3 Ways I Manage the After School Craziness

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!


3 Ways We Manage the Afternoon Craziness~ Buggy and Buddy 

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.)


Going outside

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!


How We Spend Our Time After School~ Buggy and Buddy

How We Spend Our Time After School~ Buggy and Buddy 

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.


How We Spend Our Time After School~ Buggy and Buddy


How We Spend Our Time After School~ Buggy and Buddy


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. 


How We Spend Our Time After School~ Buggy and Buddy


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? 


You may also be interested in the following posts:

Our Favorite Books for Back to School

Reusable Cloth Napkin Tutorial for School Lunches

Our Favorite Lunch Box 


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  1. Sounds wonderful! Our son’s preschool starts tomorrow and after 3 months at home, I am curious to see how that block of time will be for us. I try to have something set up for him after we have a little outside time but often he needs a snack first! It sure is a long chunk of time though. Good post to get me thinking!

    • Thanks, Sarah! I feel like parenting is a never ending lesson in learning. Just when you think you have things figured out, a new challenge comes your way! I’m sure it will continue to be the case with this after school time.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Chelsey. My kids start school this week and this is one of the things I least look forward to. Between snacks, homework, dinner, baths; it always feels like the evening after school is so chaotic!

    • Isn’t it?! I remembered hearing moms talk about that crazy time of day, but I didn’t really get it until I fully experienced it this year. Phew~ so hard trying to balance two tired kids. Hope your kids have a fabulous first week of school!

  3. i am thirty two weeks pregnant and honestly, just barely have the energy to pick my kids up from school, let alone think of something creative for them to do in the afternoons! my first grader always has homework as well and i’ve found if he doesn’t do it right away, it doesn’t get done at all. we don’t have a park nearby or a backyard space to play in (our backyard is entirely pool – not our choice but necessity has us here for now. the kids aren’t old enough to be back there without major parental involvement. any ideas for a tired, cranky mama and her wound-up kids (6, 4, and 2)? thanks in advance…

    • Hi Katie~ The end of the pregnancy was so challenging for me and hard enough just have one child to entertain. You have all my admiration! My 5 year old can often sit and play with legos on her own for quite a while. And for some reason my 2 year old is OBSESSED with stringing beads. Both of my kids also are so enthralled with any new type of art supply~ markers, special pad of paper etc. I also have a box I keep out of view and reach of the kids. I call it my “desperation box” for when I just can’t think of anything for the kids or am not feeling well. LOL In it are little things I’ve picked up at the store over time that I can pull out as a ‘new’ toy for the kids to play with since new things hold their attention for awhile. I just peeked in mine~ Right now I have little packets of Model Magic in it, watercoloring books, Wikki Stix, play dough, little activity books from the $1 bins at Target and a little stamping set. I also asked my good blogging friends for suggestions. My Nearest and Dearest suggested play dough or a super simple water bin~ maybe with things for pouring. And Fantastic Fun & Learning thought some DVD’s involving exercise, yoga or dance might be fun for the kids and suggested checking the local library. Hope that helps a little! Hang in there! 🙂

  4. Chelsey,
    Thanks for this! Very helpful ideas. 🙂 Featuring this at Family Fun Friday!

  5. In France kids are in school starting at 3 yr unil 4:30 and most until 6 PM. I live in the US and have the same schedule for them in a wonderful preschool/K program. We get home, we have dinner, bath. The 5 yr old does her piano while I play with the 2 yr old. We have 15 min plan then story time and asleep by 8:30. Kids wake up at 7 AM and are in school between 8:30 and 9 AM. They are happy and despite what a mom told me, it is not cruel for kids that small to be in school all day.


  1. […] 3 Ways We Manage the After School Craziness ::: Buggy and Buddy […]

  2. […] in their own creative way. I often set up these invitations for the kids to do when Lucy gets home after school. It’s a great way for the kids to be together, but also allows them the freedom to create […]

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