Quirky After School Programs
With the growing interest in after school programs shown by the Government
as well as parents, new and hitherto unheard of programs are being
explored. In an attempt to make a child aware of his responsibilities as
an individual and as a citizen, these after school programs make use of a
child's natural curiosity and his irrepressible energy.
In some schools in Kernersville, children are developing their
investigative skills. Children meet with adults who introduce them to the
details of fake non-violent crimes. They take notes, visit the scene and
gather information. Students learn to listen to alibis, collect
fingerprints and gather any other pieces of evidence. According to the
principal, these activities challenge her students' problem solving
skills. Children learn to think critically and to form informed judgments.
Fisheries and sciences:
In North Carolina, children who are interested get a chance to win a
scholarship through their after school activity. Here, students are given
a chance to face hands-on fisheries science experiments in a freshwater or
marine setting. Professionals, educators and experts from the world of
Fisheries act as mentors. Students accepted into the program get a $3,000
The above examples go to show that after school activities are becoming
serious. They are slowly morphing into important parts of a child's
education and moving away from the fun-and-frolic-only programs of the
Need For After School Activities
When children are literally up to their gills with the learning and sport
activities in school, it may seem superfluous to enroll them for after
school activities. In spite of this, after school programs are sprouting
up in large numbers and most of these are booked full. This shows that
there is a real need for after school activities.
The unavailability of parental supervision is the leading cause for the
surge in after school programs. It is seen that many children spend about
20-25 hours a week unsupervised and alone at home. And as the saying
goes, "An idle mind is a devil's workshop". Children who are left alone
to contend with too much free time invariably fall into the wrong
company. Drug abuse, alcohol, tobacco and crime come knocking at their
doors sooner rather than later. Parents enroll children to various after
school programs to keep them occupied in a productive manner. This way,
the kids are free to enjoy themselves in a supervised activity.
Crime is considered to be at its peak during the after school hours,
between 3- 4 p.m. During such a time, children need protection. Getting
the children together under one roof and encouraging them to participate
in a group activity is protection enough. It diverts the children from
Obesity is a matter of growing concern in this country. It is noticed
that more and more children are becoming couch potatoes. After school,
many of them relax on the sofa with packets of chips, cool drinks or
chocolates while they watch T.V. 30 % of the kids below the age of 19 are
considered overweight, and about 15% of these are obese. An after school
program ensures that the child shakes off his lethargy and keeps himself
busy. This also helps to reduce the child's fascination for T.V and
After school activities that promote social awareness develop the
individual's sense of social responsibility. It is seen that these sorts
of programs not only keep kids out of trouble, but also help to produce
responsible citizens. To that extent, they are valuable building blocks
in a child's personality.
Times are changing and parents want their children to excel in academics
as well as in other activities. This may be a reflection of the parent's
unfulfilled desire to excel - a remnant from his own childhood. Whatever
the reason, parents today encourage their children to enroll themselves
in various programs and develop the various facets of their
individuality. Children too seem to be comfortable learning many things
at the same time, and gain satisfaction from this.
After School Programs And Discipline
How important is discipline when it comes to after school programs? Since
most of the activities are recreational, does a program have to adhere to
strict rules? Discipline is just as important here as it is in
activities that pertain to the school. The child is sent to a program
because you want him to learn more. Discipline in one form or the other is
necessary to facilitate learning.
Every program should begin by laying down the rules. The supervisor or
teacher should explain each rule and can thus prevent future mishaps.
Misbehavior should be addressed as and when it occurs. Deal with the
problem in such a manner that it causes the least disruption. It is unwise
to turn a blind eye to misbehavior because it catches on like fire, and
soon you will have a bunch of unruly children on your hands. Besides,
however much they resist it, children like to operate within the safety
net of strict guidelines and rules.
When a child misbehaves, it is mostly due to a craving for attention. A
supervisor should observe the children and find out what the child wants.
Talk to the child so that you can understand what he or she wants.
Appropriate disciplinary measures should be taken if there are no apparent
reasons for bad behavior.
