Finding an Afterschool Program

Afterschool programs can be a blessing to families who want to extend their children’s learning or cultural experiences. They’re also wonderful for working parents who need somewhere for their children to go after school, but  are looking for more than a babysitter. There are so many programs available to families today, choosing the right one can be a challenge. Here are  benefits of some afterschool activities. But don’t overdo it—keep it simple—kids need downtime, too.

Sports Programs

There are many benefits to putting kids into competitive team sports such as baseball, soccer, football and basketball. They learn good sportsmanship, how to be a team player, discipline and they get plenty of exercise. If your child is competitive and loves a physical challenge, this might be the perfect option for your family. It can also be good for children who lack motivation to exercise. Keep in mind, if your child hates the sport, it’s likely he will not excel. Martial arts, fencing and swimming are also excellent choices when it comes to discipline, self-control and a physical outlet.

Dance Programs

From hip hop to ballet, dance classes are a favorite for girls in particular, but don’t dismiss them for your son. Boys who think dancing is for sissies should know that men in ballet are amongst some of the strongest men out there! Ballet teaches discipline and perseverance.       

Dance is fun and provides plenty of exercise. Choose tap, jazz, zumba, hula, clogging, ballroom and more. These classes help children with grace, balance and large motor skills. They also provide opportunities for social skills as performances are usually part of the program.

Educational Programs

If your child would rather read than play football, or spends hours over a chemistry set, consider an educational program. Children can join reading clubs, math or science clubs, or take history or language classes. Benefits include enhanced learning and more in-depth study in their chosen subject than is usually available in a typical class. Afterschool classes are smaller, so teaching is more one-on-one. This type of program might also be good for a child who prefers sports to academics. Educational programs can help improve grades. If your child needs improvement in a particular subject, such as math, choose a program that emphasizes that subject.

Arts & Cultural Programs

Many afterschool programs offer music lessons, theater and drama, chess clubs, painting or arts and crafts. Programs like these allow children to explore different areas of the art world before choosing something long-term. The emphasis behind an afterschool program of this kind is enrichment, creativity and exploring areas not normally open to kids. For example, if your child is shy, drama may draw him out. Music classes bring out hidden talents and teach discipline.

Keep Your Goals in Mind

Whatever program you choose, regular evaluation is the key to success. Make sure the program works for you and your child. He should have the freedom to reject an activity if he genuinely dislikes the activity. Programs that combine education with recreation are typically best for younger children. The goal is learning and enrichment, but having fun is important, too.

Belinda Mooney is a freelance writer.


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