Strategies to manage after school activities

Strategies to manage after school activities

Strategies to manage after school activities

Talk to any parent for any length of time and it doesn’t take long to get on to the topic of after school activities and the associated running around that comes along with them.

The proliferation of options for after school activities means that kid’s can be exposed to all sorts of wonderful learning opportunities. Too many structured activities however can rob kids of time to simply play, explore and be physically active. Take these recent stats:

A recent Australian study found that four and five year olds spend more time in organised, structured activities than in unstructured play. {source}

Young children who are highly scheduled in structured activities on weekdays and those with limited adult involvement, especially on weekends, tend to be less physically active. {source}

I include these stats before I write my strategies for managing after school activities because I do not want to exacerbate the myth that kids must do after school activities. They don’t. I have many readers ask me what type of after school activities are best for kids to help them get a head start. I can’t answer that question, but I do know as parents we have a choice about each and every activity we enrol our kids in.

I know my kids would love the idea of doing many different activities than what they currently do. We limit how many activities they do ,as I know that there is only so much they and the family can handle, from both a busyness and financial perspective. As the adult, I need to make the best decision I can within my means to ensure they are not overloaded.

Strategies for managing after school activities

I often think about testing out a term where no one has an after school activity to see what it would be like. But even though I know all of the above, I love that the kids each play a team sport and have a training night that gets them running around. Combined with a couple of other activities, we do have number of after school activities we need to accommodate across the week. This is how we manage.

Limit activities

Each child can have up to two activities. They can choose what they are within reason and we do our best to accommodate their choices. Sometimes it just may not work out that we can do that day or time, so they will need to choose something else. No one is forced to do an activity, but they must finish what they start. So if they pick up a new sport, they need to see the season out before they drop it. It is important for them to understand the responsibility to turn up when it comes to being part of a team.

If they show interest in something new and are keen to try it out, they know that to fit the activity into our week, they will have to drop something else. This is not only for my benefit, but it is easy for kids to be over enthusiastic about what they want to do and tire themselves out. There needs to be time when they don’t have any structured activities so they can just be.

Set a family limit for after school activities and stick to it. As the parent it is important you make the judgement about how much they and you can handle.


I have played around a lot with the scheduling of after school activities to see what works best for us. What I have found is that what works best depends significantly on the ages of the kids. Now when we have all kids at school, I have opted for to schedule activities on two nights so that we have multiple activities on them. We then have two nights completely free and one night where I have to do a pick up only much later (6pm). I also avoid having anything on Monday nights if I can. It is nice to have a calm start to the week and I find it helps keep the kids fresher for longer.

This works really well for us at the moment, as while we are waiting at one child’s activity I can listen to the reading of the younger ones in the car and if we have time we can then have a run around on the nearby oval. It also means the youngest one has three nights where he can just get home from school and potter like he loves doing and we don’t have to go any where. First year of school is tiring and having this time to unwind and play is important for him.

However this would have been much harder to manage when I had young babies. To be out from school pick up until 6pm would have just been too long for all of us. But back then I didn’t have as many after school activities to schedule in the first place!

Play with the scheduling of your activities – try scheduling activities so you have a couple of nights free with no activities.

Menu planning

The scenario of having tired and hungry kids when you come in from after school activities and then having to prepare a meal is not one I relish! Our menu planning is based around the after school activities we have. I will choose meals I can make ahead on days when we are going to be home late for example. You can read in detail about how I menu plan by clicking here, but as an example, this is how I base my menu plans for this term:

  • Monday – Meat and veg
  • Tuesday – Slow cooker meal (multiple activities)
  • Wednesday – Meat and rice (eg stir fries, curries etc)
  • Thursday – Meal that can be prepared in advance (multiple activities)
  • Friday – Meal that can be prepared in advance (late pick up, so feed the younger kids before I go and the remaining when I return home)
  • Saturday – A meal someone else can cook (usually a wrap style meal)
  • Sunday – Meat and veg

Try creating a menu plan that factors in your after school activities to make it easier to feed the kids a healthy evening meal without the rush.

These are the main strategies I use to manage after school activities. You can see more tips in this post – 10 Tips For Managing After School Activities which I wrote when our youngest was a baby five years ago!

How do you manage the after school activities?