Do your afternoons feel hectic, scattered, or like you are going in a million different directions for a million different people? Do your kids struggle to getting out the door for their activities without having to turn around for lost items? In this post, learn the secret to setting up an after school routine for kids. In just 5 easy steps, you can ease the transition between school and home and look forward to calmer afternoons with an easy afternoon routine for your family that sticks.
alright Mama. do you find yourself thinking lately:
- how do i make an after school schedule to help us manage all our activities?
- what is a good after school routine for kids?
- how do i spend quality time with multiple children after school?
- how do i manage my daily routine with kids?
- or even, how can i occupy my child after school?
if so…then you are in the right spot and you are in GOOD company. i often have the exact same questions myself and while i might not have ALL the answers, we’ve gotten pretty good at the after school routine around here (i LOVE a good routine checklist). so get ready for an after school routine that works to save time after school and teach your kids time management skills.
Why is an after school routine helpful?
if you’re here, it’s likely you are already thinking an afternoon routine might be helpful. BUT even when we know something is a good idea, it is sometimes hard to start something new with our kids and get everyone on board. as Moms we already have so much to do! there has to be a really good reason to add something new to our plates.
so just in case you need a reminder, here are some really good reasons why it’s worth it to take a little time now to make an after school routine that will stick for the long term:
- an after school routine will eliminate surprises for your kids. similar to adults, kids don’t like surprises. so when they think they are going to get home from school and kick back on the couch, only to learn they have to vacuum and get dressed for practice? it doesn’t go well. but with a predictable afternoon routine they can SEE, there won’t be any surprises. your kids will know ahead of time what to expect because that’s how the tuesday routine goes. this will lead to far less complaining because when kids know what to expect, they are far less likely to get upset about it.
- an afternoon routine will give you the peace of mind that things will get done, and you won’t have to do them or dish out a million reminders. as Moms, our to-do lists are long. and sometimes, our to-do’s are actually our kids to-do’s that they forgot to do (say that 10 times fast).
- an after school routine + checklist takes the reminding and the repeating yourself out of the equation because it does the talking for you. research shows that routines can help your child learn good time management skills, feel more safe and secure, take things (and stress) off your plate. an afternoon routine will also make sure the things that need to get done to move your day along, get done. then your time can be better spent on positive interactions with your kids and fun (instead of nagging and reminding!).
- routines provide a bridge between the school day and the afternoon/evening activities to help your kids move more easily from one part of the day to the next. there are a lot of parts to the day. for kids as well as Moms, each part contains a number of complicated tasks. many of them are challenging – morning, school, afternoon, activities, sports, evening, bedtime. having a routine can streamline the parts of our day that we do over and over again, so that we don’t have to think about them and so there is more room for new experiences and spontaneous fun.
ok, so let’s do this…
5 easy steps to set up an after school routine for kids
Step 1: Write a list of what needs to be done, and on what days.
the point of your afternoon routine is to move from one part of the day to the next, eliminate surprises, and help your kids take ownership of their time so they know what to expect and can eventually move through the routine on their own. to do this, you first need need to make a list of afternoon tasks for each child.
it is likely these lists will be different for each child. i have three children and each of their school days ends at a different time and they each have different things to do after school – unpacking, chores, activities. yes, it can get confusing! but our after school routines are a lifesaver because i could never remember everything for everyone’s afternoons without our routines!
here are some examples of things that might go on your afternoon routine checklist (in no particular order):
- unpack backpack
- put backpack away
- walk dog
Step 2: Add details to your list of main tasks.
for each of the tasks you wrote in Step 1, there are likely some mini-tasks involved. for Step 2, you want to think about the things you are tired of saying over and over, or that are hard for your kids to remember, and add them as mini-tasks.
for example, for “Unpack Backpack” you might want to add “Put your water bottle in the dishwasher,” “Put your homework on your desk,” “Hang your backpack on your hook,” and “Put papers for me to look at on the table.”
on our routine list, under “Snack” it says, “Eat Snack,” and “Clean Up Snack.” this is because it drives me crazy to clean up snack wrappers and without these mini-tasks, my kids forget to do this part of “Snack.”
Step 3: Put your tasks in order.
after you have all your tasks listed for each child, put them in the order that makes the most sense for your family.
this is where you can really set yourself up for success. even if you WANT homework to be done first, if your middle child focuses better after 30 minutes of TV time and a snack, then don’t force homework to be done first. it will end up taking two times as long and everyone will be miserable.
it’s similar to what we say around here about organizing…just because something looks good or works well for someone else doesn’t mean you should force the same organizing solution to work in your house. the only reason to set up a routine is to make things easier for YOU AND YOUR SWEET FAMILY. for this step, don’t put things in an order you WISH would work. put them in an order that will actually work for your unique kids.
instead, in this step, put things in an order that makes sense for your family, with your kids, and your afternoon commitments. think about when your kids need downtime, when they need extra time to be able to move slowly, and think about their individual personalities
in our family, my kids get home at three VERY different times every day. this has proven to be EXTREMELY challenging. our response has been an individual afternoon routine checklist for each child.
