No matter the number of things your kids do at school, they always seem to have an endless amount of energy leftover. And now that they're home for the day, you have two choices: park them in front of a screen or figure out how to channel that energy into something engaging and productive. And though plenty of kids -- full of energy or not -- would be happy to zone out in front of the television, the American Heart Association recently advised parents to limit a child's screen time to a maximum of just two hours per day.
As the school year approaches its final weeks, you're probably scraping the bottom of the barrel for after-school ideas. Take a look through this helpful list and you'll find some activities you can try out this week and, with any luck, re-use through the end of the school year and beyond.
Cook dinner together
Kids are always curious about what's going on in the kitchen. There's no better way to satisfy that curiosity than by getting them involved in the process of cooking dinner. Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly recipes out there that minimize the need for hot surfaces and sharp objects. Something easy like mini lasagnas, grilled cheese, and personal pizzas can teach your kids the basics of working in a kitchen without all of the complications (and knives) that can come with gourmet cooking.
Volunteer with a local organization
About 50% of adults aged 65 and over participate in a form of volunteer work. If you want your children to have this kind of generous backbone in the future, get them involved in volunteer work now.
With so many different organizations needing a helping hand, you can even cater the volunteering to your child's interests. For instance, you could take your animal-lover to a local shelter to walk dogs. You could even look for opportunities to volunteer together at your child's school. This will teach your child the value of getting involved in their school community.
Complete chores on the chore chart
This one may seem a bit boring, but getting your kids involved in household chores now will instill good habits for the future. Give younger kids simple jobs like putting away toys in the playroom or wiping off surfaces with a dust rag. Have the older kids tackle responsibilities like washing the dishes or helping you with the laundry. Tasks as simple as this will teach your kids the importance of home maintenance, such as cleaning the dryer vent, the failure of which accounts for 34% of home clothes dryer fires.
As you plant your gardens for spring, involve your children by enlisting them to dig holes and place the seeds inside. You can also tackle bigger projects by having them help with planting trees and shrubs around the property.
Not only will these efforts get your kids outside and teach them about nature, but your strategically-placed trees and shrubs can save you as much as 25% in energy bills by reducing air conditioning costs. While the kids may not be able to dig these larger holes, they can help you pick out the plants and stay involved in their long-term maintenance.
Go to the library
Plenty of children prefer to be indoors rather than out, but that doesn't mean their only options for after-school fun can be found on screens. Instead, make regular trips to your local library as a family.
By bringing your kids to the library, you'll be giving them a cost-effective opportunity to get as many books as they like. Checking out books from the library can also teach them valuable lessons on respecting others' property and following deadlines to return the books. Libraries often offer story time, craft hours, and other fun activities that can also keep the kids busy.
Your children's after-school activities don't have to be elaborate or complicated. Just remember to vary which ones you do and listen to your children's interests. You'll be able to find the perfect entertainment for all of your little ones while giving yourself the peace of mind that they're doing more than staring at a screen.