regardless of time.
The best part? The day when she’ll be going back to the school campus (whether sooner or later), you’ll already have a schedule in place.
So, take a look at some ideas you can include in your weekdays, perfect for those after school hours:
1. Snack time
For many kids, snack time is a welcome recharging. Back when my kids were on campus, they’d come home ravenous for a snack. Sometimes lunch felt like hours ago, and other times, they wouldn’t finish what they ate and would be hungry for a refill.
I had read years ago to replenish both their physical and mental energy with a snack break between school and school work. Trying to do too much without a break would feel exhausting, and a snack provides your child with the calories and the time to relax.
For us, snack time is usually around 2pm, with enough hours left before dinner.
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Traditional “homework” looks a bit different these days. With the kids at home, assignments are done throughout the day, instead of having a separate task for the after school hours.
But back when they were on campus, we’d usually jump right into homework after snack. I wanted them to get it done before their energy started to run low and procrastination took over. And doing homework consistently after snack became automatic—I hardly had to remind them to get started.
These days, you can use the time to catch up on any assignments that haven’t been turned in. At least this way, your child can end the day knowing he’s done all his schoolwork.
Even if he doesn’t have homework yet (for instance, he’s in preschool), you can still set side time for activities that reinforce what he’s learning. He’s also likely eager to practice his emerging skills. That way, down the line, he’ll already have established this time as part of your daily routine.
Finishing up schoolwork is a fantastic transition into downtime and playing. Your child needs to decompress after the school day, even if (or perhaps especially because) she had been home all day.
It’s not easy to remain focused and be on her best behavior, in front of a computer, no less. Play is also vital—not only does it allow her to unwind and release energy, it’s also the best way for her to learn.
In fact, even if my kids had time to play on campus in the past, I made sure to include play time in our days. Until now, the bulk of our afternoons are fairly unstructured, and they get to tinker and play however they want. They’ll romp around in the backyard, read a book, or play with their little figurines and toys.
The most important thing is that they get to decide how to spend their down time.
4. Dinner time
One of the biggest perks of being in quarantine is that we eat every meal together, from snacks to dinners. In the past, the one reliable meal we’d all have was breakfast, since my husband wouldn’t always come home in time for dinner.
This time, meals have become a family gathering, and dinners are no exception. Sharing a meal together is a fantastic way for you to connect with your child. It can likely be a favorite time of the day for the family, as well as an important opportunity to gauge how she’s doing in school.
Dinner time at our house often starts at 5pm, giving us plenty of time to play before bedtime.
I’m a fan of a consistent bedtime routine, from the rituals we do leading up to sleep, to the time we start all these activities. A reliable schedule gives your child not only the rest she needs, but the reassuring predictability she can count on.
For many kids, bedtime starts with brushing their teeth and taking a bath or shower. You can then move on to reading books (for us, we aim for four picture books a night). And finally, it’s lights out for my twins at 7:30pm, with our eldest getting to stay up a little later until 8pm.
When and in what way school goes back to “normal,” we won’t know yet. But if there’s one thing that can help, it’s having an after school schedule at home your child can count on.
Start your routine with snack time to recharge her energy. Follow that with homework, or finishing up and turning in assignments for the day. Give her plenty of downtime to decide how to play, and gather together for a family dinner each night. And finally, cap the day with a consistent bedtime routine.
With a schedule in place, she’ll know exactly how her after school hours will flow—even if laptop shutdowns have replaced the school bell.
Get more tips:
- How to Rock a Morning Routine for Toddlers
- The Importance of Establishing Toddler Routines
- 6 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine for School Run Smoothly
- Homework Tips for Parents: Crucial Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid
- 31 Totally Awesome Conversation Starters for Kids
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