101 after-school activities for kids
It's no secret that 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 mom and dad.
After-school programs and activities 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 your kids or the kids you nanny/babysit for? Fitch and Beverly Stewart, president and director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, brainstormed 101 ideas to get you started.
1. Make some back-to-school crafts, like a gum ball pencil or bottle cap locker magnets.
2. Turn baby food jars into snow globes.
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. Learn how to make a memory box.
5. Finger painting is fun at any age!
6. Make "daisy chains" with weeds in the summertime.
7. Sew a homemade kite. Next: Make it fly!
8. Illustrate a story.
9. Draw a sidewalk mural. Take a photo of every new one so you can keep track of the masterpieces.
10. Mold crayons into cool shapes.
11. Hammer color from leaves into paper.
12. Design and make jewelry, like a friendship bracelet.
13. Choose an old item around the house that's no longer useful, paint it and turn it into a decorative piece. (Ex. an old guitar or other instrument that doesn't work, an old broken clock, an old water pitcher, etc.)
14. Get a blank picture frame (or one you've repainted) and glue pieces of fun all over it — buttons, miniature toys, pebbles, bottle caps, anything! Then find a nice photo to put in it.
15. Make a fun calendar with colored countdowns to holidays and other exciting events. (Ex. the next family vacation, an upcoming birthday party, etc.)
16. Print photos, get colored paper, glitter, markers, glue and start a scrapbook — or even just make one scrapbook page.
17. Buy clay at your local craft store and mold fun toys and objects.
18. Play with rainbow soap foam.
19. Make sand art in a bottle with colored sand.
Play, make up or go to a game
20. Play cards. Gin rummy never goes out of style and will help your child learn numbers.
21. Put on a puppet show. If you don't own puppets, make some.
22. Play hide-n-seek, an oldie but goodie.
23. Attend a local college or high school sporting event.
24. Play an imaginative or "make believe" game in the back yard.
25. Choose a theme (like pirates or cowgirls) and do your around-the-house 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 the headband game. Each person attaches a card to their forehead with a headband (don't peek at your card) and they ask yes-or-no questions to figure out what the card on their head 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 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 your back yard or living room.
37. Make fairy houses for the back yard.
38. 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!
39. Use painter's tape to create "roads" on the floor of the living room, then grab blocks to build houses and make a whole town.
Make some treats
40. Watch a YouTube video on how to make sushi, then make the rolls for dinner.
41. Put on a neighborhood bake sale.
42. Research yummy and healthy after-school snacks that you and your child like, and then schedule when you're going to make them.
43. Create homemade ice cream.
44. Pick a "food of the week" every Sunday. During the rest 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 your child's palette and find new recipes for the family.
45. Bake cookie bowls with an upside-down cupcake pan, and then serve ice cream in them!
46. Make dinner together. Teach your 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. Visit the zoo.
49. Explore the nearest public or botanical gardens.
50. Take a trip to a free museum.
51. Have a scavenger hunt that incorporates subjects your child is learning about in school. Here are eight scavenger hunt ideas to get you started.
52. Take walks every Monday to make plans for the week ahead.
53. Do kid-friendly yoga together.
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. Walk the dog. Don't have one? Take the neighbor's dog for a stroll.
61. Find a song you love and choreograph a dance to go with it.
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 during the non-summer months.
65. Go geocaching, which promotes teamwork and time in nature.
66. Practice amateur photography. Kick it old-school and equip your 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.)
67. Go outside and count how many different types of trees and plants you can see in your area. Try to name them all, and look up the ones you don't know.
68. 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.
69. Go roller skating or ice skating.
70. Draw a map and create your own treasure hunt, either in the house or outside.
71. Do kid-friendly Zumba at home. Play fun music, and do exercise-dance moves. Let your 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 your 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 games. Rotate houses each week to split up hosting responsibilities.
75. Join a local Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts troop.
76. Help organize a block party with classmates.
Do good for the 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. Make a quilt and donate it to a local charity. Make this a monthly activity, adding themes to your blankets.
81. Sort through old clothes and toys and donate them to make room for new ones.
82. Tutor someone younger.
83. Perform random acts of kindness. Leave it up to your 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 your kids to provide these services for free as a way to give back to the community.
Flex your literary & learning skills
85. Creating a reading challenge, see if your 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 short story.
91. Write a poem.
92. 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.
93. Pick a song your child knows well and re-write all the lyrics together to make it funny.
94. Pick a movie or story and write an alternate ending.
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 more tips for getting kids to talk 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.
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