I decided to ask the kid who has actually gone back to school what we could do to make after school more productive and fun. Of course her answers included "GO TO THE PARK EVERYDAY" as well as "MAKE MILKSHAKES" and "ARTS AND CRAFTS ALL DAY LONG!" I'm not sure what I was expecting for an answer on such a question from an eight year old — but I certainly wasn't surprised. I'm willing to work in a few fun things here and there, assuming all the important stuff has been taken care of first. Rewards can include staying up late on Friday, a special mommy/daughter or daddy/daugther outing on a weeknight. Nothing fancy, but something that proves that family is what is most important to us.
While the park, milkshakes and crafts all sound fun, I've noticed that the best way to keep things running smoothly during the school year are the things she doesn't even notice. The things that have become routine, things that have to get done which allow the other more fun things to happen.
Addie has a schedule, she comes home and first thing she does is plop down to do her homework and take care of any paperwork or forms I need to fill out. Snacks are demanded, snacks are argued over ("No sweetheart, a cupcake is not a snack.") then she goes into the chore portion of the afternoon. Not too long ago we started a job chart, it changes daily depending on what needs to be done. Things hum along pretty well on our system. Once homework is done and chores are completed the rest of the afternoon is hers (or ours, if I feel like sharing.) "Go outside! BE FREE!" will be heavily suggested over the next few weeks before the weather turns so cold even the trees won't want to be outside.
I've always subscribed to schedules, especially for babies and toddlers. Turns out schedules are just as important for keeping bigger little people on task and accountable for their own enjoyment as well. While she'd never come out and say it, I can tell she feels a sense of accomplishment after completing all her chores and homework. Not to mention the rush of knowing you can play, dream, color or dance until dinnertime once those pesky responsibilities are out of the way.
There are times I really miss childhood.
What are your after school routines like?