Phew… you made it through summer entertaining your crew. But now that back to school is oh-so routine again, it’s time to figure out how to spend the time between when the final school bell rings and dinner hits the table. If you’re looking to up the ante and venture outside the predictable playdate box, we’ve compiled a list of 25 activities that will keep your munchkins happy, entertained and possibly learning a little something along the way.

playing-with-leaves

photo: Scott Webb via Pexels

1. Visit a new-to-you park. Or head out in search of the best parks with slides; explore a botanical park; or hit one of these Eastside parks perfect for pint-sized playdates.

2. Take it old school with a trip to the roller rink. Or give ice skating a try! Check out Highland Ice Arena in Shoreline, Castle Ice in Renton, Kingsgate Ice Arena in Kirkland, Lynnwood Ice Center or Kent Valley Ice Centre.

3. The last hour of every weekday (4 p.m.–5 p.m.), the Seattle Children’s Museum accepts any amount of payment for regular admission. Just pay what you can afford to enter and play!

4. Organize a scavenger hunt around the house, yard or neighborhood. Try to find items outside that are the colors of the rainbow. Psst! Draw different colors in the bottom of an egg carton and have kids collect colored treasures in each cup.

Scavenging for Earthy Trinkets

photo: courtesy of Momma Hear Me Roar 

5. Keep your kids from climbing the walls after school by taking them to a place where they can literally climb a wall or a boulder or both!

6. Head to your local farmers market to pick up items for dinner or an after-school snack.

7. Kids have homework? Head to one of these spots that offer homework help, free WiFi or inspiring views for learners of all ages

8. Make dinner together! Pizza is always a favorite and you can get creative with the toppings and see who can add the most strong food (think veggies and protein!) or who can make the most colorful pizza. Or simply get creative with pepperoni placement.

pizza_bar

photo: Erin Feher

9. Got a big school accomplishment to celebrate? Head to one of these restaurants and indulge in a giant-sized dessert!

10. KidsQuest Children’s Museum offers lots of after-school activities and classes, too. Psst! KidsQuest is just $1 on the third Thursday of the month from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

11. If you’re lucky enough to live in West Seattle, Shelby’s offers snacky hour which is like happy hour for after school. Sweet!

12. Some art studios offer after-school classes for budding artists. Arts Aloft in Madrona offers Early Dismissal Tuesday classes for ages 6–11 from 2:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m.; Seattle’s Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio offers Open Studio times that you can register for until 2 p.m. day of; Seattle Re-Creative has drop-in Crafternoons on Fridays; and KidzWorkshop2 in Bellevue offers a variety of drop-in classes for 2-10-year-olds.

Creative Arts Open House at Roaring Mouse!

photo: Roaring Mouse Creative Arts Studio

13. Keep the learning going after school with a visit to one of our area’s amazing museums. The first Thursday of the month is Free Museum Day, making it a great time to visit a museum after school.

14. Flock to a farm and make friends with the animals. Kelsey Creek Farm in Bellevue has ponies, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs to occupy your kids with, plus there’s plenty of run-around room and a playground that’s perfect for burning off some of their extra energy.

15. Take advantage of Bellevue Arts Museum’s First Free Friday, with extended hours from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

16. Take your after-school crew to Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. It’s open 365 days a year and it’s free! Psst… the park closes 30 minutes after sunset.

Olympic Sculpture Park - Seattle, Wa

photo: Paul Gibson via flickr

17. Carkeek Park has miles of paths with meadows, wetlands, forest and beaches just waiting to be explored. Psst…be sure to stop along Piper’s Creek and cheer on the salmon making their way up-stream.

18. Head over to a Seattle Public Library or King County Library location and cozy up together in the children’s book section. Psst… be sure to check the story time schedules. Some locations even offer pajama story time.

19. Bellevue’s Mercer Slough is Lake Washington’s largest wetland and a perfect place to find feathered friends along the 7-plus miles of trails and boardwalks.

20. Many local indoor play spaces offer late admittance reduced fees such as Redmond’s Giggle Jungle along with get-the-wiggles-out locations such as Pump It Up which offers Family Jump Night on the second Friday of every month. SkyMania Trampolines provides evening jump times and Friday and Saturday night events for older kids and Elevated Sportz offers a special discounted rate for a combo package for 4 people every Tuesday from 5 p.m.–9 p.m. Psst! Elevated Sport also offers Uplift, a program serving special needs kids and their friends and families, every second Monday from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

SkyMania

photo: SkyMania Trampolines 

21. Check out meetup.com and see what other parents and tots are up to in your ‘hood.

22. Got a budding geologist or paleontologist in the fam? Washington is a great state to be a rockhound. Here’s where your kids can crack open geodes and find crystals, dig through rock piles for hidden treasures and see meteorites that are outta this world!

23. Check out a new class or activity. Many places in our area offer a try-before-you-buy trial class, so you can experiment before shelling out the dough.

24. Volunteer or perform a random act of kindness. Let your little lovebug determine what this means to him or her – whether it’s taking books to the local lending library or leaving a bouquet on the neighbor’s door.

25. Create an obstacle course around the house, yard or at your local park; craft a fort or castle out of couch cushions or blankets; or help your little entrepreneur make a coffee stand, restaurant or auto garage. Bonus points for learning about money and counting and making change.

We know you have more ideas for after-school playdates. Tell us in the Comments below!

— Jennifer B. Davis

feature photo courtesy of Rockreation