You’ve made your back to school checklist, bought new sneakers, backpacks, and more glue sticks than any one person could ever possibly use in a year. You think you’re ready to send your kiddo(s) off to school, but wait, what about when they come home in the afternoons, hungry, talkative, and with energy to burn? Don’t worry, here are 14 after school activities that will help them be creative, express themselves, open up emotionally, release pent up energy, and eat healthy. Starting a new school year is daunting, but you’ve got this!
1. Play General Store
You may see just a family room—sofa, a TV, coffee table, etc—but when after school activities take place in there, the room can easily become a charming general store selling everything from boxes of crackers to stuffed animals. Encourage your kids to gather books, toys, unopened food from the pantry, and other items, label them with prices, and fling ‘the doors’ open to their general store. You then wander the ‘aisles’, ask both silly and serious questions about the products, and make your purchases. As you make a back to school checklist, be sure to include planning fun after school activities like playing store.
2. Fishing After School
After a day spent inside behind a desk, there are few after school activities better than fishing after school. When you’re done with work and chores, before or after dinner time, grab the fishing rods and head to a nearby body of water to drop lines in. Actually catching something while fishing with kids is just a bonus. What matters most is the precious time fishing provides for solidifying bonds, chatting about their day at school, telling jokes, and making memories together. Check out the top 100 family friendly places to fish in America.
3. Puppet Show
Fear not: you don’t need proper puppets to have a puppet show! Using stuffed animals, action figures, or dolls, or even boxes of pasta and tall fresh produce like celery or asparagus if you really want to be creative and hilarious, kneel behind the sofa, put on an improv puppet show, and make your kids crack up after a tough day at school.
4. Painting En Plein Air
If you find yourself searching, “After school activities near me,” you probably won’t find anything closer than your own backyard! Except, maybe your living room/general store! Painting outside, or ‘en plein air’ as it is called, is a great way to combine creativity with spending time in nature. Whether your kiddo is still in the finger paint stage, wants to paint rocks to help with their anxiety or others' mental health, or is working on a canvas on an easel, popping outside on pleasant day when the wind is calm to paint is a superb way to unwind after a day of math, science, and geography lessons.
5. Dance Party
Speaking of great after school activities to unwind after learning new things and taking quizzes, crank up your kids favorite tunes through a bluetooth speaker and instigate an afternoon, midweek dance party to stir their bodies and their brains, tire them out, and make them even hungrier for dinner!
6. Make A Healthy Snack Together
It’s important that kids get a good, healthy snack after school because after teachers feeding their minds all day, their bellies are probably getting a little bit jealous. Whether you make ants on a log with celery, peanut butter, and raisins, or bake something fresh in the oven, making a snack together in the kitchen is a fun way to get your kids excited about cooking, meal prep, and subtly teaching them the importance of nutrition and a balanced diet.
7. Have A Picnic
After you and your child have made snacks, take them outside for an after school picnic. If they’d like extra company, bring their favorite doll, action figure, or stuffed animal to sit comfortably on the blanket too!
8. Write Book Spine Poetry
While you can and should read some Mary Oliver nature and animal poems to and with your young children, you can also easily create some original poetry using the titles of the books you have on your shelves at home (or at the library). Stack books on top of each other, and create poetry using the titles from top to bottom. This simply creative activity could rev up their imagination and have them taking a fresh interest in writing poetry, short stories, and more.
9. Lemonade Stand
One of the classic after school activities is making pitchers of lemonade in the kitchen, then setting up a table, making a sign, and waiting for thirty customers to drive or walk by. When it comes to after school activities outdoors, starting a lemonade stand is a delicious option!
10. Clean and Donate
Most kids (and a lot of adults too) don’t like to clean, but when a purpose is driving the action, motivation levels may increase. Many families in communities across the country are in need of clothes, games, books, toys, and more, things your family may have in excess. If you are looking for after school activities near me that will give back to people less fortunate, cleaning and donating is going to bring you and your kids a lot of joy.
11. Hike and Bike
After school activities outdoors on a beautiful day are the best because your child has been stuck inside, save for short recess if they got to take one, looking out at blue skies. Now is your opportunity to soak up the sun, feel the breeze, and breath in some crisp clean air with your kiddo while hiking or biking. Of course they need glue sticks, folders, and pencils to start a new school year, but they also need nature-based after school activities, so add bike rides and nature hikes to your back to school checklist too!
12. Do Puzzles
Those who like to do puzzles will tell you about the zen state of mind the activity provides them. In a hectic world of screens, notifications, and noise, doing puzzles is one of the after school activities that can help bring some peace and serenity to your child’s life. There are puzzles, from wooden 10-piece puzzles to complex 1000-piece scenes (and even bigger ones), that are perfectly suited to your child, their attention span, your home’s available flat surface area, and the time allotted for this activity after school.
13. Indoor/Outdoor Soccer
The beautiful game is a beautiful after school activity, and one that can be played outside on grass (of course) or as an indoor activity, in a hallway once all the art, photos, and knickknacks have been removed. With closed doors, and a clean long rectangular space, this tight space indoor soccer game is a great idea to keep in your back pocket for a rainy afternoon after school!
14. Scavenger Hunt
Finally, send your kids on a wild goose chase, inside and out, with a big scavenger hunt. If you are home during the day, hide items while they are at school and surprise them with an epic hunt for colors (maybe you hid only yellow things), themed items (sports equipment, for example), or an off-season egg hunt. No matter what you hide for them to find, your kids are going to be so excited to have awesome after school activities you took the time to create for them.
Check out even more fun outdoor activities to do with your kids, and consider giving these budget-friendly outdoor hobbies a try.