The afternoons once the kids get home from school are challenging! After a fun-filled, active, and stimulating day at school, Lucy gets home and is just a mix of tired, excited, happy, and emotional all in one! Mix that with a 2 year old brother, whose nap schedule has been altered with the a new school year routine, and you have a recipe for craziness!
We get home from school around 2:30 and dinner isn’t until about 5:30. Those three hours in between have been some of the most challenging I’ve experienced since the start of the school year. Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing around with different ideas to find out what’s successful with the kids during that block of time in the afternoon. Some things have worked and some have completely failed.
The main challenges for us are:
- Lucy needs space and time to unwind from her day at school. Theo, on the other hand, is just longing to hang out with his big sister and get her attention in any way he can. Not a good combo.
- Both kids are worn out and tired adjusting to their new routine and sleep schedule.
After trying out a lot of different activities, I’ve started to get a feel for what types of things are helping us transition through the afternoon period. This is what seems to be working for us so far. (This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.)
If it’s a nice day (or even an almost nice day) we head straight to the beach or park from school- no stops at home. I make sure Lucy goes to the bathroom before leaving school, and we go straight there. The kids have lots of space and open-ended options for play. And being outside can really change just about anyone’s mood!
Setting Up an Invitation to Create or Play
Before Theo and I head off to school to pick up Lucy, I set up some materials for the kids to create with once they get home. I always make sure the activity is very open-ended where they are free to do whatever they want.
For instance, I may just place a felt board on the table with different felt shapes to create with. Or, sometimes I just pull out something simple like our wooden hundred board or some puzzles. Another favorite is setting out some play dough with any type of loose parts like marbles or stones.
These invitations are perfect for a rainy day or a day where you need to get an early start to dinner and can’t watch the kids outside.
Changing It Up
One thing that’s worked really well is to take a regular indoor activity and bring it outside. A simple change in scenery always seems to help our afternoon run smoothly.
Today I had set up watercolors for the kids to create with. Lucy had no interest and declared she was bored. (The dreaded ‘B’ word!) Theo really wanted to paint, but also really wanted to get Lucy’s attention. Since she wasn’t interested in painting, he was having a hard time settling on what to do. Finally, I just picked up all the painting materials, took them to the backyard, and placed them on our tree stumps. Success! Lucy began painting and eventually started splatter painting and mixing colors. (Love that you don’t have to worry about a watercolor mess outside!) Theo started painting, but eventually headed to the water table to play with rocks and water which gave Lucy some of her own space she desperately needs after school.
It took me about three weeks to finally figure out some strategies to help our afternoons run smoothly. I’m sure things will change as the year goes on so I’ll have to stay on my toes!
I’d love for your to share any strategies or tips you have with helping maintain peace in your family’s afternoon block between the end of the school day and dinner.
What is your time block between school and dinner like?
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