Back to school season is here, and this means a lot of things for your kids- new classes, new teachers, new classmates, and new after-school activities.
When your kids head back to school, one of the best things you can do for them is help them develop and set daily routines.
Routines give children a sense of control and safety because they help them learn what to expect, and how to prepare for the day ahead. They also help kids develop life skills that will benefit them far beyond their school days
The basics: How to set healthy routines
Here are a few routine-setting tips to consider as you’re setting up your healthy family routines:
- Explain the routines to your child. Have them repeat the routines back to you to show they’ve understood.
- Put a chart on the wall. A visual of your daily routines can help everyone in the household see what needs to happen and when.
- Be consistent. Stick to your routines as closely as possible, even when you’re tired or overwhelmed as a parent.
- Make desired activities the most appealing option. If you want to include new activities in your routine, like eating fruit as a bedtime snack, structure your child’s environment to make those activities the most appealing options in the moment. Pairing them with other enjoyable activities, like bedtime stories, may help.
- Plan ahead to limit decision-making in the moment. For example, have an assortment of healthy snack options readily available to make it easy to select nourishment on the go.
- Go slow, adding one or two new habits at a time. Making gradual changes to your family routine will give you the best chance of building lasting, positive routines.
- It’s OK if your routine needs to change. That’s life. Just make sure to tell your child about the change — well ahead of time, if possible.
Creating a morning routine
Your morning routine is important, but the exact set and order of activities depend on your needs. Generally, on school days, a morning routine for kids might go something like this:
- Wake up at the same time every day.
- Go to the toilet.
- Get dressed.
- Eat breakfast
- Clean up breakfast
- Brush teeth.
- Put on outdoor clothes for school.
Starting school again often means waking up earlier in the morning than your child might have been during summer or winter break.
Gradually encouraging earlier wake times over a week or two before school starts may help you and your child ease into a back-to-school morning routine.
Waking up at the same time every day can help improve sleep quality.
Eating breakfast is associated with better brain development, stronger performance in school, and well-being in kids.
Because school and work often start early, families don’t always have much time for their first meal of the day. Here are a few things you can do as a parent to make your daily breakfast routine easier:
- Prep the night before. Cut up fruit, hard boil eggs, set out bowls and utensils.
- Batch prep breakfast. Meal prep and keep healthy meals in the fridge and freezer that are quick and easy to reheat for breakfast, like breakfast wraps and frozen smoothie ingredients.
- Consider eating dinner leftovers. Who says you have to have a traditional American breakfast? Mix things up and have your healthy dinner leftovers in the morning.
- Have grab-and-go options ready. Healthy grab-and-go snacks, like fruit and nut mixes, drinkable yogurts, or granola bars, are great for those days when your kid needs to take food to eat on the way to school instead of eating at home.
Creating an after-school routine
Learning doesn’t stop after kids leave the classroom. After-school routines — especially those involving physical and social activities — can have a major influence on their development.
Benefits of after-school activities
After-school activities are an excellent way for your child to get active, socialize, and learn something new.
When encouraging after-school extracurriculars, consider the benefits of those that take place outside. Getting outdoors has lots of benefits for kids, including improved physical and mental health, less aggression, better impulse control, and better learning outcomes in the classroom.
How many after-school activities are too many?
There’s no one set number of extracurriculars kids should have.
The key thing to ask yourself is whether your child’s extracurricular activities are negatively affecting their life:
- Can they still get their homework done?
- Do they still have leisure time to spend with their friends?
- Do they get at least 8 hours of sleep regularly?
If not, it’s probably time to dial back the scheduled activities.
The way your child responds to having scheduled activities is also important. Some kids thrive in a structured environment, while others prefer to play more independently.
After-school routine ideas for kids 6–12
Here are a few after-school routine activity ideas for kids of different age groups.
After-school routine activity ideas for 6–7-year olds:
- free play in the park with adult supervision
- age-appropriate arts and crafts, like chalk drawings on the sidewalk or other safe location
- music classes or group activities available at your school or local community center
- organized physical activities a couple of times a week, like soccer, swimming, or dance
After-school routine activity ideas for 8–10-year-olds:
- trips to the local library
- free-play social activities in a safe place with neighborhood friends (e.g., bike riding, skateboarding, shooting hoops)
- age-appropriate arts and crafts, like learning to knit, making friendship bracelets, or experimenting with watercolor paint — either through classes or on their own
- classes or clubs, like sports teams or lessons, art classes
- music lessons, choir, or band
After-school routine activity ideas for 10–12-year-olds:
- music lessons, choir, or band
- social time in person with friends or at a class or club
- physical activity with classes or teams
Creating a homework routine
Helping your child develop work habits from a young age will set them up with important life skills they’ll use daily as adults.
Here are a few homework routine pointers from The American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Build in plenty of time for homework.
- Be there to help troubleshoot, but don’t do their homework for them.
- Create a calm, quiet, and distract-free workspace for them.
- Establish a no-electronic-devices rule during homework time.
- Help them organize themselves if needed.
Creating an evening routine
Experts say it’s best to keep bedtime routines under about 40 minutes.
Beneficial activities at bedtime depend on your child’s age and needs.
Here are a few ideas:
- Offer up a healthy bedtime snack.
- Encourage bedtime hygiene tasks like bathing and brushing teeth.
- Make time for bonding activities, such as reading together or singing.
- Turn out the light around the same time every day.
Developing your family habits takes time, and that’s OK. They’re worth it.
Healthy family routines, like bedtime and after-school routines, can positively affect children’s health and well-being.
Putting in the work to help your child develop beneficial routines now will help them develop go-to healthy habits they’ll have in their back pocket for life.
DISCLAIMER: These posts should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any health, medical, physical or psychiatric condition. Information shared via posts does not replace professional healthcare advice specific to your condition and needs. If you are unsure whether you would benefit from implementing tools discussed in these posts, please contact your healthcare provider.