The time between after school ends and bedtime, “no man’s land”, as we call it in our home, is a tricky time for many families. It’s tempting to put the TV on or hand kids tablets right after school. If you want to get out of that habit and you’re looking for some screen-free after-school activities, we’ve got you covered.
Whether you’re struggling with finding activities for the time between school pick-up and dinner or for the time between dinner and bedtime, we’ve got some suggestions that can definitely help you out.
Let’s get to it.
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What are some fun things to do after school?
Here’s what made our list of fun, screen-free after-school activities. Read on for details of each activity.
- Helping with dinner
- Listening to music
- Extracurricular activities
- Going for walks
- Doing puzzles
- Playing with Legos
- Go to the park
- Send the kids on a scavenger hunt
- Go to the library
9 Screen-free after-school activities for kids
Helping with dinner
With school lunches being served early in the day for kindergarteners and 1st graders, afterschool hunger can really impact your household.
You may have making dinner on your mind straight away when your kids come home from school.
Preparing dinner surrounded by hungry, whiney kids, though, is no fun.
Involving your kids in the dinner-making process gives them something to do besides watch TV, while also giving them opportunities to snack on the ingredients a bit to raise their blood sugar levels.
Listen to music
School can be tiring and overwhelming for kids, especially young ones.
If you’ve observed that your child likes a bit of solitude after school, getting them a portable music player, like a Yoto Player or Toniebox, might be a great idea.
Your child can take their music player to their room and relax or listen to music while they play with toys.
If you’ve got a child that needs to spend physical energy after school, dancing and running around to upbeat music is a great screen-free after-school activity, as well.
Try out an extracurricular
If you were looking for something to kill time in your home, don’t pass this suggestion up just yet.
Extracurriculars, such as gymnastics, music lessons, or sports, can help you avoid TV and other screens on the evening they take place – and beyond.
For example, if your child takes piano lessons, they will likely want to practice, or at least fiddle around on the piano on their non-lesson evenings.
If your child takes gymnastics class, as mine do, they will likely want to practice their moves and tricks all week long.
You can facilitate these activities by providing your child with what they need to continue their extracurricular activities at home, in an accessible, age-appropriate way.
Go for a walk
Going for a walk is a healthy and tiring activity that’s perfect for filling the space between dinner and bedtime.
A quick walk around the block on nice days, followed by baths, a little snack, then bedtime for the kids is how we do it in our home.
On rainy, super cold, and snowy days, we replace the walk with music and movement activities.
Sometimes the kids like to walk or run laps around the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It’s a small space, but they have fun asking my husband and me what lap they are on.
Puzzles are awesome for filling the time between dinner and bedtime. They are fun but calming, and they encourage conversation and cooperation – we love our puzzles!
Here are some of our favorite after-dinner puzzles. (Or before dinner.) Obviously, we are big fans of Crocodile Creek at our house.
Their pizzles are easy for kids to grip, they have fun themes, and they are big, but easy enough for young kids to master.
My kids are all between the ages of 4 and 8, for reference.
- Crocodile Creek Above & Below Dinosaur World
- Crocodile Creek Above & Below Sea and Sky
- Melissa & Doug Underwater Ocean Floor Puzzle
Family Lego time
I forgot the joy of sitting on the floor building with Legos until I faced the challenge of finding screen-free after-school activities for my kids.
Either before or after dinner, sometimes both in a single evening, we pour out our Lego collection onto the floor and we all build something.
Sometimes everyone builds something of their own and sometimes there are a couple of different collaborative projects going on.
Take a trip to the park
Whether it’s a playground, a skateboard park, or a state park with walking trails, we love killing time after school (before dinner) at parks.
If you’re already out of the house due to school pick-ups, why not bring along some snacks, drinks, and maybe even dinner with you?
Send the kids on a scavenger hunt
This one is easier than it sounds if you do it my way.
Simply write a list of things for your child(ren) to find around the house. You don’t have to plant items around, though.
I write a list of commands about 10 items long and put check boxes next to the commands.
Here are some examples of this I include on my list:
- Bring me something that starts with the letter B
- Jump up and down 5 times when you see something that’s the color blue
Do you get the idea?
If your child isn’t reading well just yet, you can do the hunt along with them. It’s up to you if you give a prize for winning the hunt.
Go to the library
Leaving the house for a short trip to your local library is a great screen-free after-school activity.
Libraries can offer whatever your child needs after a long school day, whether that’s doing activities or looking at books to calm down.
Coming up with good after-school activities for your kids can be a challenge, but hopefully, these ideas can put you on the path to cutting out after-school screen time.
What are your favorite no-TV after-school activities that your kids enjoy?