Keeping your child occupied in the time between school and bedtime can be one of the biggest challenges facing a parent during the week. As parents, we want our kids to stay positive and active after school and at the same time have peace of mind that they’re in a safe environment. Many working parents rely on programs outside of the home to keep their children safe and active, while stay at home parents are challenged to keep their children free from boredom.
Here are a few ideas to keep them occupied:
Organized Sports: There are many nationally organized sports for kids. Check with your local community for signups for Little League Baseball, AYSO Soccer, AYF and Pop Warner Football, ASA and NSA Softball, AYBA and YBOA for Basketball… and these are just a few of the organizations out there. Many more sports are offered on a more regional basis such as Lacrosse, Hockey, Tennis, Golf and Swimming. Each of these sports will have seasons so your kids can play more than one sport during the course of the year.
Playing sports is a fun activity for your kids but some of the health benefits can be surprising. Did you know that kids that play outdoor sports are less likely to have vision problems? Your kids will also be less likely to develop obesity and be more likely to develop better social skills. Success as an individual and as a team member builds confidence and self-esteem, and failures build character and coping skills. Additionally, many lifelong friendships are started as teammates in sports.
Health and Athletic Clubs: Many health and athletic clubs have programs for kids for most ages. At an Athletic club your kids can be active while being supervised. Many have activities such as Group Exercise classes, recreation rooms with board games, ping pong and foosball. Many have dance classes and will offer lessons for sports like Basketball, Tennis and other racquet sports, swimming and Golf. A number of facilities also offer areas of the club to do homework as well.
Creative projects: Many children love to be creative with just a little bit of direction. Tell them a story and then give them a paper and pen or a piece of sidewalk chalk. Recycle an ordinary item, such as a light cardboard box, and have them transform it into something that flies or maybe a mask. Have them take that item and have them think about how it was made, how it was used and its main purpose. Stage a scavenger hunt within your home or neighborhood with your child and a small group of their friends. Use the found items to make a project.
Field Trips: Although it’s impossible for most of us to do field trips on a regular basis, an occasional one can go a long way. Kids love to learn about new things. A trip to a museum or zoo may have them talking about it for weeks or longer. If your child is used to just a few people around take them to an event with a large crowd. If they’re used to a bunch of people around in their everyday life then go take a walk or hike on a nature trail. A visit away from their everyday life can teach them life lessons about empathy as well. Talk to them about the environment they’re visiting and how their life would be different if this were their day to day environment. Talk about the people you encounter and the things you have in common with them as well as the differences.
While you’re navigating through your child’s younger and teen years just remember that your child craves knowledge and activity and it’s important that we, as parents, direct them toward healthy and safe choices. Remember what was important to you as a child and don’t forget that this isn’t the same world we grew up in. Teach them what your world was like but be mindful that their environment is different. Open up their world to endless possibilities.