Afterschool activities are great for kids to explore their interests and provide mental, physical, and emotional benefits. Read on to find fun, inexpensive, and creative ideas so your kids can stay busy after school.
The Benefits of Afterschool Activities for Kids
You may think afterschool activities are mainly to keep the kiddos busy (an extra hour or two of peace is welcomed, too). If you’re a single-parent or two-parent working household, you know how important it is for the kids to stay occupied in the afternoons. But afterschool activities provide enrichment in lots of ways.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, research shows that participation in afterschool programs benefits students’ educational outcomes, improves attendance rates, and encourages kids to stay in school. An afterschool physical activity like a team or club sport is extremely healthy for kids’ overall emotional and physical well-being. Research also shows that participation in youth sports correlates with lower rates of depression and stress and increased creativity, health, and life satisfaction.
But whether your kids are involved in a formal program or just playing in the backyard, having a creative, engaging outlet to explore their interests does wonders for kids’ emotional and mental health, too. When kids are physically and mentally healthy, they begin to see greater academic and social success.
Organized Afterschool Programs
Most schools, both public and private, offer extracurricular activities for a wide variety of interests and needs. This can include academic assistance like tutoring or homework help. But it can also include clubs where they can get involved in community service, science, music, theater arts, or sports. In urban areas where outdoor public space is limited or unsafe for kids to roam freely, after-school programs can be a great way to get kids outside with safe adult supervision.
Afterschool Programs in the Community
If your child’s school doesn’t offer activities that interest your child, consider looking at external programs provided by reputable community centers. The local YMCA typically has after-school care for both elementary and middle school students. Community recreation centers also have after-school programming that keeps kids safely cared for and occupied while their parents or guardians are still working. If you’re able to transport your child to afterschool activities, then consider some other recreational activities in your community like martial arts, theater, dance, gymnastics, or sports teams.
After School Activities at Home for Elementary Schoolers
Not every kid will want to be involved in school-sponsored extracurricular activities or programs offered at recreation centers. But that doesn’t mean they have to spend all their free time in front of a screen. In fact, with the extensive use of technology within classrooms, the less time they spend on a screen in their free time, the better.
Younger kids, especially in elementary school, are highly involved with imaginative play and exploration. When they inevitably complain of boredom, suggest an activity that engages their problem solving or creativity. Whether they’re indoor or outdoor activities, the two most important goals are to keep them moving and challenge their brains.
Grab a box of Legos and have them design and build their dream house! How many bedrooms would it have? What would be the biggest room? Would it be in a city or the country? If you don’t have Legos, use blocks or anything you have!
Sidewalk Chalk Pictionary
You need two people for this activity. Write down random (drawable) things on scraps of paper. The person who draws the word has to draw the person, place, or thing with sidewalk chalk. The goal is for the opposite person to guess what they’re drawing in as little time as possible. See what your shortest guess time is!
Bake Something Sweet!
Baking isn’t just a way to get tasty treats (although we’ll admit, that’s a huge bonus). It’s also a great way to practice following directions, using fractional math, and practicing kitchen safety. If they make too many treats, they can share with neighbors, friends, or anyone who needs a pick-me-up! Check out these tips for baking with kids!
Random Acts of Kindness
In the aftermath of living and growing during a global pandemic, many kids are left feeling isolated and may have trouble meeting new people. Random acts of kindness are a great way to brighten someone’s day, spread positivity, and even make new friends. Brainstorm safe, thoughtful ways your child can show acts of kindness to friends or neighbors in the community.
Become an Author
This was one of my assignments in elementary school, and I was ecstatic to work on it. Encourage your child to write the kind of book they would want to read when they were younger. Would it be a make-believe story filled with fantasy? Would they write about people or experiences they know well? You may be surprised to see what they come up with!
Make a Comic Strip
Although comic books have made a comeback, some kids aren’t familiar with the concept of comics. Explain how it’s a very short story told in a series of pictures and dialogue, typically fitting into strips on one page. If you can, find a newspaper and show them examples. Then, have them make their own comic strip with invented characters or characters from a movie or TV show they enjoy.
Make Pet Rocks
Not every kid can have a pet. Even kids with real pets may see the appeal of a pet rock: it’s quiet, cheap, requires no exercise, and doesn’t need food. Use acrylic paint to add faces, fur, hair, and accessories to the pet rock. Googly eyes are also a nice touch. Don’t forget to give it a name when you’re done!
Make Ice Cream in a Bag
This is a science experiment combined with a snack, so what’s not to love? The longer they toss the ice cream bag, the frostier the ice cream will get! Pour 1 cup of half and half into a small Ziploc bag. Add 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Seal the bag firmly and get any excess air out. Fill in the larger bag 1/2 way with ice. Add 1/4 cup of salt. Then insert your small bag and fill the larger bag with extra ice on top. Seal the large bag. Get gloves and shake for at least 6 minutes. Toss it around the yard, into the air, and all around! Don’t forget the sprinkles!
Set up an Obstacle Course
Be careful with this one–make sure no one is jumping over breakable household items or using the good silver for spoon and egg races. Ideally, they should set this one up outside. Encourage them to get a friend or neighbor involved! Make sure they involve all different kinds of movement–running, jumping, crawling, spinning, rolling, and hopping! Hula hoops, tunnels, pool noodles–use what you have!
Afterschool Activities for Middle Schoolers
Once kids reach middle school, it can be difficult to keep them engaged in a suggested activity. Certain things become “uncool” or for some reason, being interested in anything becomes “uncool.” Let us know if you have any tips on surviving that tween phase. But here are some very cool afterschool activities that middle school students may find appealing.
For the Director or Actor
Have them write a movie script and make a movie with a friend or two. If they commit to the activity, you could take them to a thrift store to look for props and costumes after school one day.
For the Young Entrepreneur
Have them start a business and draft a business plan. What are they going to sell? How much would they need to sell to make a profit? Lots of websites provide guidance and templates for young entrepreneurs who want to learn the ins and outs of starting and running a business.
For the Gamer
Invent a board game. Start with poster board (or foam board), markers, and any other craft materials you need. Encourage them to draw inspiration from one of their other favorite board games, noting what they like about it. You could even use sculpting clay to make custom game pieces!
For the Helper
Help with chores! We know this won’t be the most popular option (with kids and teens, that is). But if you do the tasks together, it can become a great way to bond. Suggest that they walk the dog, get some laundry done, help prep dinner, or get some cleaning done.
For the Nurturer
Babysitting is the after-school activity that pays! Although middle school students are too young to be officially employed, they can always make pocket money babysitting local elementary students. Before they do, you may want to enroll them in a CPR course for certification, so they know how to respond in an emergency.
For the Fashionista
Make jewelry! This was my favorite activity in elementary and middle school. I was partial to glass bead jewelry and loved to sell them whenever we had a yard sale. And, of course, all of my female relatives received glass beaded bracelets for Christmas. Michaels, Joann Fabrics, or any craft store has a wide selection of beads and materials for jewelry-making. It’s a great tactile activity that keeps your kids engaged in creativity! Pro-tip: be sure to invest in a good bead organizer.
For the Computer Scientist
Learn to code! Coding is not only a valuable skill in the workforce but can even be a fun skill for kids to learn! Many websites offer learning activities and tutorials for kids interested in coding. Yes, it does involve a screen. But the critical thinking and logic components make it a bit more worthwhile.
Afterschool Activities: Making the Most of Childhood Free Time
Afterschool hours are the best times for kids to explore their interests and hobbies outside of academics. Which of these activities are you excited for your kid to try out? Do you have any ideas for fun afterschool activities? Share them on social and tag us at @getfamilyapp!