No time of day can be more challenging than the busy hours after school. Older kids may be home alone, younger ones are with caregivers and parents are tied up with carpools or making dinner. Here’s a lesson plan for making a few family guidelines to stick to healthier habits. Make snack time, playtime or after-school care healthy…no studying required!
To leave room for dinner, try these tips: fit snacking in two hours before your meal, eat snacks from a plate instead of from a bag or container, and sit down at the table to snack rather than munching mindlessly in front of a screen.
Make healthier snacks the easy choice for everyone by putting them in the front of the fridge or pantry. Some examples of healthier snacks include string cheese, yogurt, sliced fruits and veggies, pretzels, nuts and dry cereals. When you can, shop ahead and let your kids put snack bags together over the weekend.
If your kid reaches for the remote or game controller to wind down after school, don’t worry too much. Sit down as a family and come up with a few guidelines that will help keep the focus on being and staying active!
About 30 minutes of recreational screen time after school is a fair amount. If you or your child needs to use a screen for your evening work, physical activity beforehand helps boost brain power for homework later.
Getting enough physical activity or play after school makes for better health, grades and sleep. With so much sitting during the school (and work!) day, after school, it is critical to try to reach 60 minutes of active play each day.
Ask kids to brainstorm their playtime—suggest riding bikes, jumping rope, playing tag or walking the dog. Set an example and play along when you can. Don’t forget rainy-day play like dancing, hula hooping, playing balloon volleyball, Simon Says or even active video games.
Make sure healthy snacks, limited screen time and active after-school play are part of your caregiver’s checklist. Define your guidelines for both the caregiver and your child so everyone knows what they should or shouldn’t do.
At the end of each day, offer activity ideas for the next day and praise your caregiver’s help building healthy brains and bodies (which shows that they care a lot more than any treat ever could).
An after-school program, childcare center, sports team or a youth organization like Boys & Girls Club can often be a big help in meeting food, playtime and limited screen time goals. Look for a program that provides healthy snacks and opportunities for physical activity, both indoors and out.
If you don’t have control over snacks or one isn’t provided, send fruit or a nut butter sandwich and a water bottle from home. Ask if the after-school program offers time to finish homework so your whole family can enjoy more playtime later.
Check out this checklist from the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network.