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How to Ease the Afternoon Rush

The busiest part of a parent's day is that time between school's end and bed's beginning. Here's how to tackle this time like the pro parent you are.

The following was produced in partnership with White Castle, America’s first fast-food hamburger chain. Whether from one of their restaurants or in the frozen section of the grocery store, White Castle provides parents with a tasty solution to satisfy kids’ afternoon snack and dinner craves.

You might not hear it yourself, but the end-of-day school bell is also the signal that your afternoon rush has begun. The second kids leave the school grounds they’re all yours for the six jam-packed hours before bedtime. From after-school club meetings and sports practices to errands, homework, and dinner, it’s a lot to juggle — and requires some expert maneuvers.

Effectively managing this time of the day is absolutely essential for parents who want to maintain their sanity and spend quality time with their kids. Luckily, there are some fairly simple steps you can take to make the afternoon rush less chaotic and, believe it or not, fun. Here’s your game plan.

Hang Up a Shared Family Calendar

You wouldn’t want to go to work without knowing when and where your meetings are. Why wouldn’t you bring that level of organization to your personal life? Having your kids’ activities plotted on a giant physical calendar will help you avoid overscheduling them and make it easier to fit family time into their and your busy schedules. Let them decorate the calendar (with plenty of googly eyes) to get them invested in it. Then, nudge them toward the calendar when they inevitably ask you what’s happening after school tomorrow.

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Make Your Kids Responsible for Some Weeknight Chores

You and your spouse probably already split up lots of the chores that need to be done; why not have your kids take on a few? If you frame it correctly, you’ll find that they like contributing to the family routine and, with everyone pitching in, there’s more chore-free time for everyone to enjoy. Start with simple things like setting the table and eventually you’ll be able to get a respite from taking out the trash. Besides, studies have shown that kids who do more chores become more successful adults.

Use Your Screens Wisely

Create a shared digital grocery list so you can pick up ketchup when you need it. Use a family time management app to keep everyone on track; there are great options for all kinds of parents. Program your family’s phones to limit app usage at specific times to keep dinner device-free. There’s any number of things you can do to make sure your devices help you communicate effectively without them getting in the way of your weekday routine.

Minimize Food Prep, Maximize Family Dinner Time

The more time you spend cooking, the less time you can spend interacting with your family without distraction. But you still need dinner to be tasty and fun. That’s why having White Castle sliders on hand in the freezer is a godsend to busy parents. They’re ready in minutes and they taste just like they were delivered from your local White Castle restaurant. And while White Castle is known for their 100% beef sliders they also have alternatives like chicken, breakfast, and veggie that are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. Pair them with some microwaved veggies — peas and carrots are a classic combo — and you’ve got a complete meal ready to go faster than you can order takeout. Out and about and not going to make it home in time for dinner? You can pick some up in a frozen section near you. Totally strapped for a dinner? You can always save time and order ahead using the White Castle app.

Run Errands After the Kids Are Asleep

Stores can get swamped right after 5:00 p.m. as folks stop by after work. For parents, that means navigating aisles, waiting in long lines, and keeping the kids amused while you’re getting things done. If your kids have an early enough bedtime — or you’re a bit of a night owl — sneak out after they’re asleep to avoid the crowds. You can even assign specific errands to specifics days (e.g. grocery store Mondays, drugstore Tuesdays, dry cleaner Wednesdays). Those valuable hours you have together after school are better spent, and you get to run errands in peace.

Buy Into the Delivery Revolution

We’re living in the future, which means there’s no shortage of companies that will deliver groceries, toiletries, prescriptions, and anything else your family might need. Use them. It might cost you a small fee, but you’ll more than make up for it with the time (and gas!) saved by eliminating trips from your evening itinerary. You can even set schedules so home staples like paper towels and toothpaste get delivered to your house before you even have a chance to run out of them. Let these services deliver the future to you so you and your family can enjoy the present.

Don’t Let Your Weekends Go to Waste

It can be tempting to completely check out during the weekends, using your days off as unproductively as possible as some sort of payback for getting stuff done all week. Resist the urge. If you can get some stuff done during the weekends, you’ll be happy you did. Make a list with a reasonable number of to-do’s — focus on those that are harder to get done during the week — and get them done like you would any other. If you balance it right, you can make your Monday through Friday that much easier.