Always keep a positive mindset, it will improve your outlook on the world.

Roald Dahl

Does this sound familiar to you? Your kids come home fresh from a long day at school and immediately lose focus, they’re either wild animals running around like they have been mainlining Redbull or they’re drained and tired and not willing to pick themselves (let alone their shoes) up off the floor.

If so, do not lose hope!

I can show you a quick, creative and fun way to make an after school checklist that your kids can use to keep themselves on track!

6 different colorful checklists printed out on paper
The kids loved creating their own checklists

In just a few short steps we can get your kids on a schedule that allows them both independence and freedom while giving you a break from nagging.

If you’re like me, you have probably noticed an increased demand on your children’s time as homework and after-school extra-curricular activities became more time consuming and complicated. Between homework, snacks, basic chores and hectic sports schedule it seems impossible to get everyone on the same page without tears or tantrums. (from the kids and the grown-ups)

And anyone that has ever tried to get kids ready for anything knows the more you press them the more they rebel.

It’s time to take the responsibility off of our shoulders and put it squarely on where it belongs. Theirs. By giving them a little independence and the ability to decide when and how they take care of their after-school responsibilities, you’re teaching them how to manage their own time and become more independent.

But of course, we still need to have a little fun with it too!

So how are we going to do that? With checklists! So simple and yet it WORKS.

Checklists are fantastic way to help children visualize what they need to do.

A blue dry erase pocket with a completed checklist and a dry erase marker attached with braided string.
Attaching the marker with string kept the kids from losing their markers
The completed checklists within the dry erase pockets with dry erase markers attached with braided string
The clear pockets allow for double sided checklists for day where the schedule needs to vary

I love that they can be personalized for each child which makes it feel like it’s their own. And not just by he way it’s decorated decorations but also in the way each step is executed.

TIP: Children are more willing to cooperate with a task if they are given personal autonomy over it. Allow them to have some control over their schedule and they’ll end up feeling empowered and capable.

Let’s go over how I introduced the checklists. I like to keep the kids involved as much as I can so I sat down with the children and discussed what was expected from them when they got home from school and what tasks needed to be taken care of before they were off for the night and allowed to play independently.

Homework, snack time, and getting ready for sports were our main priorities but I allowed them some freedom when it came to what order they wanted to get things done. Some of my kids want to finish their homework before they have a snack while others are too hungry to wait that long.

Trick: Give the children a break in-between tasks. This lets them know that a break is coming but only after they finish these one or two things.

The kids were very excited to finally have a bit of control over a very busy schedule. They grabbed pins and papers and started to discuss how they wanted to structure their time. Some needed more help than others in organizing their thoughts but eventually we had four schedules written up in a way which each kid thought was fair.

That night I searched online for blank checklist templates and found a few that I thought would work for us. I then used an app called PicsArt to overlay a white background to leave room for the kids to decorate. Having set up the basics of the checklist on my own time I then sat down individually with each child and we added stickers from the PicsArt sticker folder and typed up the text. I loved seeing them have fun with it and bring their vision to life.  All that was left was to print out the checklists and put them into practice.

I ordered dry erase pockets off amazon and some dry erase markers in their favorite colors. 

4 different colored dry erase pockets and a set of 4 dry erase markers
By using a dry erase pocket and marker you can reuse the checklists over and over again

We have been using the checklists for a few months now and most afternoons they remain on task without needing to look at them all the time. They have actually formed the habits needed to remain focused until their responsibilities are done.

My Favorite part is the diminished tension in the household which has led to fewer fights and arguments among the siblings.

Technique: If you don’t have a printer or you want it in a size larger than a standard sheet of paper just head to a local paper supply store where they will print it out for you.

Let’s break it down

Bring everyone together

A little boy marks off his checklist wuth a dry erase marker
The kids feel like they own the schedule so they’re more willing to keep to it

Sit down and discuss the schedule that works best for the children in your care. Make sure they’re heavily involved with the entire process because the end goal is to teach them to manage their time efficiently and we won’t always be there to remind them what they need to do. Be clear of what expectations you have but allow them the freedom to craft their own time-table. 

Involve the kids

Give them a pen and paper and put them to work, by giving them a choice they will be more willing to take care of their responsibilities. Be sure to let them know if there are any steps you absolutely need done first.

Create your template

Depending on the child’s age and computer skills you can either create the checklist for them or allow them to do it on their own. Practical computer skills are always a win-win. I used PicsArt to create my checklists but there are a lot of photo editing apps available. Find one that works for your family. If digital doesn’t work for you there are other ways to organize a checklist. Do you have a chalkboard or a white board to write on? Or you could go old school and write it down on a piece of paper and just use stickers to decorate. 

Protect your work

A paper checklist will need to be protected, and one way to do that is with dry erase pockets and dry erase markers. Plus, you can use two different schedules in one pocket and just have the children switch them around depending on the day. I bought these off Amazon in a pack of 6. Four of them went to the kids and the last two were used for cleaning schedules I made for my boyfriend and myself. These dry erase pockets are larger. 10×14 so they allow you to print big, beautiful graphics that appeal to everyone. 

Location Location Location

Decide how and where the checklist will be displayed. In the kitchen next to where their homework spot? In their rooms where they drop off their bags? For example, the children I care for live in two different houses which makes keeping track of anything difficult. To keep from having to constantly replace the markers I attached them to the dry erase pockets with braided embroidery thread. 

Now you have a checklist, what do you do next? Be consistent. You’re teaching them new habits so it’s going to take some time for those habits to form. Resist the urge to control the situation and let them fall into their routine. Just keep reminding them to “Check their checklist” so they know what to do next.  Eventually, they wont need to use the checklists because they will have learned a new way to do things.

Final thought

You’ll notice I let the kids have some “Down time” in between chores and homework. The demands on kids can sometimes be overwhelming for them and I noticed they children I care for did better when they had time to decompress before homework or after school activities. Not to mention it gave them something to look forward to after an already long day at school.