PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: After-school time

By Donna Erickson

Kassidy Palmberg, 8, and brother Kaleb, 7, enjoy after-school time snacking on homemade smoothie pops.

After-school time is prime time for school-age kids. Like that commute when adults switch gears from the end of their workday to home life, it’s a transition period in a busy day.

Even if it’s just a 30-minute break between getting off the school bus and leaving for a piano lesson, kids can recharge with a healthy snack (they are notoriously famished) and an impromptu game or two.

“Many of the day’s special learning opportunities happen in relaxed after-school downtime. Parents, grandparents and caregivers are important teachers,” says retired nurse Rachel Olson, who spends several afternoons a week with granddaughter Kassidy Palmberg, 8, and her 7-year-old brother Kaleb.

“We have so much fun together!” adds Kassidy, as she licks a giant smoothie pop that Rachel prepared that morning in a blender with fresh fruit, yogurt, ice and coconut milk. (Poured into plastic drinking glasses, she inserts spoons for handles and freezes them. When the kids arrive, they remove them from the cup and enjoy licking them on a hot afternoon. As the smoothie pop begins to melt, the kids can insert it back in the cup, smoosh it around and eat the remaining slushy goodness with the spoon.)

As they enjoy the cool treat, Rachel says, “Let’s play ‘guess the animal!’”

“I’m thinking of one,” says Kaleb, to get the word game going. Everyone tosses out questions and he responds.

“Is it furry?”


“Is it a caterpillar?”


“Is it alive, or a fantasy animal like a unicorn?”


“Is it a pet, like a cat or a hamster?”


“Does it live on a farm?”


“In Africa?”


“Is it a lion?”


As the school year concludes, engage with kids and create relaxing times together now and throughout the summer. Here are more downtime ideas:

Snacks: Have a variety of healthy choices on hand, such as popcorn, nuts or pretzel sticks for edible kabob skewers. Kids can poke bite-size chunks of cheese and fresh fruit onto each stick.

Talk time: Chat about their day as well as your own. Relaxed, shared time with caring adults is important for building trust and reinforcing values.

Exercise: There’s really no excuse not to exercise at home with a few quick playground games. Play catch or hide-and-seek. Making fitness a daily priority not only improves health, it also helps build happy relationships.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2018 Donna Erickson; Distributed by King Features Syndicate


PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: After-school time–