Choosing After School Clubs for Your Kids
January 9, 2017
While after school clubs may seem like something solely for kids in middle school and older, the reality is that so many of the subjects and skills taught in elementary school can be enhanced by an after school club. In addition to that, kids are getting less and less time to play — an after school club can also take the form of playing a sport.
Kids want meaningful lives. Studies show that even eight-year-olds are happier if they feel their lives have meaning. So what gives kids’ lives meaning? Several things, and one of which is joining a club or team they care about. The key is finding a good one.
We’ve gathered several aspects of after school clubs for kids that we think are most important to take into consideration when you’re trying to decide what type of club would be best for your children. We’ve also included some advice and questions to ask as you evaluate your options and embark on your journey to find the perfect after school club for your children.
What Is the Organization’s Staff Like?
Who is behind the after school club? This is one of the most important questions to research. The after school program facilitators are in charge of everything from supervision to discipline to education. Will these facilitators be responsible in watching the group of kids? How many kids are there? How many facilitators will there be? Do the facilitators have any necessary certifications or clearances to be instructing this activity? What’s their policy on discipline? Elementary school children are still learning social skills and behavior, so it’s essential for the facilitators to grasp the importance of their role in these areas.
Assuming the after school club is held in a safe and clean environment, having facilitators who are alert and attentive to the group of elementary school students is equally as important. There should be no question in your mind that your children will be in good hands at whichever after school program you choose. On another safety-related note, make sure these facilitators have a plan in place for emergencies. We’re sure they’ll ask for emergency contact information, but are they prepared for emergency situations? In addition to being attentive, you want to make sure your kids are with a program that has thought these things through.
Will the program coordinate with your children’s school at all? This is especially good to know if the after school clubs for kids you’re interested in have a tie in to education. Of course, you don’t want the club to be an extension of the school day in the classroom — that would make for a long day! — however, having the ability to tie fun, educational activities in to what children are learning during the day in the classroom is a bonus. It can help increase not only knowledge, but also confidence, as children become more familiar with the material they’re learning.
One final question regarding the program facilitators — do they seem compassionate and kind? This is something you obviously won’t ask them, but keep it in the back of your mind when you interact with them. Working with a group of kids can be exhausting — you should know and trust these individuals just like your children’s teachers. Compassion and kindness in dealing with children are two valuable characteristics we think lead the way in setting a good example and educating your children.
What Will the Schedule and Required Time Commitment Be?
When you’re searching for after school clubs for elementary students, the schedule is important. In addition to being a mother or father, you’re also providing the transportation and have a family schedule to work around. Does the club meet every day or just a few times per week? How long does it meet for? Does it start immediately after school, or is there downtime in between? If your children are young, will the program facilitators take care of making sure your children get from their classroom to the room the after school club will be held in?
In addition to the logistics, it’s also important to consider all of the other things your children have going on. Do they have enough time to focus on homework? Are there chores they need to have time to complete? Do they have some good quality downtime with the family? While fitting the after school club into your schedule is important, making sure your children have a good balance is even more so. The last thing you want is for them to be spread too thin at such an early age.
If the balance is right, but you’re having trouble figuring out how you can make the logistics work, there is always the opportunity to team up with another parent — or two! — to carpool. Not only will that maximize your children’s ability to be a part of an after school club, but it also gives you some flexibility in your schedule as you juggle work, dinner, running children to various after school commitments, etc.
What Is the Cost of the Program?
Depending on your financial situation, cost could have a significant influence on the after school clubs you’re able to consider for your children. While it may seem straightforward — a specific cost for a certain number of days, weeks or months — there are some questions regarding cost you should be asking up front.
Will your fee be for all days the after school club is offered or only on the days your children will be able to attend? Is there flexibility in the schedule to make it more affordable, make it work for your schedule, etc.? Is there a discount for more than one child?
As you’re evaluating opportunities, you may want to look into some specifics so you know exactly what you’re getting for the cost. Do they provide an after school snack? Are there supplies that are included in the cost? Any extra tips if you want to take advantage of private lessons or tutoring during that time? When it comes to asking questions about cost, don’t hesitate — better safe than sorry.
What Is the Program Topic?
Obviously you want to choose an after school club that focuses on a topic your children enjoy. If it isn’t, they won’t be engaged, and it will defeat the purpose. Do your children enjoy being outdoors? Are there particular activities or sports they’re interested in? If so, perhaps you want to consider a recreational opportunity that allows your children to get all of the pent up energy out after a full day of school.
