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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.

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These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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