After-school programs are a great opportunity for kids because they offer activities that the regular school day does not. This is especially valuable today, when so many extracurricular programs are being cut from schools for budgetary reasons. In fact, a study shows that children who participate in after-school programs reap the following benefits:
- Increased reading ability
- Development of new interests and skills
- Improved school attendance and engagement
- Improved homework
- Higher aspirations for the future, including wanting to go to college
[source: U.S. Department of Education]
So what kind of after-school program is best? Really, it depends on the personality and needs of your child. Perhaps your son or daughter needs supervised homework time. Many schools offer aftercare where children are able to complete their homework with access to assistance should they need it. Some of these programs also offer healthy snacks, as most kids are pretty hungry after school.
Of course, there are the typical activities -- sports, dance, Girl or Boy Scouts, piano lessons, and the like. Find out what interests your child, and help cultivate that interest.
Most communities have enough programs and activities to keep your children busy after school five days a week, and sometimes even on the weekend. But try to remember that everyone, especially kids, needs balance in their lives. Just because you can sign up your child for seven different activities doesn't mean you should. Look for signs that your child is tired or overwhelmed -- or if you are!
Scheduling and organization are key when you're dealing with lots of activities and several children. Take some time every weekend to go over the next week's schedule with your child so he or she knows what to expect. You could even make a poster board or whiteboard schedule together to hang in your child's room or in the kitchen so everyone knows what's on his or her plate every day. And make sure you have rides, carpooling, and details like clean uniforms worked out so there are no unpleasant surprises.