After school activities are the rage of the day. With about $500 million invested in these programs and more than 10 million children attending them in America alone, the popularity of these activities cannot be overlooked. Everyone understands the need to develop new skills, gain more knowledge and keep the children safe when parents are working.
The most important factor in the success of any program is the relationship between the children participating in the program and the adult members who work with these children. Often, children may confide in an adult member who is not a teacher. This kind of emotional interaction is a must when children are struggling to make sense of the whirlpool of emotions that assail them.
Direct contact with professionals can be an inspiring experience. Children are very much impressed by the knowledge and experience of these adults. Young people gain a lot of knowledge and experience when they deal with experienced adults and older youth who serve as teachers or mentors in these programs. These mentors are different from the teachers in the school and children are more likely to draw inspiration from them.
After school activities that are managed professionally by people who are successful in their own fields of expertise will produce children who are more enthusiastic and successful. Meaningful interaction with adults is a learning experience in itself.
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.
After school safety – tips and reminders
When parents send their children for after school programs, they take it for granted that the child is safe. But since the number of children participating in these activities has increased, it is necessary to look into safety issues.
Children are vulnerable when they are outside the classes. While going or returning, they should know the safest route to take. Many kids hang out with their friends just after these classes. Find out ‘danger zones’ from your neighbors and make the children aware of these.
The child has to know how to handle emergencies. It is better to discuss various scenarios with your child. Tell her what she should do in case the class is suddenly cancelled. Show her the first-aid kit at home and make sure she knows whom to call in an emergency. Post any important contact information in a place that is easily accessible to the child. If the child will be alone at home, discuss a few unexpected things with her.
Tell her to use the safety chain ALWAYS.
Relay on your neighbors and friends when needed. Let your child know who can be contacted at times of emergency. Ask your child to check in by phone. Above all, always tell the child to be in a group. Visiting toilets all alone or going home via isolated streets must be avoided.
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.