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The Learning environment

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People often believe that ‘after school activities’ are not as important for their children’s growth and development because they are after school. However, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Research shows that children can develop fundamental skills from after school programs. Studies have also indicated that children who do not participate in any extra curricular activities are generally not as advanced academically and socially.

It is important that the learning environment in an after school program is also quite disciplined and structured. The most effective learning environment is one  that facilitates teaching the child important skills like time-management and goal setting. Time-management is a very important skill, but it can be a hard one to master.
It is important that kids can discipline themselves to finish a task and then they can feed the gratification of finishing the action.

After school activities should still be ‘fun’. The environment should be colourful and informative. It is important to use artefacts such as charts,
pictures, posters and drawings to liven up a class and anything else that would make the activity interesting.
For example, if you are teaching a biology lesson, allow children to see through a microscope or see slides of bacteria. This will add to their knowledge and they will also be more enthusiastic about the after school program.

Discipline is very important in after school activities. In fun or sport-based activities, children can easily step out of line and behave badly.
Children should be encouraged to have fun, they should also be reprimanded for disruptive behaviour. The best way to do this is to lay the rules clearly from the beginning and let the children know what is unacceptable.

Recognition and rewards are an important part of any education and development process. The reward can be a simple act of recognition like a pat on the back or a small token of appreciation. Motivate your kids to strive for higher things by rewarding their acclomplishments.

Kids can get bored easily, especially with educationally focused activities. The main objective of an academic after school activity is to repeat what has been has been taught in class and to allow children to learn it quickly. It is sometimes challenging to effectively engage children, especially when they are
already bored of the subject. To achive this engagement, It is best to use creative and fun techniques to complement the materials like fun quizzes or videos.

After school activities are becoming more of a focus as parents are recognising their importance. Parents want their children to learn more.
Kids too have an insatiable quest for knowledge. In an after school activity, it is possible to pay individual attention and quench this thirst using various effective techniques.

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Successful After School Activities

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What makes a successful after school program? What are the elements that you should look for when enrolling your child into an after school activity?
Besides, the obvious advantage learning something new, good after school programs incorporate many elements that further build the development of the child.

Development of social skills is one of the more important goals of a good after school program. It is important that children learn to respect and get on with children outside their immediate circle of friends and expand their social skills.

Many children find it hard to make new friends and get along with people outside their group.

Good after school programs also place emphasis on security and safety. It is important that children are kept out of trouble and safe.

A good after school program should be fun, especially when the children are young. If the activity is entertaining, you will not have to worry too much about keeping them interested or motivated.

To be most effective, programs should be organized and structured. They must also suit the age of the child. The child must understand the purpose of the program, and have a sense of acclomplishment.

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Recreational After School Programs

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After school programs can be divided into three categories: academic, recreational and social. Balanced development takes place when there is a mix of all three. Recreational after school activities are based on a sport or recreation. Some of the most common physical activities include football, swimming and tennis. Some clubs offer programs like gymnastics or even hiking. In these cases, children are often given a short tutorial in first-aid also.

Recreational after school activities offer children an opportunity to unwind. The closed classroom atmosphere and a day full of school books and writing cause the child to restrict their natural enthusiasm. Growing concerns of obesity and child diabetes make it necessary for children to engage in some physical exercises that will allow them to work up some sweat. The physical education programs in school are simply not enough.

Unlike educational activities, recreational activities do not require too much mental stress. However, they do aid the learning process by encouraging the youngster to be more active. It is evident that, a child who is physically active is also more mentally fit, and has the ability to focus their thoughts on the task at hand. Also, recreational programs teach discipline, teamwork and fair play. These are important lessons in the development process.

Recreational activities also offer many avenues for socialising.  Boy / Girl Scout programs are excellent recreational after school activities.

Like any good after school activity, recreational programs are designed to give children a safe area where they can engage in group activities that interest them. This is one of the most effective ways to keep children out of the streets and out of trouble.

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Reading Activities

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In a world that is slowly but surely turning away from books in favour of television and computers, the importance of developing a passion for reading cannot be ignored.

Interest in reading should be established when the child is relatively young. What can be done to help encourage this interest?

Enrol your child in a structured reading class:

There are many well structured after school reading classes that aim to fuel childrens interest in books. For young children, these classes can be entertaining with animated characters and pictures. Illustrated picture books, rhymes, music and fictional stories can be stimiulating for a child. creativity can be used to capture the child’s imagination.

Fuel your child’s interest:
If your child has a favorite character i.e. Sponge Bob Square Pants, pick a series of books that features this character.

