The secret to staying sane through school pick up to dinner time.

I have a lot on my plate with a job or two, three kids and a uni degree.

As a result, I always try and get my work done while the kids are at school so that when the bus pulls up, I am all theirs.

This rarely happens.

What normally happens is I stuff around until mid-morning, finally start working and by the time the bus pulls up I am panicking over something I forgot to do. The kids walk in and start asking for food, water, affection and attention, which can be incredibly inconvenient to a mum who has missed a deadline and still hasn’t washed last night’s dinner dishes.

I’ve had to become a bit of an expert at buying myself some time and hiding the fact that it’s neglect.

Enter: the carpet picnic.

On days I know I am still going to be working or cleaning or distracted when the kids get home, I set up the after school snack of a lifetime in the form of a carpet picnic in front of the TV. The kids come crashing through the door, dropping things as they go, and after we exchange greetings, they begin feeding.

I have as long as it takes for them to eat to finish urgent work. On a good day I get to join them when there is still food left. Children are always so hungry after school.

The great thing about the carpet picnic is that it makes the children feel special and treasured because I have gone to so much trouble to set it up for them. In reality, it’s very little work. I just put things in plates and bowls, make sure all the foods are cut and washed, and that’s it.

Who loves you, kids?

They’ve come to expect a particular food combination from the carpet picnic. It didn’t take long for them to develop expectations. They like carrot sticks, cut cucumbers, cheese wedges, olives, two kinds of crackers, popcorn, water bottles and individual plates.


I don’t even feel guilty that I am parking them in front of the TV, for two reasons:

1. They are eating healthy food while doing it.
2. They hardly watch the TV due to their devices so in our home, watching TV is like the olden days when kids jumped on a trampoline, and devices are the new evil TV.

Once I have the basic foods in place I can offer one or two things that are a bit different but won’t cause any upset as long as the food items above are included. In summer, they like watermelon, for example.

I try not to put any junk foods out, unless it’s one of those junk foods that I can kid myself has some healthy properties like dried fruit dipped in yoghurt or chocolate bullets. No, my kids don’t like chocolate bullets that much either - but I do. Hands OFF the chocolate bullets, kids.

This is the only food I’ll let them have between home time and dinner, so I have to make sure it is filling. The best way to ensure it will tide them over until dinner is to make sure there are some protein components and that most of it is nutritious. The cheese wedges really come in handy, as do the olives, and the fruit, and the vegies.

By the time we finish our snack it’s time for swimming or martial arts or soccer or art class and when we get home it’s dinner time.

Ta da!

How do you keep sane when your kids return from school?

Some more snack ideas for your little ones (and you too)

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