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The start of the school year is always an equally exciting and stressful time for kids, but this year can make it a lot harder on a lot of people.

The various restrictions and complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has made the new school year tougher than ever. Many kids aren’t even back in school, instead taking their classes fully virtually, becoming unintentionally homeschooled in the process.

Either way, this school year in particular is a lot more stressful than many of the rest of them have been, and this can start to have a negative impact on your kids. Studies show that during times of stress and change, kids tend to benefit the most from having a set routine and structure, both before and after school.

 

One way to help set this routine is to create an after-school area. By giving your kids a specific place to come home and unwind after their classes are over, even if they’ve been at home taking classes on the computer, you can help ease a lot of their anxieties and help give them a sense of greater normalcy and control over their environment.

Of course, creating a new space these days requires a little more than the usual storage – you need to make sure everything is kept as hygienic and safe as possible too, to reduce the risk of your kids bringing home any unwelcome surprises (like germs). Here’s a few of our favorite tips for creating a safe after-school environment for your kids to come home to:

 

After-School Area Design Tips

Create a “landing pad” for your kids

Wherever you create your after-school area, a great way to get your kids invested in it is to create a landing pad for them. Give them a place to keep their backpack, their coat, their textbooks, and the like to help keep everything organized and let them decompress a little bit when they get home. Things like coat hooks and kids lockers can go a long way towards helping them organize everything they need for school, and help them shift into “at home” mode a little better.

 

Stock it with distractions

After your kids finish up with a day of school, the last thing they probably want to do is think too hard. By using your after-school area for something a bit more fun (like their favorite book, or toys that won’t make a big mess) you can help them unwind a bit more and take some of the stress out of their day by letting them change their focus for a little while. This could even make their homework go a little more smoothly, by helping them feel like they’re not being overwhelmed by constant schoolwork.

 

Use hygienic storage

If you don’t have a whole spare room to turn into the after-school area (like a rumpus room or playroom), you’re probably creating your after-school area in a corner of another room, or a safe part of the basement. Especially if your children are still attending school on-site, you’ll want to try to use the most hygienic storage methods available to make sure no germs or unwanted guests come home on your kids’ stuff. Use shelves like wire shelves and rust proof shelves to help inhibit the growth of bacteria and germs that might’ve latched on to your kids’ backpack or lunchbox, and make sure to wash everything down as often as possible.

 

Tie it into their lessons

Of course, you don’t want to be completely uneducational. Especially if your kids are learning from home and need you to be more involved in their lessons, you could use some of the space in your afterschool area to relate back to their lessons. Are they learning about space in science class? Make some of the decor a little more planetary to help them open up with questions about the galaxy around them. Do your kids dig dinosaurs? Even if they’re not that scientifically accurate, adding some dinosaur toys or related activities to the area could help keep their interest alive.

Whatever you do with your afterschool area, make sure to listen to your kids for feedback, and help them be as comfortable as possible with it.

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