Build a home-library:
It is important to also encourge this past-time at home. Collect books that you think your child will like, so there is always a selection of engaging reading materials at their fingertips.

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Benefits of After School Programs and Activities

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After school programs are basically designed to develop a talents or skills that are generally not focused on in regular schools. These activities can be educational or recreational. Regardless of what type they are, they still need to be interesting enough to keep the child/ teenager engaged.

The most paramount advantage of a good after school activity is that it widens your child’s area of interests and expands their horizons.
Mastering a new activity can increase the youngsters self-esteem. It also allows you to introduce them to potential career options. Perhaps they will become so passionate about their new piano playing skills, they will aspire to be a concert pianist.

Developing social skills is another great advantage of after school activities. Kids get to meet others who share similar interests and make new friends.
A speech and drama class or a football coaching can be a lot of fun. Many of these programs prepare children for performances or matches. Performing on stage or playing a match can be a great experience for a child or teenager.

After school activities keep your teen busy. They are therefore less likely to engage in anti social behaviour.
Surveys indicate that children/ teens who are kept busy with engaging activities are less prone to substance abuse, depression and burnout. Significant
increase in academic performance and attendance and a reduction in drop out rates are other advantages of a good after school activities.

Most after school programs involve kids interacting with one or more adult supervisors. This allows them to benefit from positive relationships with
adults. Youngsters often find it difficult to confide in parents and teachers, but may open up with other adults.

A lot of kids are enrolled into recreational after school activities in order for them to lose weight and stay healthy. An emerging trend shows that about
15 percent of kids under the age of 16 are now obese. After school activities can provide mush needed exercise for these children, however it is also important to ensure they have healthy, balanced diets.

A good after school activity has many benefits. It keeps the child/ teenager  entertained as well as busy, and therefore prevents them from becoming to sedentary. By giving them outlets to burn up their excess energy and explore their creativity, after school activities help to shape the overall personality of the youngster.

Further benefits of after school activities:

1) Preventing Juvenile Delinquency, crime and violent activities:
About 10 percent of juvenile crimes happen between 3 and 4 PM. It is important for youngsters
to be kept safe and out of trouble at these times.
2) Preventing alcohol, drug and cigarette use.
3) Increases exercise and decreases appetite for sedentary activities, i.e. tv
4) Improving academic performance
5) Improving school attendance:
Increased self confidence and increased interest in school leads to more
attendance in school. An activity that helps kids with their homework
also gives the youngster a much-needed feeling of self-achievement.
6) Improved behavior and social skills
There is evidence that kids who attend after school programs handle conflict better and
cooperate more with authority figures.
7) Closer family and community ties.

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Over-Scheduling Kids with After School Activities

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Are your kids being pressurised to kids to do too much too soon?  If a child’s afternoon is choc o block with organised activities,  kids may not be getting enough time to actually just be kids or even just spend valuable time with the family.

Over-scheduling kids with after school activities, can lead to increased levels of stress on the child and the family. It is important to get the balance right.

So how much is too much?

Should your child go to basketball practice 5 days a week? Are 3 days enough?

Often, parents are confused when it comes to understanding how much  is too much with reference to after school activities.

Here is a simple guide that will help you decide how much is too much  for your child.

5 years old:
Your child is just beginning to learn to interact and get used to discipline. Their after-school life should be simple and carefree. One or two classes per week are enough initially. If your child gets  used to these and expresses an interest in more activities, introduce them gradually.
6 years old:
One or two activities per week, play dates and playground visits are encouraged. After a full day at school, your child needs a healthy outlet  for pent up energy. Physical activities and noncompetitive sports are best for this age.

7 years old:
Your child is old enough to express opinions on what activities they are interested in.  Many children begin to learn a musical instrument around this
age. However, allow your child some ‘alone time’ during which they can unwind.

8 years old:
Socialisation begins to become paramount. Team sports are a great choice. Developing motor skills, painting, drawing etc are also important. Let your child explore areas of interests. However, ensure to leave aside enough time for the family and play time.

9 years old:
At this age, the child will tell you what they like. They need to getinvolved in activities that will boost their confidence. This will also help them manage stress as this is the time when social pressure is beginning to take centre stage. However, homework will also be beginning to mount up.  Therefore, it is important to balance schoolwork with other activities.

10 years old:
You child will be bubbling with energy and will want to do just about everything. However, they may conveniently push studies to the background. So, close supervision is required. Keep one or two days free for family time and other activities. Now is a fantastic time to get your child interested in community service.

