Menu

I try to combat the after-school rush hour with calmness

This is a submission in our monthly contest. January’s theme is “Wild.” Enter your own here! After school is probably the most unstructured time of my day. As a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, I work hard to make the most of the mornings and the opportunities that come after lunch during nap-time. I usually […]

I try to combat the after-school rush hour with calmness

After school is probably the most unstructured time of my day. As a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, I work hard to make the most of the mornings and the opportunities that come after lunch during nap-time.

I usually run a bunch of errands after getting my girls to school and breakfast cleaned away. My son and I sneak in some fun playtime and, before we know it, we're ready to eat lunch. Nap follows soon after the mid-day meal, which gives me some time to do some writing. This set-up usually takes us right up to the bus arriving home and, voilà! Eight hours has vanished and all of my children are home again.

Life is so very busy that I think it's okay to try to find some calm and take a little bit of the rush out of what is typically “rush hour" in the majority of households.

The hours between 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm are like a twilight zone at my house, because those two hours are so unpredictable. One day might involve a snack, homework, laundry-folding, and a highly anticipated cartoon viewing of Ready Jet Go or my girls' PBS favorite Odd Squad.

Other days the weather may be wonderful, and my kids ride bikes outside with the neighbors while some of us stay-at-homies sit on tailgate chairs in our driveways to keep an eye on the kiddos while also mingling in the respite that is adult conversation.

Then there are other afternoons where extra-curricular activities override those two hours and I pretty much spend the whole time carpooling my children to different activities and wishfully thinking dinner would prepare itself.

My only real staple of duty for after-school is checking school backpacks and making sure the girls put their shoes away and hang up their coats. I also try to have a meaningful dialogue about their day, which means getting creative with the questions I ask them.

Here are a few of my favorite things to ask my daughters:

1 | What did you do at recess?

2 | What did you do in your "specials" today?

3 | What did you pick for lunch?

4 | Who did you sit by at lunch?

5 | Who did you play with at recess?

My kids are big talkers, but it still feels good to ask them about things in a way that mandates we will get beyond the standard: "yes" "no" or "fine." Generic questions like: "How was your day?" or "Did you do well on your assignment?" often inspire these one-word answers.

Also, if I'm being entirely honest, once 3:30 rolls around I'm pretty exhausted. I've usually been going full bore the entire day and just want to relax and enjoy my kids before the chaos of dinner and the witching hour that's known as prepping for bedtime.

I probably need to be better about having a chore list in order to make sure my 8-year-old and 6-year-old are aware of the responsibilities that go with keeping a house in order and somewhat clean. However, those two hours are not my strongest. I just want to relax or, at the very least, ratchet my Type-A, over-scheduled self down a notch or two.

I think of the time between 3:30 and 5:30 as my auto-pilot—the calm before the storm that my family calls the end of a long day. It's the quietness before my husband gets home from work and my kids get wound up. It's the serene tranquility before the need to exercise, pay bills, empty a dishwasher, and lay out school clothes for the next day takes over my existence.

The after-school hours can be wild, but I choose to make them as pleasant as possible. It doesn't always work because deadlines, music practice, gymnastics, and seasonal allergies can wreak their own special type of havoc. However, sometimes things really do go in my favor, and I like to enjoy it when it does.

You might also like:

In This Article

14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

It’s science: Vacations make your kids happy long after they’re over

Whether you're planning a quick trip to the lake or flying the fam to a resort, the results are the same: A happier, more connected family.

Whether you're looking for hotels or a rental home for a safe family getaway, or just punching in your credit card number to reserve a spot in a campground a couple of states over, the cost of vacation plans can make a mom wince. And while price is definitely something to consider when planning a family vacation, science suggests we should consider these trips—and their benefits—priceless.

Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

Keep reading Show less
News

Do you need a family emergency kit? (Hint: Yes, you totally do)

It only takes a few minutes to be better prepared for emergencies.

Right now is understandably a time for concern, but the same message applies: Prepare, don't panic. We parents have a responsibility to care and provide for our children, ensuring their well-being before and after any disruptive event, whether it's a natural disaster or an outbreak that forces temporary shutdowns and closures in our community. When it comes to emergency preparation, I always tell parents one thing: You want to have a plan just in case the worst really does happen.

As a mom of three young kids with a firefighter husband, I'm constantly anticipating potential problems—and thinking ahead about how to cope. Thinking ahead and planning has saved me many nights of pacing the floor, and has made me feel more confident as a parent.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play