101 after-school activities for kids

Aug. 30, 2020

After-school activities do wonders for a child's development. They're linked to improving social skills, grades, overall coordination, sense of self and relationships with adults other than their parents. Activities of all kinds can also give kids a chance to be themselves, free of the structure they face at school.

"Since kids spend their day primarily sitting down and following a schedule at school, when they get home it is important for them to have time to be creative, get moving and do something they enjoy," says Kristin Fitch, CEO and co-founder of ZiggityZoom.

Need inspiration for things to do with kids? Fitch and Beverly Stewart, founder and director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, brainstormed 101 ideas to get you started.

Get crafty

1. Make school-themed crafts, like a pipe cleaner notebook or a pencil vase.

2. Design and make friendship bracelets.

3. Make a time capsule. Choose special things from this year, month or even just today and put them away in a shoebox to open at a future date. Include a note in the box explaining why you chose each item. 

4. Knit.

5. Finger painting is fun at any age.

6. Make "daisy chains" with the cutest weeds in the warmer months.

7. Sew a homemade kite. Next: Make it fly!

8. Illustrate a story.

9. Draw a sidewalk mural. Take a photo of the best ones so you can keep track of the masterpieces.

10. Choose an old item around the house that's no longer useful, paint it and turn it into a decorative piece. (i.e, an old guitar that doesn't work, a broken clock, an old water pitcher, old tires, etc.)

11. Mold old crayons into cool shapes.

12. Hammer color from leaves into paper.

13. Make a fun calendar with colored countdowns to holidays and other exciting events. (Ex. the next family vacation, an upcoming birthday party, etc.)

14. Get a blank picture frame (or one you've repainted) and glue pieces of fun all over it — buttons, miniature toys, shells, pebbles, bottle caps, anything! Then find a nice photo to put in it.

15. Print photos, get colored paper, glitter, markers, glue and start a scrapbook — or even just make one scrapbook page.

16. Make and play with rainbow soap foam.

17. Buy clay at your local craft store and mold fun toys and objects.

18. Make sand art in a bottle with colored sand.19. Turn baby food jars into snow globes.

Play, make up or go to a game

20. Play cards. Gin rummy never goes out of style and will help children learn numbers.

21. Play hide-n-seek, an oldie but goodie

22. Attend a local college or high school sporting event.

23. Play an imaginative or "make believe" game in the backyard.

24. Put on a puppet show. If you don't own puppets, make some.

25. Choose a theme (like pirates or cowgirls) and do your chores in character. Get imaginative! For example, pirates doing laundry would probably check the pockets for treasure.

26. Play charades.

27. Play dress-up and make up a story to go with your costumes.

28. Play a word guessing game. Write out several words, movies or characters on sticky notes. Each person attaches one to their forehead (no peeking at the word!) and asks yes-or-no questions to figure out what the card says. (Ex. Am I an animal? Do I live in the jungle?)

29. Pick a random item in the house, and challenge each other to create a funny, TV-style infomercial to convince you to buy it. Pretend this object is new on the market and no one has ever heard of it. It's fun to try to "sell" a sticky note, a pair of headphones or a toaster.

30. Play checkers or chess.

31. Play a trivia game.

32. Do a 3D puzzle.

Build something cool

33. Make a pine cone bird feeder and keep a log of what types of birds pay it a visit.

34. Build a blanket fort.

35. Build a treehouse.

36. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard or living room.

37. Draw "roads" for toy cars on butcher paper or use painter's tape to create some on the living room floor. Grab blocks to build houses and make a whole town.

38. Make fairy houses for the backyard.

39. Take something apart, like an old appliance or electronic device (clock, remote control, etc.), and figure out how it works. Bonus: Try to put it back together!

Make some treats

40. Put on a neighborhood bake sale.

41. Research yummy and healthy after-school snacks, and then schedule when you're going to make them.

42. Watch a tutorial on how to make sushi. Then make the rolls for dinner.

43. Whip up some homemade ice cream.

44. Pick a "food of the week." Incorporate that food into at least one meal every day. Make it a healthy option. Use this as an opportunity to expand a child's palette and find new recipes for the family.

45. Bake cookie bowls, and then serve ice cream in them while they're warm.

46. Make dinner together. Teach kids about measuring ingredients and choosing foods that go together to make a meal. It's like a science lesson!

