Oh, kindergarten and preschool.
I’m currently experiencing a love/hate relationship with this big change and milestone in my son Wyndham’s young life. Which, who cares about me? (Okay you can feel sorry for me a little bit because ZOMG the zombie toddler action! My brains! My toddler is eating my brain! It is, after all, hardest for Wyndham right now.) But enough about that.
My thoughts, experiences, ranting, and raving on that subject are for another post, another day.
What I have learned in my short foray into after-school mom-dom is this. Kids come home hungry and tired. They need to be engaged in something they actually want to do and as much as I have no qualms in letting W plunk down on the couch to watch some Netflix, I’m just not down with it being an everyday occurrence for the entire time in-between after-school and dinner.
Since we decided not to put Wyndham in after-school daycare (even though the mister and I both work from home with full-time careers), I’ve had to be creative and resourceful and somewhat organized if I want a hope in hell of still getting some work done and dinner on the table after we pick up our little man come 3 PM each day.
Some of the after-school activities I’ve included below that are simple and mess-free and then there are some others that are somewhat messier, but totally worth it. You choose!
1. Chalk Pastels & Construction Paper
This is a favorite of Wyndham’s. While chalk pastels produce more mess in the creation mode, they are way easier to clean up than oil pastels. Especially off of fingers and all other places the dust can get to. I have a really big dropsheet that I use for crafting and art sessions to drape under the table and chair area that Wyndham or Abby are getting their art on in. I have another smaller one that I drape over the chair he/she are sitting on. (Fabric chairs y’all.) Both were purchased at the dollar store and I couldn’t live without them!
2. Pumpkin Pie Play Clay
There are so many fabulous things about this. I love how easy it is to make and that even the youngest of tots can dig in. (Literally, for those of you who have toddlers that are still into “tasting” everything in sight).
Get the simple instructions via Fun At Home With Kids.
3. Sheet Painting
I got this idea at a festival we went to this summer that always has an outstanding children’s area. Simply let your little ones paint on ripped up sheets! Obviously not the ones you use – grab some from the Goodwill! You can use sticks and a stapler to make flags or a hole punch and some yarn to make super-hero capes!
4. Edible Whipped Paints
Handmade paints the easy way, and the best part? You can make them smelling of all the goodness that fall brings in (the most delicious smells ever), and have no worries about your kids tasting them!
5. Bake Something Delicious
Autumn is here and with that comes baking. I mean obviously, right? Baking some muffins or banana bread with your toddler as a fun activity doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Choose an easy recipe and prep the ingredients before you invite them into the kitchen with you!
6. Whipped Foam Soap Bubbles
This rainbow hued, sensory activity may not be something you want to do in between after-school and dinner… think outside the box! We have a big plastic bin for sensory bin activities like this that I can conveniently place out on our balcony, with a drop-cloth or garbage bag placed underneath for spillage. I can keep my eye on my kids while making dinner and give them a quick hand wash before we eat and toss them in the tub before bed! Toddler tossing! So much fun!
7. Black Glue Watercolor Paiting
Such a cool and easy idea! I can’t wait to try this with Wyndham and Abby pretty soon too!
8. Scented Baked Cotton Balls
I mean, the ideas that Asia Citro, the founder and chief memory maker/idea genius of the blog Fun At Home With Kids comes up with just blow me away! Another one that we’ll be trying out very soon!
9. Free Reign
Sometimes you don’t need to organize anything special. I really believe that kids don’t need to be entertained or have organized play and learning activities every minute of the day. I mean, my guy is having a less than stellar transition with the move from daycare to full-time, full days kindergarten. No naps, less one-on-one care, and a brand new environment with a bigger focus on learning over play. It’s a lot. He’s been getting picked up from school exhausted and/or grouchy and sometimes planned play is just the thing to snap him out of it, sometimes not. Sometimes I still have work to do — I work from home; it’s hard to cut my workdays off everyday at 3 PM instead of 5 PM — and I’m perfectly fine with letting him watch a couple episodes of Magic School Bus or whatever else his little heart desires until dinnertime. Sometimes he just wants to pull out all of his art supplies (within reason, I keep the paints and glitter out if it), and go wild. I think he’s engaging in some sort of art therapy, I swear! It’s only an hour-and-a-half until dinner (re: the screen time) and it’s not everyday.
10. Play Outdoors (And Learn A New Skill)
The development of gross motor skills is constantly changing and moving in new directions when it comes to toddlers. Now that our boy has mastered his trike, it’s time to coach him along with learning to feel confident enough to jet down the hill on our crescent with his balance bike or how to maneuver and ride a scooter. Wyndham’s informed us many a time that he’s going to ride a skateboard when he “gets bigger,” so scooter skills will totally build him up for that. We live in a neighborhood with a bunch of other little kids Wyndham’s age that go to the same school as him, so they all play together on their gear many a day after school. A great way to incorporate an activity like this — at least for us, since we live within walking distance to the school — is to pick up our boy with his bike or scooter in tow (light enough to carry at this point) and then ride home together!
11. Go To The Library
This is the place I love to take Wyndham if I still have work to finish up and dinner is happily bubbling away in the crock pot. I’m working, he’s happily engaged. The library is heaven on earth to him. Win-win.
12. Play Dress-Up
We’re building up quite the tickle-trunk over here and you should too! Little kids love to dress up and engage in roleplay!
13. Take The Long Way Home
This is a great time of year to go on nature and discovery walks. Bring a muffin tray or empty egg carton to fill up with little treasures you find on the walk home from school. (If you live close enough like we do. If not, go for a nature walk when you get home!) Start up a scrapbook and/or use wax paper and a weighty book to make pressed flowers, leaves, and other precious finds. Spell the items, make collages with them and other similar items in magazines, the options are endless!
14. Make An Instrument
Get crafty, then get musical!
15. Activity Books
Depending on their mood, this could be just the easy, quiet time they and you are looking for. Kumon and Leap Frog activity books are Wyndham’s favoured brand of choice.
16. Castles, Towers, And Car Ramps: Oh My!
The key to this totally engaging your little one for a good chunk of time is making a big enough space to build amazing things in, no younger toddler-zillas running amok that will knock things over, and all the imagination in the world. Your assistance and contributions will be always much appreciated too!
17. Story Time
With good pals of course. In this particular instance we were dog-sitting for a neighbor and Wyndham had informed me that Trail wanted a story. So.