October is upon us, friends!
As the seasons slowly change, we hope you’re getting settled into the rhythm of the new school year. Now that your kiddo has adjusted to their new classroom and/or school, you may be finding yourself looking for ways to keep them occupied at home after the school day is over. Between practices, lessons, snack time, and homework, that time of day can be slightly chaotic.
After a long day of focusing and learning, your little students come home from school with pent up energy, emotions, and a very real need to relax, let loose and have some fun. Many of us parents also have younger siblings still at home, children who are also in need of an activity to keep them occupied until dinner is ready. It can be a challenge to find after school activities that are interesting enough for older children, yet still safe and enjoyable for younger siblings.
Today we’re sharing a helpful list of after school activities that will entertain kids of all ages. These after school activities are tried-and-true ways to entertain both older kids and their younger siblings. From a fun rainbow foam party to putting on a play, these after school activity ideas will help you bridge those hours between school time and bedtime, so your evening can be harmonious, not hectic!
This list of after school activities for kids of all ages is compiled from both personal experience and recommendations from other parents. Here we go!
Make Wonder Dough
Photo credit: Growing a Jeweled Rose
You’ve seen recipes for homemade play dough, but have you ever tried… Wonder Dough? I am so excited to try this out with my kids! This recipe consists of only two ingredients – cornstarch and washable paint – and creates a unique play dough with a consistency that is unlike any of the other play doughs we’ve tried. It’s simple enough that you can even include your kiddos in on the mixing fun!
Help Cook Dinner
“Is she for real?” I am, friends. I am for real. This is a perfect opportunity to bond as a family and teach kids valuable life skills. If your big kid isn’t used to helping with dinner, they might moan groan. But once they see the fruits of their labor, most kids will enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to help you chop, sauté, fill, and serve. Safety is a priority of course, so grab a kid-sized pair of oven mitts and cooking utensils, a little apron, and be prepared to supervise. Smaller children as young as three and four can be extremely helpful in dumping, mixing, rinsing, and even chopping with a toddler-sized tools (such as this or these). Yes, it may take a bit longer than usual with the young children, but the shared experience will make the final results even more enjoyable. And in another year or so, your child may just offer to cook dinner for you!
Put on a Play
Whether your kiddo is a performer, writer, organizer, or a bit of all three, there is plenty of fun to be had planning a performance for the family. I cannot count the number of plays or musicals my siblings and I produced as children. As the oldest of my siblings, I naturally preferred to be in charge. With plenty of input from my younger siblings, we planned costumes, picked music, choreographed dances, and wrote scripts to perform for our parents. The opportunities for child development are endless here. If you’re lucky, this is one activity that could turn into weeks of fun for your kiddos!
Puzzles & Pajamas Picnic
We just love this idea from Inner Child for an after school puzzles & pajamas picnic! Spread out a blanket, grab a mess-free after school snack and a stack of your favorite puzzles and let the kiddos loose. No matter how old your kiddos are, there are puzzles that suit each age. We have gobs and gobs of puzzles at our house, but my children seldom think to get them out themselves. Each time I pull them out however, I’m shocked by how studiously they will happily sit and work. Sometimes it really does require just a little setup to unleash their creativity!
Build Something Together
If there is one toy that gets mileage in our home, it’s building blocks. LEGOs, classic wooden blocks of various colors, fancy magnetic blocks, MagnaTiles - truly any kind of block is an instant hit the moment they spill out onto the floor. Kids of all ages will adore the chance to zone out and build a masterpiece. Building is also a wonderful way to teach kids about physics, math, and art! With the exception of little tiny babies that might put tiny LEGOs in their mouth, most blocks are safe for kids of all ages to build with. If you can spare the time, the fun is 100x greater when Mom or Dad joins in on the building fun.
Have a (Mess-Free) Foam Party
Photo credit: Fun At Home With Kids
This Rainbow Soap Bubbles Sensory Play recipe looks like the perfect way for young kids to get their hands dirty while having fun and zoning out. The rainbow foam takes about 10 minutes to whip up (just dish soap, food coloring, and water) and will provide a good hour of fun, or more! I will admit that my brain said “nope” when I initially saw this idea. But upon further inspection I will say – it really does seem like a fabulous idea, and your kids would LOVE it. A plastic “sensory” bin or other vessel can hold the rainbow foam and it can be easily transported outside or to a bathtub if you want to really contain any potential mess.
Break Out the Paints
While more and more schools are embracing arts education, art is still a very small part of most school children’s week (with the exception of Kindergarten and first grade, perhaps!). Kids love to draw and paint as a way to relax and get creative. With all the various painting mediums available (from tempura finger paints for young kids to acrylic paints for older children), you’re sure to find that will work for kids of all ages. Make this easier by storing all the supplies – brushes, water cups, paints, and papers - in a specially designated tub that can be pulled out at a moments notice. For easier clean up, toss a vinyl tablecloth in the bin (we like the kind that have flannel on one side).
Have a Dance Party
You won’t find a kids activity list from me without an option for dancing. It is just such a great way to burn some energy and release some of those happy hormones, and children of all ages love to dance! For older children who have been sitting at a school desk most of the day, the opportunity to move their body and take a brain break will be most welcome. Plus, research has shown that even 30 minutes of exercise helps kids focus and manage moods. Create your own playlist or tap into Pandora or Spotify for specially curated music that will make all your kids want to move their feet.
Send Them Outside
If all else fails and the weather isn’t awful, I’m a big fan of sending those kids outside. Nothing cures boredom and/or stress like a hefty dose of nature! Research has shown that regular unrestricted access to nature is one of the best tools in promoting healthy child development. Outdoor play fosters young children’s intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. Some of our best memories as children come from long hours of uninterrupted, unmanaged play with siblings. No recipe or fancy equipment needed!
We hope this list of after school activities helped spark your imagination and creativity. Here’s to another enriching, enjoyable school year for your family!
What is your go-to after school activity for your older/younger kiddos?