As full-time working parents of children attending public school, after school time is particularly invaluable for us. Their school ends early afternoon. They attend extracurricular programs after school 4 days of the work week. I or my husband can pick them up usually around 5-6 pm. That leaves us around 2,5-3,5 hours to have some type of family time, music practice, prepare and eat dinner and go through bedtime routine until their optimal bedtime which is around 8:30 pm but usually drags until 9:00 pm. For practical purposes, we don’t have screen time on school days.
There are many routine schedules and charts to organize and manage after school time for various age groups as resources. However, my issue is not to make sure that we eat dinner and start bedtime routine on time, which I admit is critical to sanity. My main struggle was to find ways to spend a good time with our kids and just implement the ideas or do the activities I pin on my Pinterest boards with them while juggling dinner prep, house chores, and homework help.
By mid-year last year, I realized I was just wasting time, overwhelmed by the numerous ideas I had and stuck with decision paralysis. I had to figure out a way to make it easier for me to say “we should do this today”, “here are things that we need to do this activity” and just get to it without pulling my hair out. I would feel completely accomplished and satisfied even if we could squeeze in 20 minutes to do something fun together.
I assigned a theme to each school day to help with coming up with ideas of what to do with children and plan for time place and materials needed etc. Granted when there was too much homework to do, we wouldn’t be able to get to do anything, which is a big pain point for me and a subject of a separate post. At least when we had time I was ready to come up with options which kids could choose from and do together.
Our schedule which we determined together with children was:
- Creative Writing Monday
- Game Night Tuesday
- Experimental Wednesday
- Arts & Crafts Thursday
- Family Fun Friday
This simple backbone of themes by day give me the opportunity to categorize things we could do together or in parallel in some cases and spend time as a family. When I do my monthly and weekly plan on my calendar/journal, I use these themes as guidelines and plug in ideas for activities in appropriate days. I put them in our planning calendar on our whiteboard wall as well.
are our creative writing days. We sit down with our laptops and type away for 30-45 minutes and then read what we wrote to each other. I have a list of writing prompts or everyone picks their own idea or topic. The idea is to encourage free writing.
is a “late extra-curricular activity” night, so we make sure we spare time to play t least one round of a game with the board games we have. Not every parent is cut for every game and every children’s activity. However, except for few specific games such as monopoly, I’m down with playing board games with kids.
Baking soda, citric acid (or vinegar) and food coloring: The three basic staples which provide hours of entertainment. #experimentalwednesday A post shared by Practical Mama (@practicalmama) on
I pick a quick and fun experiment from my Pinterest board or pick one of the science experiment kits we have at home. I am mostly in material procurement and monitoring mode while kids conduct the experiments but still, we are having fun.
New year, old aspirations, new habits! I have no new resolutions this year. I just want to make more of what I love and enjoy those things with my children as long as they want them as well. Good thing they share my love of arts and addiction of art supplies and notebooks. What’s a new habit you are planning to get into in 2017?
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we play with our coloring and painting materials. Sometimes I have a theme or a specific project, or medium or everyone picks whatever they want to do. This type of structure is specifically helpful for Wednesdays and Thursday, which helps me mark down my list (of Pinterest board) of experiment, arts & crafts activities I want to do.
I make the pizza, they provide the entertainment. #fridaypizzanight & #karaoke A post shared by Practical Mama (@practicalmama) on
is our pizza and family fun night. There is no rush, no homework, no bedtime curfew, so we try to spend fun time. For a while, we did karaoke after pizza but we don’t do that anymore. We don’t have a karaoke machine. There are many karaoke videos you can find on youtube. The hardest part is to pick family friendly songs but it’s fun. Sometimes we play board games or simply sit at the table and talk away the night.
On weekends, we have a theme which I’d like to call “have as much outdoor fun as possible”. I try to fit at least 2-3 ski trips every Winter, 4-5 long bike rides in Spring and Fall and 3 camping trips every summer. Every once in a while we’ll have a weekend that we have no plans, nothing we have to do, so we’ll just hang out at home or in the backyard depending on the weather.
This daily theme list is specific to our family. There might be other ideas for daily themes based on you and your children’s interests such as:
- cooking or baking,
- playing with LEGOs,
- DIY projects,
- pretend play,
- spa etc.
I hope this daily theme for after school family fun idea will help you do more and also have more meaningful family time in your evenings. Feel free to share other ideas, tips, and tricks you use to prevent daily rush take over your evenings and make sure you have fun with your children.