This is the time of year when working parents and other caregivers search for quality after-school programs. They call friends, check out online reviews and shop around. These are slightly stressful searches, everyone hoping to find something that’s a perfect fit for their kids.
As after-school programs grow in popularity, parents start researching early.
This is especially true if parents already know the areas in which their children are interested. Or perhaps they know the subjects or themes their kids are keen to explore.
Either way, look into local programs before they post registration deadlines or waiting lists.
Here are some qualities to look for when choosing after-school programs:
Among other benefits, a good after-school program can boost your child’s intellectual development. These are typically programs with developmentally or age-appropriate curriculum and specific learning outcomes.
Appropriately credentialed instructors are also needed to ensure a top-notch learning environment.
Programs of worth set time aside for children to do homework. Teachers should be qualified and able to assist with basic subjects that need reinforcement after school. This includes tutoring and different instructional styles so the lessons connect with students.
Hands-on learning is often the difference between passing and failing
Some children simply need more than a traditional lecture model in order to learn. Getting their hands on the materials or following instructions to create what they’re reading about does them good.
Quality after-school programs provide hands-on components.
Small and large group activities also help children learn via peer instruction. They develop improved cooperation skills and learn accountability to others through this kind of teamwork.
Look for variety in each program. Yes, tutoring is important for academic improvement but so is physical activity, fun, and arts and crafts.
A low student/teacher ratio makes it easier for teachers to supervise their students. This is important when kids are attending programs after school.
Choose providers with open-door policies for parents so that visiting is not only allowed but encouraged. It helps to hold everyone accountable. For example, meet the instructors face-to-face if possible. Do they appear to be responsible and caring professionals? Do you feel comfortable with the ratio?
Ask to see an emergency preparedness plan.
Tour the facilities. Does the atmosphere seem calm or chaotic? Are children learning or running around without guidance? If the providers don’t allow parents to visit, that might be a red flag. Parents should be able to look inside classrooms, view lesson activities and read curriculum guides. That’s how they make an informed decision.
Ask plenty of questions. Write down details you’ll want to remember later.
During a tour of facilities parents also have the opportunity to confirm the program is clean, licensed and well-run. Check those bathrooms and make sure all local and state health protocols are in place.
What social and emotional skills do these programs develop?
Programs should have an inclusive and tolerant philosophy for their students to feel safe and secure. Healthy environments encourage communication. This helps mold young learners and athletes into well-rounded adults.
Another social benefit is that children in these programs meet other kids outside their immediate circles. Befriending diverse groups of students helps youngsters develop appreciation for cultural, economic and racial differences.
Parents should feel confident discussing their own cultural or religious needs with program administrators. Ensure it’s an accepting and loving atmosphere for all. Discussing family norms also helps clarify expectations with the provider to avoid any conflicts that might arise.
After-school programs often serve snacks, so pick one with healthy food. It helps to have your children in an environment that reinforces healthy choices in line with your own family’s philosophy.
These programs should also allow for physical activity. Encouraging children to move, exercise, blow off steam and connect with their peers after school is important.
When visiting the program in person, what do their sports equipment look like? Are they following safety guidelines? Is there enough equipment for all the children to participate?
Observe the students. Are they enjoying themselves while playing with others?
Are they sent out to the playground unsupervised? Or is structured recess in place to encourage participation?
Positive adult relationships
The more caring, responsible adults in a child’s life, the better. Programs staffed with good instructors help children learn appropriately and build healthy relationships.
Positive child/adult relationships steer children away from bad choices. For example, kids with support systems in place are better equipped to avoid criminal behavior, smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs.
Good after-school programs also encourage a connection between children and their community.
How much is budgeted for after-school enrichment and how much does each program cost? This is an important consideration. Ask if there are extra fees for anything such as trips or food.
Factor in before or after care. What are the fees for programs when school is on winter or spring break?
Some camps allow children to attend part-time rather than every day, to accommodate parents’ schedules and financial needs. Inquire about sibling discounts.
Stay in touch with the instructors and administrators. They can provide feedback about the child’s performance and any concerns that come up.
Children who see their parents as a welcomed presence in these programs do better when participating in them.
KidzToPros has your back
With quality after-school programs in STEM, Sports and Arts, KidzToPros scores a home run in every area.
Staffed with qualified professionals, they understand what parents need when searching for enrichment programs for children. And they go above and beyond providing it.