When my oldest first started school it was always a gong show when he got home. So about 2 weeks in I decided we really needed to set an after school routine. Our lives have been so much easier since then. Not only do I know what we are doing and how to get everything done before but time but my kids also know what to expect. We all know kids are all about routine.
Kids 6 and Under
For younger kids you will really want to stick to a routine. Most kids want a snack when they come home. Prepare some healthy snacks in advance so you have something to give the kids right after school. This is a great time to hear about their day.
While there shouldn’t be lots of homework at this age, it is a good idea to get it done right after snack time. With younger kids the incentive of play time after homework usually works for motivation. Let them know you will be nearby if they have any questions, and make sure they have everything they need to get their homework down. A dedicated space (even if it is the dining room table) works best.
Dinner should be a couple of hours after snack time, if that works with your family’s schedule, but not more than 3 hours. After dinner you could allow them maybe 1 hour to play games or use other electronics, but it is best to have quiet time at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Bedtimes can vary depending on how early the children have to wake up, but younger kids should be in bed by 7:30 or 8:00. Kids this age should get around 10-12 hours of sleep, but every child is different.
Routines are good for older kids too, but you may have a little more flexibility the older they get. These kids will want snacks, too. Preparation is key, and having healthy snacks in the fridge, or something the older ones can microwave or prepare on their own, is always a good idea. Snack time allows kids to decompress a little and be more ready to tackle homework.
Having a space to do homework, stocked with supplies, will help keep your routine. Give younger kids an hour or so to do homework, with maybe a little longer for the 10-12 year olds. If they have chores, let them do maybe 30 minutes after homework is done.
Electronics can be disruptive to sleep patterns, so the best time to let the kids play is after homework/chores are done. You can decide on how much time they are allowed, or maybe let them play until dinner is ready.
The kids will be hungry 2-3 hours after coming home and having a snack, so try to keep dinner to that schedule if possible. After dinner they could watch a show with you, or have reading time. You will want to have them do something relaxing within an hour of bedtime.
Kids this age need 10-11 hours of sleep on average, but you know your child best. If your child goes to sleep right away, that is great, but many kids take a while to actually get to sleep. Plan the bedtime hour according to your child’s wake up time, and considering how long it normally takes for them to go to sleep.
What does your after school routine look like?
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