Managing After-School Activities

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Kids sure do a lot of stuff these days. Gone are those of coming home from school to a plate of cookies and a glass of milk, then running outside to play until Mom calls you in for dinner and homework. Now, there sports teams, music lessons, dance classes, art, music lessons and so on. It’s exhausting just thinking of it, isn’t it? And you’re about to become chauffeur and ring master for all.


But it’s manageable, really. Here’s some simple tips, after a little word of warning.

Much has been written in the past few years about the necessity of not over-scheduling kids. And that goes doubley-so for younger ones. Quite simply put, they spent all day in school, absorbing, and they need some down-time afterwards. The tendency for so many of us parents to put our kids in various enriching activities is a good-intentioned one, but there is such a thing as too much. Consider limiting your kids’ afterschool schedule to one or two days per week, to allow them time to breathe, relax and just have fun, being kids.

Schedule activities for the same times
If you’re going to schedule your child for more than one activity per week, try to keep it within the same time frames. It can throw even the most adjusted child off if they have a lesson right after school on Monday, swimming on Wednesday night and t-ball on Thursday at dinner time. This holds true for the effect on siblings, since they’re often along for the ride. You may want to maintain a hard-and-fast time slot, say, activities only between 4-6pm.

Corral supplies together
The easiest thing you can do for yourself and your child is to have a separate bag or case for each activity. For example, music lessons will often require an instrument in a case, but you should also have a bag for sheet music and pencils; each sport may require different clothing or uniforms and gear, so each sport should get its own bag.

For activities requiring special uniforms, carry the bag directly into the laundry room afterwards – after the uniform is cleaned, put it back into the bag. Here’s the key: keep all activity bags in the same area, so you’re never at risk of forgetting it. You can store bags in the trunk of your car, or in an otherwise logical place, like the garage.

Plan multiple activities in the same places
If you have one child with a gymnastics class at 4pm in Place A, another with volleyball at 4:30pm in Place B, and another with an ortho exam at 4:45pm at Place C, how will you deliver (and pick up) all of them? The simple answer is to schedule all activities and appointments for siblings in the same area of town. The less driving that you have to do, the better, right? Also, the less of a time crunch you’re under, the more pleasant it will be fore everyone – without as much traffic concerns.

Coordinate pick up times with your partner
Will you be the sole chauffeur, or will your partner be helping, too? Once you have signed your kids up for all of the teams and lessons you feel is appropriate, plan a time to discuss with your partner when practices, games, lessons and recitals are – with a calendar on hand. See what pick-ups and drop-offs your partner is available for, and ensure that their schedule will mesh with games and performances.

Trade off car pool responsibilities
It doesn’t take long to meet other parents in the drop-off line. Perhaps you already know some of the children yours will be on the soccer team with from last year’s team, the neighbourhood or your child’s school. Broach the idea of coordinating a car pool with other parents you know – you could end up only having to pick up or drop off your child half the time, if you volunteer to give another child a ride on your days, too.

Reminders are your friend
Do you have an iPhone? Download an app, to remind you (with ample warning) when you have to get ready to go, pick up your child, have an appointment, and so on. Or use other reminder service, like Google Calendar, or a simple alarm on your phone. Just make sure to set something up to remind yourself that you have to leave in 15-30 minutes, lest you be the last parent to show at the baseball diamond. Before you think ‘but, I already have it written down on my calendar!’, set your reminder service to remind you to check the calendar.

Don’t forget a snack
It’s a fact: after school, kids get hungry. If they’re ushered directly from school grounds to lesson-central without a nibble of protein, you may soon find yourself with a cranky, lethargic kiddo. Bring a snack that they can eat between school and their activity that included complexe carbohydrates and protein, as well as a serving of fruit or vegetables. A good example: Half of a peanut butter sandwich, with a banana on the side. Don’t forget a water bottle, too!

Prepare the rest of the family
You may be on your game, as far as school pick-up and activity drop-off is concerned, but what about everyone else? Remember: smaller siblings will still need snacks, drinks and stimulation, too.

Also keep in mind that if you have a lesson scheduled in the late-afternoon, unless your partner is making dinner while you’re out, you should plan for a solution ahead of time. Quick meals are a life-saver, as are meals cooked in the slow-cooker and those you’ve frozen in preparation for busy days like this. Spaghetti with meatballs (prepare the sauce and balls ahead of time and freeze a family-sized amount) and garlic bread, chicken fajitas (pre-slice chicken and vegetables earlier in the day and grill), stirfry (preslice the veggies and meat earlier in the day) and stew from the crock pot will guarantee your family’s eating within half an hour of your arrival.

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