By Cammie Jones

Multiple children equal multiple hobbies and afternoon and evening commitments. There are many ways to organize your after-school routine with kids so that you, as a parent, don’t burn out. Here are some tips to keep the fire (and gas in your car) burning.

1. Keep it Fun

Hobbies and sports for your children are fun.  Your child should look forward to these after-school programs. The first way to burn out is to force your child to do something of no interest that causes stress. The main point of extending learning after school is to enrich your student’s experiences outside of academics. This could be a sport, an art or music class or another organization that your student enjoys. Remember, the end goal is to unwind, get away for a while and learn or develop something new. Be mindful that you and your child are accepting the commitment.

2. Smart Scheduling

As parents, we are all guilty of over-scheduling, especially when multiple children are involved. Sam may need to be at karate at 4 p.m., but Shelly does cheer at 4:15 p.m., and there is no way to get from one to the other in 15 minutes. Double-check when committing to an activity. Verify the times and days of practices or meetings to make sure it is a realistic goal for your family. Use carpooling, if applicable, with others or solicit the spouse for some evening driving. Hiring a babysitter to help transport kids is a good idea. Relatives in town? See if they would enjoy time with the grandkids by helping on busier days.

One negative result of overscheduling is burnout by both the parent and child. Too much of a good thing can become too much. Pick and choose after-school activities based on interest, time constraints and general family well-being.

3. The Calendar Advantage

If trying to get more than one child to several places in the afternoon and early evening, you might need the calendar advantage. Keeping it all in your head begs for human error and confusion. Whatever works best for you, calendar-wise, is the way to go.

Calendar reminders on your phone are a great way to remember drop off or pick-up times. A large whiteboard prominently displayed in your home shows a comprehensive look at weekly activities. Allow your child, if old enough, to keep track of his/her schedule to promote responsibility and ownership. Having that second set of eyes and brain is invaluable for managing and maintaining a fun active schedule. Effective communication among all family members is key for a smooth week of after-school fun and keeps everyone in the loop.

4. Me Time

Get creative in carving out some time for yourself. If you have an hour to wait after dropping your child at soccer and not enough time to head home, use the time to hit the grocery store or stop off at a local coffee shop and catch up on emails. Bring a book or magazine with you to enjoy and spend that time relaxing.  Make personal phone calls you have been meaning to make. This is a great time to call an old friend and catch up.

5. Take Breaks

Even with careful planning, you can hit a wall and so can your child.  If you decide to miss a practice, game or meeting because you just need a little downtime, it IS okay. You are not a machine, and sometimes a family dinner together without all the hustle and bustle provides family members the energy to return the next day with refreshed souls, minds and bodies.

On-the-Go Protein Balls

This healthy snack for active kids is full of protein to maintain energy levels for physical activities. Refrigerate protein balls for an hour before packaging in a container or a Ziplock to enjoy on the car ride to after-school sports.

1 C rolled oats
1/4 C honey
1/4 C cashew butter
1/4 C peanut butter
1/3 C raisins or craisins
1/4 C unsweetened coconut
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp ground flaxseed or chia seeds
1/2 tbsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined. Roll into ½ inch balls and refrigerate before eating.