After a long day at school, kids often come home with a mix of emotions, tiredness, and sometimes, a bundle of pent-up energy. The transition from school to the comfort of home can sometimes trigger what is commonly known as the “after-school tantrum.” These meltdowns are not uncommon and are often rooted in what experts refer to as “after-school restraint collapse.” Here, we explore how sensory play can be a magical solution. To help kids unwind, process their day, and find a sense of calm after school!

The After-School Tantrum

Picture this scenario: your child comes home after a day at school, seemingly fine. But out of nowhere, a tantrum erupts. They may seem overly emotional, frustrated, or just out of sorts. This phenomenon is often referred to as “after-school restraint collapse.” The child has spent the entire school day keeping their emotions, impulses, and energy in check. This can be mentally exhausting, leading to a meltdown once they feel safe at home. 

Throughout the school day, children are bombarded with sensory stimuli – sights, sounds, social interactions, and cognitive demands. Processing all this information can be overwhelming! And by the time they get home, they might need a release. Sensory play provides a safe outlet for them to unwind and process the sensory input that they’ve been filtering through all day.

how to stop after school meltdown

Why Sensory Play is Better Than Screen Time

In our digital age, it’s common for parents to rely on screens to provide downtime for their kids. However, an alternative approach, like sensory play, can be significantly more beneficial. Engaging the senses through play helps ground children in the present moment. By focusing on tactile experiences, they can release tension and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, thereby soothing their somatic (body-related) systems.

Sensory play includes activities like squishing playdough, exploring textures, water play, or creating art with different materials. These activities not only help kids unwind but also foster creativity, cognitive development, and emotional regulation.

Happy Kids, Happy Mom: The Power of Sensory Play

Incorporating sensory play into the after-school routine has a twofold benefit: it not only helps children transition from school to home in a calm manner but also aids parents in managing the post-school chaos. By providing a structured yet relaxed period for sensory play, parents can create an environment that promotes emotional well-being for both the child and themselves.

As children engage in sensory activities, they enter a state of flow, allowing parents to tackle household chores or meal preparation with fewer interruptions. The soothing and calming effects of sensory play extend to parents as well, offering a shared moment of tranquility during the hectic afternoon hours.

Three children playing with colored dough

Other Ways to Avoid After-School Meltdowns

While sensory play is a fantastic way to help kids unwind after school, there are also other strategies to consider. Test the following out in conjunction with sensory kits to see what works best for your child!

  • Less Talking, More Listening: Sometimes, giving kids the space to share their thoughts when they’re ready can be more effective than bombarding them with questions right after school.
  • Food and Drink: A nutritious snack and a hydrating drink can help stabilize blood sugar levels and contribute to a smoother transition. Not to mention, a lot of kids come out of school hungry!
  • Create a Cozy Corner: Designate a quiet, comfortable space where your child can retreat and have some private quiet time if needed.
  • Nature Walks: Taking a leisurely walk in nature can be a great way to unwind, reconnect, and have meaningful conversations.

The journey from school to home doesn’t have to be tumultuous. Sensory play offers a pathway to relaxation, emotional processing, and joyful connection. By embracing this practice, you’re not only helping your child unwind after school. But also fostering a harmonious home environment for the entire family.  Visit the Meemzy Magic shop today to view our sensory play kits that can transform your child’s after-school experience.