How to have a stress-free after-school routine
Your child's getting used to a busy school day so what do they need from pick-up time to bedtime? Here's how to create a healthy after-school routine that meets their new needs, winds them down gently and sets them up for a great day tomorrow
That all important first day at school is done and dusted. You both made it! Now you can let out a big sigh of relief and get back to normal. Except actually you can't, because this is now your life for, ooh, the next 14 or so years...
Obviously, it does get a whole lot easier with time, and most children settle into the school routine of getting up early and wearing specific clothes very rapidly. But often, we are so busy concentrating on making sure our school mornings run like clockwork, we forget the importance of a reliable afternoon routine.
Here's 10 top tips to help you create a great daily after-school routine
1. Take a healthy snack for pick up
Most children leave school ravenous, which can quickly manifest itself in the grumps! A banana, a mini box of dried fruit or a low-sugar cereal bar should fill the hole without filling them up too much before tea. Don't forget something to drink, too.
2. Walk home if you can
The school day can totally wipe a Reception/P1 child out and it's not unusual for them to beg for a push home in the buggy, if you're going home on foot, or to fall asleep in the car, if you're driving. Both of these are fine, of course, but actually a walk home in the fresh air, if they can manage it, can work wonders as a mood booster – and give you a chance to have a nice chat. If your child's really not keen, you could try bringing along a scooter with a pull and carry handle, like this one from Micro Scooter, when you pick them up. Then, if they get tired scooting home, you could pull/tow them the rest of the way.
3. Be ready for the pent-up energy burst
So, actually, not all children crawl exhausted from the classroom; some emerge with a ton of pent-up energy to burn off. If that's your child, ignore it at your peril! A good, long race or bike or scoot around the park on your way home is usually the best call.
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4. Don't demand a blow by blow account of their day
Yes, we know, you're dying to know what they've been up to at school but, though some children love describing their day in incredible detail, most will react to a hardly-out-the-school-gates "What did you do today?" quizzing with not much more than a mumbled "Nothing!" You'll probably get a lot more out of them if you leave your questions till a little later, when they've had a snack and some time to chill out.
5. Unpack school bags as soon as you get in
Always check their bag after school for notes from the teacher and possibly toys or other items that have been 'borrowed' from school/classmates. The earlier you find either, the better!
6. Expect not-so-nice behaviour
Don't take it personally if they're less than angelic when you first get home. They've had to be on good behaviour all day, so they kind of let loose when they're with you.
7. Try not to overdo the post-school social life...
Don't rush headlong into the after-school play-date thing. As much as you want your child to make friends and be popular, it can become overwhelming in those early days when there's already so much to adjust to. One playdate a week is plenty.
8. ... or the after-school clubs
Just because your school offers judo, country dancing and Mandarin, it doesn't mean you have to sign your child up for them all at once! They've many terms ahead of them to enjoy all the after-school activities; spend the initial months letting them unwind at home doing something familiar, like watching a favourite TV show or messing about with their toys.
9. Have supper early
Remember the days when your toddler would fall asleep in their mushed-up meals? Well, it's not unheard of for a knackered Reception/P1 newbie to doze off in front of their fish fingers, either. It's definitely worth considering dishing up dinner half an hour or so earlier than usual for a few weeks at least.
10. Prep for tomorrow before bed
Get your child into the habit of hanging out tomorrow's uniform before they go to bed. And putting whatever else they need for tomorrow – PE kit, toy for 'show and tell', signed consent forms – in their school bag. Your mornings will thank you for it.
Pic: Getty Images
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