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Help kids take a break after school

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Relax & recharge

After a long day at school, kids need a break before they dive headfirst into homework. Help your kids relax and recharge after school with these simple tips.

Kids playing on slide

Downtime = improved performance

Studies show that kids learn and behave better when they are given breaks to play, be physically active and recharge. After hours of seated concentration in the classroom, kids need downtime before they hit the books again.

"A study done on fourth-graders found that, if you compare children who have had recess and those who have not had recess at the same time of day, the children who didn't have recess were more fidgety and less on task," says Olga Jarrett, a University of Georgia early childhood education professor. For the same reason kids need recess during school, they need a break after school, as well.

Child development experts recognize that busy on-the-go families sometimes struggle to fit everything into their busy schedules -- but making time for downtime is important. If your schedule is so packed with activities that your kids don't have time to relax for 30 minutes before they have to sit down to study again, it might be time to reevaluate your family priorities.

After-school downtime ideas

Here are some ideas for helping your kids take a break after school:

Get the wiggles out.

Little kids are bursting with energy. Giving them a physical outlet is the best way to keep them mentally focused. Even if it's just for 30 to 45 minutes, do something fun and physical with your children. Go for a short bike ride. Jump on your backyard trampoline. Play a game of Follow the Leader, Freeze Tag or Hide and Seek.

Encourage unstructured play.

In our overscheduled world, sometimes the best thing for kids is just unstructured play. "Parents worry about boredom, so they schedule kids' lives to keep them busy," says Alvin Rosenfeld, a child psychiatrist and co-author of The Over-scheduled Child. "But empty hours teach children how to create their own happiness." It doesn't matter whether they spend time playing Legos, drawing pictures of rainbows or chasing the dog around the house. What's important is that they have the time and freedom to choose their own activity.

Take a nap.

While some kids are just itching for playtime, others might need an afternoon snooze. Tina Pace, mom of three, explains. "My kids get on the bus at 7 every morning. By the time they get home at 3:45, they are dead on their feet. After a quick after-school nap, they all feel better and are ready to hit the books again."

Have a snack attack.

Do your kids come home from school famished? Enjoy a healthy snack together while the kiddos tell you about their days. Alternatively, plan a special after-school snack you can make together. Try some of these healthy snack ideas that are fun and easy for kids and moms to prepare as a team.

Make a detour.

Mix it up and keep it exciting for your little ones. Instead of going straight home after school, take a detour for a fun afternoon romp. Visit a local playground, feed the ducks at the riverbank or stop by an ice cream shop for a root beer float.

More back-to-school tips

5 Tips for beating back-to-school blues
Secrets of smooth school mornings
How to make homework fun for kids

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