The time between the end of the school day and the end of the work day is a challenge for many parents. When both parents work jobs with strict business hours requiring them to be on the clock until 5:00 or even later, trustworthy child care is often key but may be out of reach financially. Even for parents with the ability to be available after school, filling the time before dinner with positive activities can be frustrating. Here are a few ideas for passing the time safely without stressing out.
Cooperate with Other Parents
Chances are, you’re not alone in this particular struggle. To ease the burden for several families, form a co-op arrangement with parents of your children’s friends. Plan play groups after school, alternating homes (where a parent or trustworthy adult is available, of course) so each family takes charge of activities and supervision one day per week.
Make After-School Time Homework Time
If your kids are of the age at which they have homework every night, right after school is a great time to get it done. It can seem like an extension of the school day, but getting it out of the way allows your kids to really focus on decompressing the rest of the evening. Without the distraction of mountains of homework weighing on their minds, they might be a bit more inclined to share some actual information with you about their day rather than the obligatory, “Good,” many kids utter when questioned about how their day went.
If your kids have separate bedrooms, you may have enough room to equip each child with their own desk. If they share a room, be sure that each child has a designated, functional homework space somewhere in your home – even if it’s the dining room table.
Make Art or Play Board Games
Art projects make for excellent after-school activities, allowing your kids to flex their creative muscles and put a different part of their brain to use after a day filled with math equations and sentence structures.
If arts and crafts aren’t your thing, consider playing board games to fill the time between school and dinner. It’s a good way to spend quality time with your kids when there’s not enough time to take an outdoor adventure. Plus, arts, crafts, or board games mean that your kids will be doing something other than working their finger muscles to operate the remote control or video game controller.
Work Together to Prepare Dinner
If you prepare a homemade meal most evenings, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach your children the essential life skill of cooking. An added benefit is that picky eaters may be more inclined to try new things if they have a hand in preparation. Try making cute food, whether as an after-school snack or part of your family’s evening meal.
Look into Sports or Lessons
If you want to keep your kids active and engaged in enriching activities, it’s worth looking into the various sports programs and other extra-curricular activities that are available in your area. If your child loves to swim, sign them up for swimming lessons at your local YMCA after school. Piano lessons, dance lessons, and any sort of in-season sports are other activities that your child may take interest in.
But you don’t have to stick to the tried-and-true; more communities are offering unique extra-curricular options for kids such as archery, fencing, martial arts, and more. Is your child into something totally different? Think about starting your own group if other children have similar interests.
While filling the time between the end of the school day and dinner time is sometimes a challenge, there are many unique, fun, and stimulating activities to get your kids involved in after school – and they don’t have to involve turning to the digital babysitter (the TV or video games). Make after school time homework time, and then fill the rest of the afternoon with something unique that will keep them active and stimulate their minds.
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