After School Activities For The Overweight
Research and studies show that our children are growing fater by the
day. Many families all over America are struggling to keep the weight of
their children within reasonable limits. As a parent, I know that it's
nearly impossible for me to look into the tear-filled eyes of my son and
So, what's the alternative? Studies show that the number one reason for
obesity in children is not junk food and colas. It's actually TV.
Children tend to plop themselves on the sofa and munch away happily when
they are in front of the TV sets. But, once the set is off, their natural
buoyancy will lead the children to do stuff and to move their body. THey will then be diverted from eating.
Recreational after school activities are a must if you feel that your
child is beginning to put on undesirable fat. It is better to begin these
activities as early as possible. The more weight the child gains, the
harder he has to work to shed it. Football, swimming, skating and Karate
are just some activities he can participate in. Structured and disciplined
exercise is possible only when one is put into a formal environment. That
is why an overweight child simply HAS to be put into an after school
program of this kind.
How Much Is Too Much
Should your child go for the football practice 5 days a week? Are 3 days
enough? It is common for parents to be a little confused when it comes to
deciding how much is too much with reference to after school activities.
They argue that since most of the activities are fun (as different from
studies), children will simply lap up these classes. But, too much of fun
can also make a child sick. Here is a simple guide that will help you
decide how much is too much for your child.
Your child is just beginning to learn to interact and get used to
discipline. His or her after-school life should be simple and carefree.
One or two classes per week are enough at the beginning. Once the child
settles down, look for more challenging activities like a music program.
One or two activities per week, play dates and playground visits are
recommended. Avoid competitive sports activities. The child is still too
young to have to worry about winning and losing. After the rigors of a
full day at school, he or she needs a healthy outlet for pent up energy.
Physical activities and noncompetitive sports are best for this age.
Your child is old enough to voice opinions on what activities he or she
wants. Sports, skating, swimming or computers - steer him towards things
he likes. Many children begin lessons on a musical instrument around this
age. But, allow your child some 'alone time' during which he can unwind
and just do whatever he wishes.
Socialization begins to take center stage. Team sports are a good choice.
Developing motor skills, painting, drawing etc are good too. Let the child
explore areas of interests. But leave aside enough time for the family and
for fun activities.
At this age, the child will tell you what he likes. He needs to get
involved in activities that will boost his confidence. This will also help
him manage stress as this is the time when social pressure is beginning to
build. But, beware of the homework demon. Your child needs more time with
his studies. Balancing his schoolwork with other activities is very
The fifth grader is bubbling with energy and will want to do just
about everything. But she or he may conveniently push studies to the
background. So, close supervision is needed. Keep one or two days free for
family time and other activities. Now is a great time to get your child
interested in community service.
Steer him away from TV. Get him engaged in activities that reinforce
learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging your preteen
to join clubs like the Girl/Boy Scouts program, language clubs, chess
clubs etc. As a thumb rule, 16-20 hours a week of extra activity should be
more than enough. But look out for signs of burnout.
What you select for your child and how long he should work at it is
basically decided by the child's temperament. As a parent, you should
closely observe your child and base your decisions on feedback from the
Keeping Children Motivated
Initial enthusiasm in after school activities tends to wane after the
first excitement is over. This is but natural. The trick is to keep up the
hard work even after this. How do you keep your child motivated? This is
of particular importance when the child goes in for educational after
Make the career-academics connection early on:
Let your child understand how important studies are. Let him know that
an excellent career is wholly dependent on wholesome learning. To develop
his interest in studies, plan family activities that are connected with
his studies. Emphasize the real-world connection to academics whenever
Let your child know, through example, that hard work will be rewarded. If
your child believes that achievement is a natural by-product of effort, he
is more likely to put in hard work. Such children are also less likely to
drop out of programs and college at a later stage.
When a child achieves something, it is necessary to praise his hard work.
Positive reinforcements enhance confidence and increase self-esteem.
Conversely, beware of criticism. It can ruin the frail ego of children and
play havoc with their minds.
