This time of year is when families begin transitioning from a relaxed summer schedule to preparing for the first day of school. It’s also a time when many parents are searching for before- and after-school programs to keep their kids safe as they get back into their regular work routine.
Extended day programs support what children learn during the day in the classroom while giving parents peace of mind that their kids are safe and having fun in a program close to home.
What does high-quality licensed before- and after-school care look like? The best programs share a handful of key characteristics:
1. They expand your child’s social circle
Before- and after-school programs often introduce children to other kids and adults that they do not know from their school or classroom setting, requiring them to use their social and communication skills to build new relationships and friendships.
As they participate in small-group activities with kids of similar age, they discover new ways their peers learn and play. This can be a major benefit to children that are more reserved or cautious when entering new environments.
2. They offer interest-based learning opportunities
The end of the school day doesn’t mean the end of learning. Children who attend after-school programs benefit from building on the lessons that they have learned in the classroom, creating an increased desire to learn. Good extended day programs should offer activities, projects, and games based on the children’s interests. This helps with developing self-confidence and independence, while still relating to the curriculum they’re being taught in school.
3. They provide time to play outdoors
Before- and after-school programs should give kids the opportunity to be active — especially outdoors. These activities combat the risks associated with sedentary behavior (such as sitting in front of the television or computer, or playing video games), which can lead to health related problems.
4. They are an opportunity to relax and unwind
Most working adults need time to unwind after the work day — whether it means going to the gym, grabbing something to eat, hanging out with friends, or spending alone time with a good book. The same can be said for children after a day in the classroom. Some may need to run around to burn off some energy, while others may prefer to spend time alone or need an afternoon snack right away. A good before- and after-school program will schedule activities to make the transition easier.
5. They offer a homework help option
Many extended day programs will assist with homework if requested. Kids may be going to another activity afterwards and will not have time to complete their assignments. While homework time isn’t mandatory in a before- or after-school program, it may be helpful to have that option if you know your child will have limited time to finish their work.
6. They gather input from kids
The school day is structured and led by teachers trying to meet curriculum goals. Before- and after-school programs should be more flexible and give children their choice of how to spend their time. In addition to tapping into kids’ interests, allowing them to have input on what activities to do before or after school makes them feel more involved in decision making. They’ll see they play an important role in their community and giving older school-age kids a voice will boost their buy-in for participating in an extended day program rather than staying at home alone.
YMCA Before and After School Care is a licensed child care program for children aged 4 to 12 and provides children a safe and fun way to begin and end school. The YMCA Before and After School Care programs are offered in over 180 locations in the GTA and operate from 7AM until the beginning of school and after school until 6PM from Monday to Friday, September to June. Many programs also offer programming on P.D. days and school holidays.