Set the Stage for Kids' Free Time and Fun
By Sandy Schroeder
After school, and before bedtime, there are a lot of ways kids can learn life skills, and connect with their family. If you think your kids are tied a little too closely to TV and video games, this might be a time to help them enjoy some totally unstructured time in which they just get to be a kid.
Sometimes kids go from one spot to another without ever enjoying space to think, dream or play. If you remember open summers that seemed to last forever, that’s the feeling to create. Parent.com suggests all sorts of ideas from jumping rope to washing the dog. Moving away from screens, and connecting with everything else could be fun for the whole family.
Helping to cook dinner – Wash greens or set the table.
Jumping rope, kicking a soccer ball or shooting hoops – Just being outside for awhile after school.
Washing or walking the dog – Helping mom or dad and learning how to take care of pets.
Puzzles, books, and games – Put the TV in the corner and fill the rest of the room with chess boards, bookcases, tables with puzzles.
Dig in the dirt – Reserve some outdoor space where it’s OK to make a mess.
Learn to knit or sew – Spend some time with mom learning about sewing or knitting.
Take pictures – Encourage your kids to become the family historian, taking pictures of pets, parties and relatives.
Ride and repair bikes – Ride with mom or dad, or an older brother, and start to learn how to keep the bike running.
Enjoy nightly storytime – Reading and bedtime stories can be a wonderful way to wind down or share confidences. Create a quiet time and a regular nightly ritual with bath, reading and bedtime.
Help at an animal shelter – Volunteer with your child, spending some time and donating supplies.
Practice playing an instrument – Choosing an instrument and learning to play can open the door to a lifetime of enjoying music.
Visit aunts, uncles or grandparents – Spending time with different age groups can give kids a better perspective of life.
Every house is different. Consider what works best at your house and then add as many props as you can to encourage your kids to enjoy their free time.
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