An after-school routine is something I never considered until my youngest daughter entered pre-school. Because my older kids were very independent and self-motivated, I never really saw the need for one.
They would come home, complete their homework, and chores, and then disappear to do something fun until dinner or family time. My little one, however, has ADHD, and with her special needs came the necessity of a new plan.
After-School Routine Must-Haves
Below, I’ll include a few things that fit nicely into an after-school routine. However, I realize that every family is different. So what I’d like to do more than tell you what after school activities to include is to help you structure it.
Here is a sample after school routine that can be used to create your own. Important sections include:
What to do when they come in the door (i.e., hang up backpack, clean out lunch box)
- What to do next (i.e., have a snack, piano lessons)
- When and where homework should be completed
- Who helps prepare dinner and when it takes place
- When and what chores should be accomplished
- What your child can do to unwind (i.e. playing educational games online, going outside)
If you don’t want to use an online template, simply take out a piece of paper and make a list of the bullet points above. Then, you can work as a family to create a schedule that work’s for everyone. The most important thing to mind is to balance structure and flexibility.
For example, Tuesdays are super busy at my house, so dinner tends to run late and chores might or might not get finished on time. We try to stick to the schedule, but prioritize where needed: homework must be done, cleaning out the fridge can wait.
Now, let’s look at each section in detail.
After-School Routine: Honey, I’m Home
What should they do as soon as they hit the door? This will vary depending on how old your children are. My oldest is 17 and he has an after school job, so he usually goes straight to work.
My 11-year old’s list looks like this:
- Hang up backpack
- Clean out lunch box
- Feed the dog
- Grab a snack for self and sister
Her little sister who is four only has to put her backpack and shoes away. Again, it’s all about what is important to you.
Healthy Snacks and Homework
While teaching elementary school, I learned a lot about food. For one, it is a great motivator. In my house, after school snacks and homework time is one and the same. We munch while we math. One of the reasons why I think this setup works so well is that it brings a multisensory approach to homework time. Also, scientific studies have shown, again and again, that chewing helps us concentrate.
I actually learned this by accident while studying for a graduate school final and chewing gum. I was shocked at how focused I was on my study material. A Google search confirmed my theory and I introduced snacking while doing homework to my kids. Now it’s a huge part of our after-school routine.
One way to help your child recuperate from their day is to make them a dinner they can enjoy. Because our lives are so busy, many of us have gotten away from family dinners in the way we had them growing up. But having dinner with your children is great for an after-school routine because
It gives you an opportunity to hear about their day.
Having your kids help with the preparation increases quality time as does making the kitchen an ‘electronics-free zone’.
I am a huge proponent of age-appropriate chores for children. There are so many benefits but mainly they teach responsibility, dependability, and how to take care of what you have.
There are two ways to go about this part of an after school schedule and I take a mixed approach. As soon as my children hit the door, they take care of small chores that take less than ten minutes (putting away their shoes, feeding the dog, etc.)
The other chores come after dinner time and they know what needs to be done every night.
Dishes, folding laundry, and cleaning up the playroom are examples. Each child has a ‘chore chart’ that outlines each responsibility, so there are no excuses or ‘I forgots’. I have them initial beside each chore when they finish for accountability. After that, they are free!
Work in Some Down Time
Here is where downtime comes in. When athletes finish a workout, they usually engage in a “cool down” period. They go for a brisk walk or do some light stretches to help their body and mind transfer from a “work hard” state to one that is more relaxed. This relaxed frame is the one they should be in to best perform their daily duties and enjoy the things around them.
Our children benefit from a cooling down routine, as well. After being in school for several hours, they might find it hard to release the stress and relax. This leads to a happier child, who in turn will be better suited to handle the stress of school.
One of the ways they can do this is to de-stress with games.
De-Stress with Games
Many kids are obsessed with video games these days. The moment they walk in the door, they want to throw their backpack somewhere and fire up their console. Assuming their responsibilities are in order and they have accomplished their check-list, this can be a great way for them to relax during their after-school routine.
Games like Fortnite are more popular today than they ever have been. They may not be entirely useless, either – team-based games such as this one may help your child develop their team-building skills. Although they will not be training this deliberately, the things they learn from the game may certainly translate to their real life.
You might be concerned, though, that the games they play are “frying their brain”. Many popular games do not offer anything education and seem like a waste of time from an adult’s perspective.
Educational games do exist, however. Your child may enjoy some of our online math games, which are both fun and educational. They combine the fun-filled experience of electronics usage with the brain-stimulating elements of study. Since there is no pressure to be perfect, this is a great way to help kids relax.
After-School Routine: Conclusion
Having an after-school routine for your child can do wonders for their well-being. It will help them to manage their stress so that they can make it through the whole school year without breaking down. Between the constant absorption of new information and pressure inducing tests, they need a way to leave it at the schoolhouse.
The ideas listed above are only a few for an after-school routine. Some kids also enjoy movies, drawing, or going on trips. Creating the best routine is all about knowing your child and what they enjoy. What about school stresses them out, and what can you do to take that stress away? Answer those questions, and you will establish a great routine for them in no time.