- my daughter’s routine depends on whether she has an after school sport or not. either way, she prefers to unpack, eat a snack, and unwind first.
- my son has something nearly every day and he would prefer to get his homework done and out of the way first. he doesn’t require any downtime and might even skip snack to hang with friends before practice.
- my youngest also prefers to unwind and likes to wait for her sister to get home to join in her play or carpools. her routine also uses picture cards instead of words because she can’t read.
so you might be asking…didn’t the order of the checklists take a bit of time to figure out and then tweak during the first week of use? yep. but the results are totally worth it! and the good news is you can find the exact printable routine checklists we use (along with many other resources + bonus picture cards to help you with smoother mornings and calmer afternoons!) in the School Day Sanity Saver Pack.
without steps in the right order for our afternoon (and morning) routine checklists that the kids can move through on their own, i would be getting kids ready and home from school for 6 hours a day. i don’t have 6 hours a day to dedicate myself fully to this task…and i doubt you do either. the solution is a simple routine with tasks in the RIGHT ORDER.
Step 4: Take some things off your list.
remember, the goal here is to make everyone’s afternoon easier, with less time spent repeating yourself and kids who do things on their own. if you put too many things in the routine it will be complicated and you and your kids won’t do it. so start small.
if there is anything you can take off your list, now is a good time to do it. you can always add more to your lists later.
for example, at first i had playtime and even a chore for my middle daughter K to do after school and before gymnastics. i wanted her to be able to see friends, even on days she had an activity. i also wanted her chore done beforehand because she doesn’t get done until really late. but we learned that was just too much.
we cut out the friend time, added a few minutes to her down time to give her more of a cushion, and gave her some wiggle room on chores as long as they are done by the end of the week (more on our time-saving chore routine HERE). she doesn’t get to see friends on gymnastics days, but this makes friend time on her off days that much more fun!
5. Make an after school routine checklist.
it’s been mentioned a few times now – the best way to get any routine to work is a routine checklist. for that reason, an after school routine checklist or picture card checklist is key to pulling off an afternoon routine that your kids do on their own.
why is a checklist necessary??
simply put, it just makes it easier. it takes the guesswork out and lightens the mental load. checklists work for adults AND kids because getting to read or see a picture of the something instead of having to remember it is just easier. not to mention, when you hand your kids a checklist, it becomes the reminder. you can stop having to remember and remind about every little thing and instead start saying:
- did you do your list?
- is your checklist done?
- it’s on the list.
- follow the list.
now, as a Mom, i know checklists might not be your thing. maybe you don’t have time, you are not a “checklist person,” or you’d just rather hit the easy button on this one because you have enough to do in a day.
i get that. if you asked me to make a plan related to meals and there was an option to have someone else do it for me, i would be all over that. meal planning and cooking are not my strengths! i dread meal planning and cooking. but similar to routines, i know i have to do it for my family.
the good news is, i happen to be someone who LOVES to make routine checklists. i also love to make things pretty and easier for Moms so you can focus on the LITTLE things and more of what matters (my undergrad degree is in graphic design, graduate degree is in teaching).
IMAGINE a collection of quick & easy, tried-and-true (not to mention cute) printable checklists (+ customizable digital files) to help you set up your day for smoother mornings and calmer afternoons.
and IMAGINE those checklists were ready for you to start using right now, with real-life examples to make sure you’re successful and ready to start transforming your day as early as TOMORROW.
the School Day Sanity Saver Pack has everything you need to make that happen!
Let’s recap on how to create an after school routine for kids.
5 easy steps:
- Write a list of the main things your kids need to get done in the afternoon after school (or even on the weekend).
- Add details to your list of main tasks.
- Put your tasks in order.
- Take some things off your list.
- Make an afternoon routine checklist.
routines are a total gamechanger for kids. among other things, routines help kids know what to expect, cut down on the stress of repeating ourselves, and help kids move smoothly and independently from one thing to the next.
if you want some done-for-you examples to follow plus plug-and-play checklists to make it super easy to create an after school routine checklist for your family, you can check out the popular School Day Sanity Saver Pack right here.
get ready for calmer afternoons Mama, with less on your plate, independent kids, and time to focus on the things that matter most to your family (instead of the rushing and reminding you have going on right now!).
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES:
Save Time Every Morning With This Easy Way to Organize Kids Clothes
2 Game-Changing Tips for an Easier School Morning with Kids
Set Up a Sanity Saving After School Routine for Kids in 5 Easy Steps
3 Simple Tips for an Easier Afternoon with Kids
How to Organize School Papers the Easy Way
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