Creating Calm After School: A Kindergarten Routine

As a parent of a new kindergartner, I’ve experienced the wild whirlwind that often comes with most kids when they get home from school.

During the first week, my little guy would come home overtired, hangry, and, frankly, not pleasant to be around. He was far from his best self, and it got me thinking about how to help him transition into a more manageable state after a busy day of keeping his composure in front of strangers.

So here’s our after-school routine, in the hopes that it might help fellow parents dealing with their own overstimulated kindergartners.

The *new* No-TV Zone

At first, I thought it was perfectly fine to let my son unwind with a TV show or movie right after school. One particular day though, after a psychotic rampage (from both of us), TV became a privilege and not an automatic right.

I think so many parents believe that the TV helps our kids calm down, and trust me, my husband and I both thought the same. But if you remove that screen time then analyze the difference in your child’s behavior, you’ll be surprised that it does the exact opposite.

After the TV was off for 30 or so minutes and he was finally calm, I realized the lights, sights and sounds from whatever he was watching only added to his sensory overload.

So, the first change I made was to remove TV time from our immediate routine. It’s not gone for good – just right when we get home – and I can tell you this simple change made all the difference!

Our Special Time

When he gets home is when we have our “special time.”

No TV or tablet for him and no phone for me .. at least for the first 30 minutes. During some of his emotional breakdowns, he has told me that he misses me during the day so naming this our special time helps reinforce that we’re together again and all is right.

We make a shared snack, including his beloved warmed milk, and sit together on the couch or patio. We talk about our day, sometimes sit in silence, play guessing games, or chat about random topics.

He usually snuggles on my lap for about 10 minutes to get his mom-fix, then goes off to explore all the sticks, rocks and other shiny curiosities.

Homework is part of our special time just so we can just get that out of the way

After at least 30 minutes of downtime, we transition to homework. We sit at the kitchen table together and I help him understand what he needs to do, while sometimes multitasking with my own work on my computer right next to him.

Sometimes, getting him to sit still and concentrate on what he needs to do is like herding cats while pulling teeth, so honestly, sometimes I save it for the morning.

.. and some mornings I regret saving it for the morning (ha!)

When it comes to homework, I gage him and his energy levels. I don’t want homework to have a negative air around it where we just argue and bicker the whole time because he’s too tired to focus on it, so I’m feeling this one out still and trying to find the best space for him. Ideally, I want homework done in the afternoons! .. but that feels obvious.

If you have a small kids table and good weather, take that thing outside!

To help him stay away from the TV, I’ve been moving his little kid table around outside.

Set it up with Play Dough, Kinetic Sand, or Cool Kids Club coloring pages and let mother nature and sensory play do the therapy work. The breeze and sounds of the neighborhood will be incredibly calming.

“When the big hand gets to the 3, then you can turn on the TV”

We have a huge clock in our living room so it’s easy for him to know when he can turn on the TV yet or not. Most days he get’s caught up playing with his toys, working on puzzles or playing in the backyard that he’s not counting down the minutes until he can turn on the TV. Then the other days, he’s counting down and begging to watch something.

After dinner, we have a rule that the main floor is the quiet floor. If the kids still have energy to burn (which they always do!) they can choose to play outside, in their rooms, or in the basement. TV time is allowed during this period if they wish, however, it turns off about 30 minutes before bath time (ideally).

Bedtime Ritual: Our night ends with the usual bath, 2 bedtime stories, and lights out, which follows a consistent routine.

This routine doesn’t promise a perfect child, but it has certainly helped my kindergartner transition from a wild post-school state to a calmer, more pleasant one. Every child is different, but maybe some parts of our routine can benefit your family too.

Cheers to peaceful afternoons and evenings for everyone!

Hope this helps!

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