Friday, August 2, 2013

Creating An After-School Routine That Promotes Learning AT School

It is the final week of Get Ready for K Through Play and I am getting a little bit sad about my son heading off to kindergarten in a few weeks.

Today's post is about getting Ready to Learn and I am going to share a little bit about how we structure our afternoon routine during the school year so that it promotes learning AT school.

Did you know that what your child does after school can impact how he does at school?

I often get hung up focusing solely on bedtime routines and the importance of eating good meals, but over the last year as my son had a longer day at pre-k I learned that what we did after school made a big impact on how he felt and performed at school the following day too.

I'm going to share four of the activities that we include in our after-school schedule that will help promote learning at school...  

1. Free Play

One of the first things we like to do after school is simply just play. Often my son is exhausted from all of the social time with other kids that he just wants to come straight home and go play legos by himself. He missed his toys and his ability to play whenever he wanted, so this downtime was exactly what he craved. I am a big fan of quiet time. I think independent quiet play time is really important for kids. 

Although I really wanted to plan something right after school, I tried to follow my son's lead. Somedays play after school would be at the park instead of at home and some days we'd meet friends at the park. Time for free unstructured play is really important for developing creativity and for self-discovery. Kids who have time to think on their own (not doing something that is planned or created by someone else) can come up with some amazing things and delve more into their own interests and imaginations. 

2. Snack time

One thing that doesn't work right after school is for me to ask my son, "so what did you do today?" At that point he usually doesn't feel too talkative and says, "I don't remember." If I have a healthy snack that he likes ready when we get home, he'll sit down and eat and all of a sudden his memory will start working again. :) I'll tell him about our day, he'll tell us about his day and we all get re-energized and ready for the next part of our afternoon! 
Snacks give kids a brain boost and gives them energy to do all of the other after school activities that they want to do. Snacks that are light and filled with protein and fiber are the most effective.

3. Learning Time

Another way that I like to promote learning at school is to create fun-filled learning opportunities at home that connect with what my kids are learning at school. Our learning time is typically child-led and based on current interests. During this time frame we read books, do arts and crafts, create projects, and do science and writing activities. We often will pick a concept that my child is learning at school (like word family words) and then create an active game to help reinforce that concept. I love to have my son create our games. He comes up with great ideas!

Learning time can also coincide with after school activities where your child is learning a new skill- like swimming or dance. We often held our Mommy and Me Book Club get togethers in the late afternoon after school. We would read a book and do some crafts and activities with friends.

My goal for learning time is to have fun together... not to make my son hate learning. This is not a time for worksheets and sitting down to do drilled pencil and paper tasks. Homework can be embedded into this time frame, but it could also be done after dinner.

4. Chore time

The last thing that we always embed into our afternoon routine is chore time. I've found that the late afternoon right before dinner or right after dinner is usually our best time of the day to get chores done. My five year old's main chore is to clean his room and help pick up other play areas of the house. He is also starting to help with setting and clearing the table before/after meals.

If we wait until right before bedtime to have him clean up his room, there is always a battle. If we clean up in the late afternoon and make it a fun family activity by creating a competition, then we are all relieved at bedtime when we just need to do simple get ready for bed tasks and read together. This makes it much easier to stick to our bedtime schedule and get him to sleep on time! It also helps us have more time for fun things before bed like reading our favorite chapter book!

Chores teach responsibility and teamwork, build confidence, and help kids become more appreciative. All of these skills make kids more effective learners and participants at school.

I am not a schedule person and have a hard time sticking to the same plan day in and day out. I like the flexibility to adjust our plan if I want. These four activities add some structure to our day without making us feel like the afternoon is too rigid or overly scheduled.

Creating and following a simple after-school routine helps make your day less chaotic and will give you time to connect with your child in positive ways at the end of their long day. 

What is your after school routine? 

Thank you to My Cute Graphics for the use of the superhero kids graphic.

This post is part 8 of an 8 week series being hosted on 6 blogs to help kids Get Ready for K Through Play!

Be sure to read this week's posts shared by my series co-hosts:

(by Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas)

(by Coffee Cups and Crayons)

(by Mama Smiles)

(by Mess for Less)

(by Toddler Approved)

(by Rainy Day Mum)

and be sure to follow our Get Ready for K Through Play Pinterest Board for lots of awesome Kindergarten Readiness resources, ideas and activities.

If you missed any of our posts, head on over to our Get Ready for K Through Play landing page.

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