The last bell has rung, the afternoon snack’s been eaten, and the homework has been finished. Now what? TV? Video games? How about something completely different?
Here are our top ten after-school activities to make the most of the time between bus drop-off and dinnertime.
- Make a lava lamp. My son loved this at around age 7 or 8. While not technically a lava lamp, these creations are fun, often pretty, and different every time. Give your kid some counter space and permission to make a little bit of a mess, and it’ll be a hit. All you need is a Mason jar, some water, some oil, and whatever add-ins you desire: glitter, food coloring, small plastic toys/buttons — the possibilities are endless!
- Break out the dress-up clothes. Since Halloween is nearby, you might even know where the costume stuff is at this point. From age 3 to age 10, my son adored dressing up any day of the year. Even if you don’t have any actual costumes, you probably do have hats, costume/inexpensive jewelry, an old tablecloth (cape), random sunglasses, scarves, a colander, a wooden spoon — the sky’s the limit.
- Write a story. Put writing prompts on slips of paper and stick them in a jar. Your child can grab one at random and use it to create her own story. Encourage her to add her own personal touch and be detailed, and perhaps even illustrate a picture to go with it. Here’s a link to some writing prompts if you need inspiration.
- Make ice cream in a bag. This is much easier than it sounds! My son loved it when he was 9 or 10. You need a gallon Ziploc bag, a pint-size Ziploc bag ice, sugar, vanilla, and milk (half and half works best, but you can also use whole or 2% milk, soymilk, almond milk, or coconut milk). Here are the actual recipe and directions. Basically, it’s just a lot of shaking and then — voila! — ice cream.
- Make cloud dough (also known as moon sand). With just three ingredients, kids can create this sensory delight. Flour, vegetable oil, and food coloring are all it takes! Here are the recipe and directions.
- Build toothpick towers. See how tall you can build a tower using just toothpicks and miniature marshmallows. Better for bigger kids (7 to 10, say), not only is this activity captivating, it’s educational! Check this site out for more detailed instructions.
- Play Human Simon. Remember the game “Simon,” where you had to push the colored buttons in the correct order, while the computer added a new one onto the end each time? If you’ve got more than one kiddo looking for something to do after school, they can play Human Simon together (or you can play it with your child, of course!). The first player performs a simple action, like patting his head once. The next player has to do the first action and then add one of her own — maybe she’ll pat her head and then jump in the air. The next player does both actions in order and adds another, and so on, until someone gets the sequence wrong. If there are multiple players, keep on going until there’s only one person left!
- Have a dance party. Just turn on some music and let your kids dance their pent-up energy out (there was many a day that we’d blast Kidz Bop so my son could dance, and he’d do it until he was worn out).
- Go on a scavenger hunt. To this day, my child enjoys a scavenger hunt (he’s a teenager now) — there’s just something about the challenge that makes it irresistible. There are myriad scavenger hunts available online (like here), or you can be creative and make a list yourself. On a pretty day, this is a great way to get the kids out of the house, too!
- Build a blanket fort. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and perfect for when the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor play. Sheets are actually better, since they’re lighter —at least for the roofs of the fort. Some other helpful supplies might include: umbrellas, pillows, couch cushions, chairs, clothes pins, safety pins, rubber bands, a broomstick, LED string lights, a book or two, and stuffed animals. (Thanks to Buzzfeed for some of those cool ideas I’d never even thought of before!)