Research shows that kids benefit greatly from participating in after-school activities. In a 2008 study, research found that the 17 percent of kids who didn't participate in activities were more withdrawn and socially immature and had lower self-esteem in comparison to their more busy peers.
Kids respond well to routine, so make sure you have one. Your child should know what to expect -- it makes him or her feel more secure and in control. Establish your own after-school routine together. One thing we recommend is an after-school snack. Kids come home hungry after a long day. The after-school snack ritual is a good way to establish healthy eating habits, and it also gives you some time to connect and talk about the school day.
Homework is also important. Some parents have their kids complete their homework first thing, before they're allowed to go play or visit with friends. Try to make yourself available to assist your kid if he or she needs it, and check the homework afterward. It helps you keep tabs on how your child is doing in school, and keeps you involved in the learning process.
Many parents also limit what they call "screen time." If you're concerned about your kids spending too much time with video games, the computer, or television, give them a time limit each day and let them choose which "screen" they want to watch.
The best way to make the most of your kid's free time is to keep a balance. Don't overschedule your child, or worse, pressure her or him to achieve too much. You don't want a fun activity to become unenjoyable. Remember, sometimes a kid just needs to be a kid.
For more about kids and family, check out the links on the next page.