After School Program Recreational Vs Educational
So, your child is beginning to get restless and make you restless. He has got more time than is good for him, and you are now considering after school programs - anything that will keep him busy for a few life-saving hours! Most after school activities can be broadly classified into three - recreational, educational and society-oriented. The last bit usually comes in when your child is already a bit grown up and can voice his own interests.
Educational activities aim at furthering the knowledge of your child. His general awareness, his understanding and his memory are targeted and he is given various techniques that will help him improve one or all of these. Programs such as intensive memory training and speed mathematics are educational after school activities. There are academic programs that will go over your child's homework and class work and help the child gain more in-depth knowledge in the various subjects. Thus academic programs have a definite edge over the fun and games, especially if parents feel that their child has a lot of catching up to do.
Recreational activities include sports and games, fine arts, painting etc. The main thrust here is to have fun. Of course, classes become more competitive as the child climbs up the ladder. Many sport events, competitions, stage performances etc are held to encourage the child.
When we compare the merits of the two kinds of activities, I believe that the recreational programs have more meat. Firstly, children do not enjoy learning unless they themselves feel curious about something. Most academic programs are standardized courses that are not too flexible. They have a general purpose and a well laid out methodology. After a number of hours at school, the child may feel bored. Further study may overwhelm him and make him feel frustrated. Burnout is very much a possibility here.
Recreational programs provide a welcome break from the monotony of learning and studies. The mental challenge and the physical exertion make the child feel a renewed zest and a pleasant sense of fulfillment. Group activity teaches him social skills, discipline and patience. It is a proven fact that children involved in extra curricular activities get better grades than others. Sometimes closing the textbooks and playing a game may be the best way to handle your studies.
Whatever program you choose for your child, regular evaluation is the key to success. You will have to measure the child's progress. If progress is unsatisfactory, shift your child out of the program. The child should also have the freedom to reject an activity if and when he feels bored with it. Generally, programs that combine the educational with the recreational are best suited especially for younger children. This way, children can have fun while they learn.
Potentials Of After School Programs
With children becoming the primary focus of society, ways and means to
ensure their safety and development are being researched. The Government
too has pooled in to make a success of such programs. Here are some of the
reasons why after school programs have become so popular:
1) Preventing Juvenile Delinquency, crime and violent victimization:
About 10% of juvenile crimes happen between 3 P.M. - 4 P.M. Children need
to be kept safe and out of trouble at such times
2) Preventing alcohol, drug and tobacco use.
Risk-taking behavior that seeks to establish superiority in a clan is
mostly seen in 'latchkey' children. Children in their pre-teens, if they
have a meaningful relationship with a mentor, are less likely to indulge
in these kinds of destructive behavior
3) Decreases appetite for Television:
An average child watches about 23 hours of TV per week. When enrolled for
some activity, the child utilizes his mental and physical skills to meet
4) Improving academic achievements
5) Improving school attendance:
More confidence in self and increased interest in school leads to greater
attendance in school. A program that helps children with their homework
also gives the child a much-needed feeling of self-achievement.
6) Improved behavior and inter-personal skills
Children who attend after school activities handle conflict better and
cooperate more with authority figures.
7) Closer family and community ties.
Successful After School Programs
What marks a successful after school program? What are the things that you
should look for when enrolling your child into one such program? Other
than the obvious advantage of learning something new, successful programs
incorporate many things that help the development of the child.
Development of social skills is one of the more important objectives of a
good after school program. In a recent survey, parents indicated that
while they do want their children to respect others, they also wanted them
to imbibe skills like getting along with other children and getting used
to children outside the immediate circle of friends. Many children find it
difficult to make new friends and get along with people outside their
Good after school programs place special emphasis on security and safety.
They keep children out of trouble and keep them safe. A good after school
program should be fun, especially when the children are young. If the
activity is fun, you will not have to worry about keeping him interested
or motivated. To be effective, programs should be organized and
structured. They must also suit the age of the child. The child must be
aware of the purpose of the program, and must be convinced that they are
attending the programs to accomplish something.
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