Figuring out how to spend quality time with your kids after school can be challenging, especially if your children have extracurricular activities and/or you’re a working parent that gets home closer to dinner or bedtime. The late afternoon and evening hours can be particularly tricky as everyone is tired and there’s so much to do in preparation for the following day. It can be tempting to rely on the iPad or TV to occupy your kids while you power through household chores, but experience has taught me time and again that in order for my daughter to feel happy and secure, she needs to feel a connection with me.
If you want to know how to spend quality time with your kids after school, rest assured it doesn’t need to be an Olympic event. You don’t need to pull out all of your board games, put a 1,500-piece puzzle together, or create Pinterest-worthy crafts. You just need to carve out some uninterrupted time to connect with your children and remind them they matter to you.
Here are 13 ways you can find the time to connect with your children on even your busiest days.
How to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids After School
1) Build it into your evening routine
Towards the end of this past school year, I was really struggling to stay afloat. I was frantically working ahead on all of my work projects in preparation for my daughter being home for 11 days between school ending and camp starting, and found myself using the iPad as a babysitter more than I was comfortable with. I inevitably felt guilty once bedtime rolled around and realized my daughter and I hadn’t done anything fun, and decided to try something different.
I bought a small chalkboard and some chalkboard markers to hang in my daughter’s bedroom, and each night before I tucked her into bed, we decided on an activity to enjoy together the following afternoon, and wrote it on the board. I suppose we could’ve just verbally agreed to the activity, but I found writing it down gave the 2 of us more accountability. I also noticed that having a written reminder gave us something to look forward to each morning while we were getting ready for school, which was an added bonus.
2) Create a family calendar
Another thing I’ve found helpful when it comes to figuring out how to spend quality time with your kids after school is to stay on top of everyone’s schedules so you can plan accordingly. There are so many different ways you can do this – you can go old school and buy a wall calendar to hang in your kitchen, or you can download a fancy app that allows multiple users to make updates and changes. Whichever option you choose, make sure there is only ONE place where everything is recorded. You can then reference your calendar in advance so you know what’s on tap for the day and determine the best times to squeeze in quality time with your child.
3) Don’t multitask
When spending quality time with your child, it’s important that you give him or her your undivided attention. This means shutting down your computer and putting your smartphone in another room so you aren’t distracted. And unless your child is helping you with household chores, it’s important to put those aside as well.
4) Create an after school ritual
Whether it’s hitting up the park, stopping at your local coffee shop for a hot chocolate, or cuddling on the couch with cookies and milk, find something you and your child enjoy doing together at the end of a long day and make it a habit. Remember that this doesn’t need to be something expensive or overly time-consuming – it’s more about creating a daily ritual you and your little one can look forward to.
5) Say something positive to your child
I realize this doesn’t really count as spending quality time with your child, but never underestimate the power of saying something encouraging to your child. Congratulate them on a good grade they received at school. Remind them how helpful they were to you while you were rushing out the door that morning. Relay something positive their teacher said about them at school pickup. Kids are often reminded about all the things they do WRONG each day, and taking the time to point out their positive traits can have a huge impact on their self-confidence and can really set the tone for your time together. Remember to get down to your child’s level, to look them in the eye, and to be genuine in your delivery.
6) Make chores fun
One of the biggest reasons it can be hard to figure out how to spend quality time with your kids after school is because there are always a million household chores that need tending to. Am I right?! From folding laundry, to cooking dinner, to packing school lunches, to stacking the dishwasher, it can feel overwhelming trying to balance it all. If this sounds like you, try to find ways you can complete your chores with your child. For example, 2 times a week my daughter and I hang out in the basement after school so I can fold laundry. She brings down some of her favorite toys and plays alongside me while I fold, and we take turns asking the other person questions about their day. It’s not the most exciting activity, but it works!
7) Play ‘high/low’
I learned this little game in the movie The Story of Us with Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis many years ago and love it. To play, everyone shares the best and worst thing about their day. You can make this serious or funny, and it’s a great way to get your little ones to share their wins and ask you for help with the things they’re struggling with.
8) Enforce family meals
If you’re trying to figure out how to spend quality time with your kids after school and your schedule allows for it, make it a point to eat together as a family each night for dinner. Instead of eating in front of the TV or allowing your kids to bring their phones and tablets to the table, spend the time doing some good old fashioned talking.
9) Create a weekly family night
If family dinners aren’t possible, a standing weekly family date night is another idea to consider. Whether you make tacos and eat on the back deck, order pizza and watch a movie, or organize a family game night, having a standing date each week to come together and connect as a family can do wonders for you and your children.
10) Exercise together
I’m noticing more and more moms posting videos of themselves working out with their kids at home on Instagram these days, and I think it’s an awesome way to spend quality time together while also teaching and modelling healthy habits. There are so many fun ways you can incorporate fitness into the quality time you spend with your kids, allowing you to stick to your health and parenting goals all at the same time.
11) Sign up for a class together
While there are tons of mom-and-me activities for younger kids, it can be harder to find classes to enjoy with older children, so you may need to get creative. Consider taking up an instrument together, find an art class that caters to families, and check your local community center to see if they offer anything you can enjoy with your little one.
12) Organize a family sleepover
As intentional as we try to be with our time, there are always going to be periods in which it is next to impossible to carve out sufficient quality time with our kids every single day. And that’s okay! Life happens, and sometimes you need to think outside the box to find ways to connect with your kids. Organizing a family sleepover in the living room or basement is a great idea as it’s super fun and allows everyone to catch up on some Z’s while still spending time together.
13) Do something spontaneous
If you’re trying to figure out how to spend quality time with your kids after school and feel as though you are constantly falling short, my final suggestion is to do something completely spontaneous. This could be as simple as pushing bedtime 30 minutes later than normal and organizing a walk around the neighborhood in your pajamas as a family, to something more drastic like signing your child out of school early to hit up an amusement park or watch a new movie at your local theater. The possibilities are endless, and you and your child with enjoy a break in routine.
If you’re trying to figure out how to spend quality time with your kids after school, I hope these tips and ideas help you. Remember to plan ahead and make it part of your daily routine, to find ways to make household chores and exercise fun, and to think outside the box and find ways to spend time with your kids when life gets busy. Most importantly, have fun!