You know that feeling you get as soon as the kids are tucked in bed? The one that drives you to turn on the TV, slip down a Facebook black hole, or play Dots on your phone in order to reset for just 15 minutes before returning to full human functioning?
Well, I imagine that my boys — one 7 year old and one 10 year old — experience a similar feeling when they come home from school. Which is why in my home, I realize that after-school snack time had somehow evolved into after-school screen time. And I wanted to do something about it.
Given that I’ve been thinking about how to turn snack time into together time, I’m thrilled to be working with our latest sponsor, TEDDY Soft Bakes. Recently, I was able to attend an event that they hosted with Dr. Stuart Brown, an expert on play. His work got me thinking that my efforts to create a moment of togetherness at snack time was not just about getting the boys off of screens, but was actually good for their development.
I’d gotten something right. How many times can you say that unequivocally as a parent? Ha!
Every Kid Needs Zone-Out Time
I hardly begrudge my kids for craving a moment to zone out at home before jumping into basketball practice, homework, or heading out for an extracurricular club — nor do I feel guilty that I let them. But one day, when I noticed that I, too, was spending their first moments home from school on the phone while they refueled with a snack, I wondered if we could find a way to relax together instead of next to each other.
That’s when I stumbled on a wonderful activity that turned our snack time into really special bonding time that we all look forward to every day now:
Out loud reading time. Yes, out loud.
Even to my 10 year old.
Here’s how we got there, and why it’s working so well for us.
We Didn’t Start With Reading
I originally tried playing old school board games with my kids, as a natural extension of the iPad games they generally played at snack time. Plus it’s something we love doing together on the weekends, so why not!
Well, here’s why not.
While I could convince them to drop the screens for board games without a major fight, with two kids of different ages, it was often hard to agree on a game. Then, when we did find some, the games they really love were taking forever to play and often took more energy or brainpower than we wanted to expend.
Basically, anything more than a game of Go Fish was defeating the point of a quick recharge before homework or practice.
From there, I had the thought of pulling out coloring books and drawing paper because, well, I’m a sucker for a fabulous adult coloring book.
Unfortunately, my boys aren’t much into arts and crafts. They’d much rather build things (and pull them apart) than sit and draw or — heaven forbid — color inside lines.
Then I thought about how they both love to read.
And so one day, I just grabbed my copy of the first Harry Potter, which I figured we might all enjoy together. I set the snacks out for them on the coffee table, and while they munched, I started reading out loud.
They were hooked from page one.
About our sponsor
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Together Time, At Last!
Read-aloud time during snack time may sound like a no-brainer if you’ve got little ones who still have story time every day with you.
But me? I have grade-schoolers, and I admit that sometimes I’m too exhausted by even my 7 year old’s bedtime to get to it. And by 8 PM, the older one just wants to curl up alone with a book. I’ve come to associate reading with something we do at bedtime, and never really thought they’d be interested during the day.
It turns out that I misjudged them.
Even at their ages, they still love being read to.
(I mean, really, who doesn’t?)
And even more surprising is realizing that I really love reading out loud to them too. It’s a whole different game for me at 3 PM than it is at night when I’m totally fried from the day.
While our snack time now offers a relaxing moment for them to recharge and refocus, diving into the world of Hogwarts is also sparking imagination, discovery, philosophical discussions about the merits of being an unregistered animagus (seriously, we’ve talked about that) — plus it’s heightening their desire to create, write, or just use their imaginations while playing with each other (and me, too, on occasion) after snack time on free days.
That’s something I didn’t see from them when they were just zombie-ing out with video games. And I love it.
Bonus: It forces me to refocus too!
I shut my laptop, turn off my phone notifications, and now see after-school snack time as my own period to recharge, reconnect, and get ready for the rest of my own day, which includes finishing work, making dinner, and making sure that the boys are doing everything on their lists — that is, when we’re not shuttling around town for sports and after school programs.
Plus, you know, I get to snack too.
Now snack-time-as-reading-time is our much awaited daily afternoon ritual. And honestly, if someone had told me a few months ago that I could transform those 30 or so minutes each weekday into a moment during which my active boys would willingly give up screens to listen to me read? I would have thought that they were crazy.
But, here we are. I just had to discover it.
Thank you to our sponsor TEDDY Soft Bakes for helping parents make snack time more fun, encouraging mutual play, and discovery — something that we can all use more of. To learn more, visit TEDDY Soft Bakes online and on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.