If recreational opportunities don’t sound like a good fit. Do your children have any hobbies? Do they enjoy art? Music? These are a few questions to ask if you’re having trouble deciding what topic would be best for your children’s after school club.
What Kind of Parent Involvement Is There?
Why would a parent be involved in an after school club for elementary students? In order for your children to get the most out of an after school club, the program facilitators should be interested in learning more about you and your children. What are you looking for in an after school club? What do your children like to do? How do they like to learn? Are they more extroverted or introverted? Are there any physical or mental disabilities that should be noted?
Not all of these questions would necessarily come before your children are enrolled, but many of them should. Asking a lot of questions about your expectations and your children’s wants and needs shows that program facilitators are legitimately interested in making the most of the after school club — both for you and your children.
After school clubs should also encourage parent engagement and participation from time to time. What does this encouragement look like? It could be asking parents to take a turn in assisting for one day of the program, inviting parents to come and see what their children are learning or hosting an event exclusively for parents. Parent events might focus on how to extend the after school club education to time at home as well.
These are all wonderful signs of an after school club that is engaged and understands that education happens around the clock — in the classroom, after hours and at home. This shows a genuine interest in your children, and that’s a program likely to be worth your time and money.
Will It Be Fun?
No matter what the topic is, however, it is so important for your children to have fun in their after school club. You may not have thought of a fun factor being an influential part of your decision, but we feel strongly about it. After all, if your children don’t enjoy an after school club and it becomes an obligation, they will lose interest, and it will be a loss of time and money.
Make sure you focus on what it is they like to do for fun, within reason, of course. Sometimes as a parent it’s hard to see your children go in a different direction — perhaps you played one sport, but they’re interested in another, or your strengths and interests were in reading and writing, but theirs are in math and science. It’s important to let go of what you prefer to do for fun, though, and let them make their own decisions
Do they have a friend or group of friends who would be interested in participating in an after school program with them? While it’s always great to introduce your children to new faces, sometimes familiar faces are comforting. A good mix of making new friends and having a few children they know is ideal. Of course, if they have a small group of their friends with them, chances are they’re going to enjoy whatever after school club you choose.
How Educational Is It?
Despite what your kids may think, it is absolutely possible to combine fun and education. After school clubs can also be an opportunity to learn more about a subject they study in school. Whether it’s a subject they love or one they may be struggling with, after school clubs can provide a wonderful opportunity to engage your children with a subject in a new way — revealing an understanding and/or interest in a particular area they may not have known they had. It can also help increase their academics as they learn a different way of exploring a subject — they just might develop a better grasp on the subject itself.
Many after school programs do a great job of putting the education in disguise. For example, a science-related after school club may focus on how ingredients interact in different food or recipes in the kitchen. At it’s core, that’s chemistry, but it’s something a little different that just might spark a new passion in your children. Why is that passion important? Passion for a subject and education as a whole means your children will be more engaged in the classroom as they get older.
Regardless of whether you choose a program that has your children running around outdoors or conducting science experiments with household objects in an indoor lab, there are some topics that should be taught across the board. For example, social skills are a key component of any after school club. If your children usually prefer to play independently, these programs provide a great opportunity to develop social skills in playing and interacting with other children. Are your children social butterflies? If so, an after school club can still teach them valuable lessons about sharing and teamwork.
No Matter What, Find the Right Balance
At the end of the day, we want our kids to be happy. What makes kids happy? Family, friends, playing, participating in sports and toys. An after school club can provide a great mix of a few of these.
It’s all about balancing all of these different aspects of after school clubs to determine whether or not it would be a good fit for your children. For example, if money is tight but the benefits of the program are substantial, you may want to try to find a way to make it work. On the other hand, if the program would be convenient way to get your children involved in something outside of school, but the particular program you’re looking into doesn’t seem to have much substance, it may not be worth it. Everyone’s family is unique, and every program is different — that’s why it’s so important to research after school clubs for kids before you make a decision
If you happen to live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland or DC, Science Explorers may be just the right balance for you. Science Explorers offers a variety of after school clubs for kids ages four to 11. From Kitchen Chemistry to Crime Scene Capers, each program focuses on relating a different science to fun activities, like cracking mystery cases and combining ingredients from the kitchen that pop, fizz and foam. Education and fun are our goals!
If you’d like to learn more, visit our after school science clubs page. There you can get all of the details about each of the after school clubs we offer. Feel free to reach out to us and ask questions as well — we realize there’s a lot that goes in to selecting an after school club for your children.
If you decide you’re interested and would like to try our program, just have your children’s school contact us. We can get a club started quickly. Chances are if you’re searching for one, other parents in your area are, too.