Explore & exercise

47. Hike and explore nearby trails.

48. Practice amateur photography. Kick it old-school and equip a budding photographer with a disposable camera and an "assignment" for the afternoon. The excitement continues when you get the roll developed and see what they came up with. (Bonus: This can parlay into another afternoon activity: making a photo collage.)

49. Explore the nearest public or botanical gardens.

50. Take a trip to a free museum.

51. Have a scavenger hunt that incorporates subjects the child is learning about in school. 

52. Take walks every Monday to make plans for the week ahead.

53. Do kid-friendly yoga.

54. Head to the batting cages.

55. Become an expert at mini golf.

56. Go rock climbing together, which helps develop endurance, balance and flexibility.

57. Take photos of things in the park and create a collage. Do a new one every month so you can keep track of how the seasons change.

58. Take a tour of the neighborhood and research local historic spots.

59. Go on a hayride during the fall.

60. Find a song you love and choreograph a dance to go with it.

61. Walk the dog. Don't have one? Take the neighbor's dog for a stroll.

62. Go on a bike ride. Follow a new path every time.

63. Stroll through nature. In the fall, collect leaves. In the spring, forage for flowers to make a spring bouquet.

64. Walk along a beach that's open.

65. Go geocaching, which promotes teamwork and time in nature.

66. Visit the zoo.

67. Go for a walk in the park, and count how many dogs you see. Keep a tally, and try to guess the breed of each dog. If you're feeling friendly, ask the owner the breed to see if you're right.

68. Go roller skating or ice skating.

69. Draw a map and create a treasure hunt, either in the house or outside.

70. Go outside and count how many different types of trees and plants you can see in the neighborhood. Try to name them all, and look up the ones you don't know.

71. Do kid-friendly Zumba at home. Play fun music, and do exercise-dance moves. Let the kids make up some of their own moves to teach to you.

Have a get-together or find a group

72. Search sites like Meetup.com for kids' after-school playgroups in the area or groups that focus on activities for kids.

73. Join an after-school reading group at the library.

74. Schedule a weekly get-together with kids in the neighborhood. Have them over for crafts or backyard games. Rotate houses each week to split up hosting responsibilities.

75. Take an online coding course with other same-age kids. 

76. Help organize a block party with classmates.

Do good for the community

77. Volunteer in your community.

78. Visit an animal shelter.

79. Host a school supplies fundraiser, which will help teach kids about the importance of time management, planning and giving back.

80. Tutor someone younger.

81. Find out what your local food bank needs most and organize a food drive in your neighborhood. Drop donations off at your local food bank.

82. Start an online group with kids in your neighborhood that's dedicated to anti-racism. Read books together and discuss, design lawn signs or organize a fundraiser for a cause that supports justice and anti-racism

83. Perform random acts of kindness. Leave it up to the kids to decide what this means to them. Maybe it's dropping off a home-baked treat at an elderly neighbor's house or leaving an uplifting note or picture on a stranger's car or doorstep. The options are endless.

84. Offer local services to neighbors and friends, including car washing and lawn mowing. Encourage kids to provide these services for free as a way to give back to the community.

Flex your literary and learning skills

85. Creating a reading challenge, see if the child can read a certain amount of books within a specific time frame and award prizes for milestones.

86. Act out a book your child is reading in school.

87. Write a letter to a relative.

88. Research your family tree and relate it to what your child is learning in history class.

89. Learn sign language.

90. Write a poem.

9`. Order a rocks and mineral set, which is great for kids who like hands-on learning. You may discover you have a budding geologist at home.

92. Pick a song your child knows well and re-write all the lyrics together to make it funny.

93. Pick a movie or story and write an alternate ending.

94. Write a short story.

95. Make up quizzes for each other to take. You could ask questions to see how well you know each other or fun trivia about geography, history, science, etc.

96. Print out a blank map of the U.S., and see if you can name all of the states correctly. For older children, add state capitals, too!

97. Pick different cultures from around the world to learn about. Focus on one each week, and try foods from that culture, learn about their holidays, etc.

Tell stories or just talk

98. On the way home from school, ask your child to tell you the two best parts and two least favorite parts of his day. When you get to the negatives, try to help your child find a silver lining or a bright side to the bad parts of his day. Here are  tips for getting kids to open up about their day.

99. Make a list of your child's accomplishments in the past year, and brainstorm new goals for the upcoming one.

100. Take out the baby photos, share with your kids and tell them stories about when they were born.

101. Take out your baby photos and show your kids what you were like when you were young.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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