Routines make life much less chaotic and help your kids build good habits for life. After school can feel just as chaotic as before school. We have a great method for you to help your afternoons flow smoothly when kids get home!
After School Routine
Step 1: Set up a System for Paperwork
Having a system in place for school papers, homework, projects and permission slips is essential in keeping you are your kids organized. If you have multiple kids that are in school, the amount of paperwork that comes home can be overwhelming. Here are some ideas to help you set up a system:
- Filing Bin: This is a convenient storage system that gives you a place to store all of the papers that come home and then quickly come back to them when action is needed. You can have one bin per child, or have one bin for all your kids with different folders for different kids. Some ideas for different folders are:
- Take Action/Sign: This folder is for forms that need to be signed like permission slips, teacher requests, PTA forms, and flyers that need to be added to your calendar.
- Short Term Storage: This is for things that you don’t need to keep forever, but will need to refer to at some point soon. Upcoming field trips that include a list of what your kids need to bring or a fundraising flyer are examples.
- Kids Need to Complete: This folder is for assignments that your kids need to work on and turn in.
- Long Term Storage: This folder is for each kid’s special papers, progress reports, awards, certificates, etc. We like to scan some of things into our computer (progress reports) and take pictures of others (art projects) and then not keep the physical version.
- Display Area: This is a place to display all of the artwork, test with high results, or anything else your kids are proud of and want to show the world. These can rotate every week and the old projects can either get filed, or photographed and thrown away. We like to use Chatbooks for keeping all of the photos of our kids projects organized. Here is a great post on how to do it.
- Long Term Storage Boxes. Each of my kids have a storage box with a folder for each grade. Then after they graduate high school, they can take their box of memorabilia with them!. You can see how we made our on our Instagram Stories! Or check out this post for a great tutorial on how to create these boxes.
Step 2: Unpack Backpacks
This step is the kick off to our after school routine. As soon as they walk in the door, kids are tempted to throw their backpacks down and get started with whatever they feel like doing. If you can get your kids in the habit of quickly unloading their backpacks (takes just a few minutes) it will almost become automatic for them! A few tips:
- Have a place for kids to store their backpacks that is easily accessible to them
- Teach them how to unload and clean out their lunchboxes. Rinse out lunch containers and load into the dishwasher, wipe out lunch boxes and throw away any uneaten food (gasp!)
- All paperwork gets taken out of backpacks and looked at and then action taken.
Step 3: Snack Time
Most of the time kids get home from school and are starving! Providing a balanced snack is so important for kids to have a good afternoon and not want to eat junk until dinner. If you need some ideas, we have 15 Healthy After School Snack ideas for you. A few tips:
- A balanced snack should have at least two food groups: protein, grain, fruit, and veggie.
- Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be something you spend a long time making. Kids just need food – and fast!
- Have some easy to grab snacks already available for afternoons when you are in a hurry or on the go. These are good to prep earlier in the day when it is less chaotic.
Step 4: Assess Kid’s Emotional State
School can be really emotional and mentally taxing for a lot of kids, especially when they are first starting out. Some days they might come home happy as can be, and others they might feel deflated or stressed. They might need some space to just crash for a bit until they get their energy up again. Keep an eye on what your kids needs are from day to day.
Step 5: After School Activities
Your kids might have after school activities that you have to rush off to. If you have your systems in place, you can be out the door in a matter of minutes. A few tips:
- Have their activity ‘stuff’ ready to go before they get home. You might have them pack it the night before, or maybe you can help and get it ready during the day.
- Have a portable snack planned that you can take with you on the go.
- Make sure you don’t skip backpack unloading. It really takes less than 5 minutes and skipping even a couple of days gets kids out of the habit.
Step 6: Unstructured Play
Unstructured playtime is so important! Unstructured play is that set of activities that children create on their own without adult guidance. Children naturally, when left to entertain themselves, will take initiative and create activities and stories in the world around them. A lot of time, unstructured play gets pushed to the bottom of the “to-do” list when the school schedules start to get jam packed. It is a really good idea to make it a priority to let your kids have some time for this – even if it means putting it on your schedule!
Step 7: Homework
Homework can be tricky after school with activities, family time, unstructured play, dinner and a decent bedtime. For some families, doing homework right after school works really well. For others, it just doesn’t work. Here are a few tips:
- Homework should be done at the same time each day. This could be in the morning, on the commute on the way home from school, afternoon or after dinner. Choose a time that works best for your kids needs.
- Set up a homework-friendly area. Make sure kids have a well-lit place to complete homework. Keep any supplies your kids might need to do their homework in your homework area.
- Be a motivator and monitor. Ask about assignments, quizzes, and tests. Give encouragement, check completed homework, and make yourself available for questions and concerns.