It’s time to go back to school! The days of summer leisure are over, and the demands of getting up early, a long school day, and a more regulated schedule might feel a bit overwhelming for your child. It is important to give your busy student time to decompress when coming home. Rather than plopping down on the sofa to watch TV or getting busy on your phone, here are some ideas. After school is out, choose one of these easy everyday activities, and have fun together!

1. Move

Your child has been sitting in a chair for the majority of the day. Now it’s time to move: Walk around the block as you talk about what happened in school today. Go to the playground. Ride your bikes. Throw a ball in your backyard, or the park. Shoot some hoops. Kick the soccer ball. Jump rope. Swirl the hula-hoop. Play hide-and-seek. Do a few yoga poses. Turn on your favorite song and dance. Wiggle and shake. Challenge your child to a race. Jump on one foot. Set a timer and move your body until time’s up. In general, whatever physical activity you both enjoy works.

2. Go Outside and Smell the Roses

These days, many children are driven to and from school, and miss out on the opportunity to spend time outside on their way home. It feels good to get fresh air after being inside. That’s why several of the activities mentioned above involve going outside. You can walk around the block, stop at the park, or enjoy time in the backyard. Bring your child’s awareness to the way the air feels, describing it in a positive way, i.e. pleasantly warm, nice and cool, fresh on your skin. Use your other senses to help your child arrive in the present moment, and let go of any stress he might have experienced in school. Notice what sounds you hear. What do you smell? What do you see? Recognize beauty around you, a flower blooming, the shape of a tree, or a cloud in the sky.

3. Be Silly

Roll down a grassy hill. Talk like a chipmunk. Walk like a sloth. Pretend to be someone else, an imaginary person with exaggerated character traits, or mimic a favorite character from a book or movie. Tell knock-knock jokes. Pick a cue word: any time that word comes up in your conversation, everyone has to jump for joy for 10 seconds.

4. Share Food

Most likely your child is hungry after school. Make a point of sharing a healthy snack. Even better, prepare it together. For instance, let her wash a peach, then arrange it on a plate together after you have cut it in slices. Smell the peach, describe its vibrant colors, and talk about its sweet juicy flavor after taking your first bite.

5. Walk Barefoot

Everyone kick off your shoes and take off your socks. Wiggle your toes and let your feet breathe! Walk and feel the ground underneath you. Let your toes talk with a funny voice and say something like, “Oh, I am so happy to be free! I was stuck in shoes all day! I am finally out! I feel dandy! Thank you for letting me come out to play!” Ask your child what his toes are saying.

6. Break out in Song

Play your favorite song and sing along together. Pretend to hold a microphone. Throw in some fancy dance moves. Have fun!

7. Make a Mandala

If your child had a real busy day, or seems hyper, a calming activity might be the answer. Draw and color a mandala together. Or, for a more sensory experience, make a sand mandala. Take a pie pan and fill it with sand or salt. Pick rocks, leaves, flower petals, sticks, beans, beads, or anything else you may find in your back yard or around the house. Arrange the materials to make a pretty design in your pie pan. You can keep using the same pie pan over and over again, creating new mandalas by rearranging your objects or adding new ones.

8. Drop to the Ground

Some days your child might be simply exhausted, and in need of a break. Grab a couple of stuffed animals. Turn on relaxing music, or a nature soundtrack, and lay down next to each other on the floor. Give your stuffed animals a ride on your bellies. See it go up and down with your breath. Hold hands and stay for a while.

9. Give a Hug

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the most obvious. A hug feels good. Give your child a heartfelt hug when the moment is right (with older kids wait until you get home :-)

Even if you take just a few minutes after school to spend quality time with your child, it will make a big difference for both of you. Allowing for a moment of connection and shared happiness goes a long way. Enjoy!