The school day may end at 3 p.m., but children learn and play all day long. It’s always a struggle to figure out how to fill those late afternoon hours safely and productively, and dual-working parents have the additional difficulty of transportation logistics. Yet, choosing the right after-school program matters. Studies have shown that kids who get involved in out-of-the-classroom activities benefit in numerous ways like increased academic achievement, learning new skills, and better school attendance. For older children, after school activities provide a safe environment during the peak risk hours for juvenile crimes and iffy behaviors.
But what kind of activities do you choose?
The Recess Recession
Considering the increasing cutbacks in recess time as well as the limited sports opportunities in smaller schools, taking up a community sport or getting involved in other gym-related programs are a great choice to fill the gap between classes and home. School sports are getting more competitive at earlier and earlier ages, so if your child doesn’t make a team, consider indoor rock climbing, gymnastics, or even a yoga class. Free play in an inside gym or on outdoor equipment is a simple way for kids who’ve been cooped up all day to let off steam and make physical activity a daily habit.
Free The Inner Artist
With increased attention on statewide testing, many local school boards’ budgets reflect higher funding for programs geared to boost math and language scores. Unfortunately, art, music, and performing arts classes are often the victims of these cuts. An after-school dance, music, theater, painting, or ceramics class is a great way to indulge your artsy child’s creative passions.
Time To Tutor
Two-hour intensive tutoring sessions in algebra may not be the favored way for your child to spend all his after-school hours, but with moderation, the 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. span is a great time to catch up on the fundamentals if your child is falling behind. If your student struggles with take-home assignments, a grade-appropriate homework tutor may be a wise way to avoid turning precious after-dinner hours into long, difficult, tear-filled battles over worksheets and writing assignments.
One Stop Shopping
Some schools and institutions offer after-school programs that encompass all of the above options, giving children the freedom to follow their independent choices. Your local YMCA or YWCA likely has programs for multiple ages, offering a safe place for kids and teens to spend the afternoon. Your own school may even offer after-school programs of their own.
Working parents can smooth over those vexing logistical issues of leaving work to drive kids from one place to another by taking advantage of programs that offer school-to-program pick-up amenities. Broad after-school enrichment programs provide a singularly wonderful advantage of providing snacks, free play, as well as making homework tutors available so your child finishes those wretched worksheets before you pick them up.
Whatever you and your child choose for after-school activities, make sure the activities incorporate a lot of free play. Even the most active minds need a few hours, now and again, to lie on the grass and find dragons in the clouds.