11 to 13 Years Old:
Steer them away from TV. Encourage engagement in activities that fuel learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging them to join clubs like a scouts program, language clubs, chess clubs etc.  As a rule of thumb, 16-20 hours a week of extra activities should be plenty. However, ensure to look out for signs of burn out.

As a parent, it is important to closely observe your child and base  your decisions on feedback from them.

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After School Activities – Keeping Children Motivated

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Enthusiasm in an after school activity can wear off after the initial excitement is over. This is very normal. You know your child  will most likely be happy and feel accomplished after they have persevered.

But how do you keep your child motivated? This is of particular importance when these activities are educational and not  something they have shown a passion for.

Make the career connection early on:
Let your youngster understand how important their education is. Let them know that the career they would most likely choose will probably be dependent on their education. To develop their interest in studies, plan family activities that are connected in some way. For example, plan a trip to a museum or a zoo to encourage learning in history or biology. Emphasize the real-world connections to education whenever possible.

Set goals:
Demonstrate by example that hard work will be rewarded. Lead by example and show them that achievement is a natural by-product of effort. If children develop this mind-set, they are more likely to stay motivated all through schooling and university.
Reward success:
When a youngster achieves something, it is necessary to praise their efforts. Positive reinforcement enhances confidence and increases self-esteem. Conversely, beware of criticism as it could potentially have the opposite effect.

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Effective After School Activities

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When there are so many activities on offer, and each one looks as exciting as the next, how do you compare them and decide what is right for your child.
Of course, you want to find an activity that your child will actually enjoy. However, you also want the activity to be balanced and facilitate learning and development.

Below is a list of characteristics that good after school activities should have; Clarity in objectives and goals is important to achieve. What exactly does the course offer? How does it aim to achieve the results? How many children are in a class? Ask these questions.

A good after school activity will provide lots of opportunities for the youngster to increase their level of understanding of complicated concepts. This
is true of recreational activities also. Learning to hit a ball, or dance in co-ordination to a song – regardless of the activity, children should be
encouraged to conquer new concepts. This not only keeps boredom at bay by challenging the youngster, but also builds up their self-confidence. Development of academic, personal and interpersonal skills are important objectives of an after school activity. As the skills develop, the youngsters self-esteem will also increase.

After school programs can help boost a child’s sense of competence. Good and effective after school activities promote the resilience of youngsters and encourage them to grow stronger, whether that be mentally, physically or emotionally.

Safety is also a very important factor in an after school activity. The staff should be  adequately qualified. The surpervisors should maintain a cooperative and supportive attitude and a structured environment. Participation and collaboration should be encouraged and children should not be pushed to be too competitive.

Some programs involve the youngsters in planning activities and decision making. Adults often forget to get the opinions of their child. By giving the child an opportunity to voice their opinion, programs can become fun activities that children are driven to engage in. Children thrive when they are listened to, respected and encouraged to contribute.

Regular evaluations are an important part of an after school activity. If the youngster does not benefit from an activity, don’t waste time being
over-optimistic. Try something different.

You are now ready to look for the perfect after school program for your child. However, don’t let us forget that having fun is also a very important part
of growing up, so allow them adequate ‘free time’ also.

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Developmental After School Programs

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As children grow and develop, different aspects of their physical, emotional and mental selves require development. To help children reach their
full potential, it is important to recognise the child’s developmental needs and abilities. To be effective, after school activities should help
children with tasks they must accomplish during each stage of development.

A child’s growth curve can be divided into three main sections:
1) Very young child (ages 3-5)
2) Young child (ages 6-8)
3) Older child (ages 9-12)

The four important domains of development are: Physical, social, emotional and intellectual. Each of these domains needs to be individually addressed during the different phases of a child’s development. After school activities should concentrate on developing each domain depending on the age of the child. Although the children participating in these activities may have similar developmental requirements and ages, do not assume development will be at the same pace. Youngsters will develop as and when they are ready.

Physical Domain:
When kids are very young, they want to perfect skills that they have just developed. For example, combining a variety of movements such as jumping, catching and throwing can really satisfy them. The young child (ages 6-8), on the other hand, wants to learn more complicated skills and get involved in competitive or team sports. This is also the best time to learn about rules and discipline in sport. The older child is ready for more ‘grown up’ activities that need more structure and discipline, for example, gymnastics, music, dance, etc.

Social Domain:
Very young children are watching others and will show interest in games where they play the roles of family members. They develop short-term friendships and require an adult’s presence to assure them. The young child is intrigued by society and will really enjoy trips to public buildings, factories,
and so on. They want to learn the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of things. The older child is ready to discover about different cultures, cuisines and customs.

Intellectual Domain:
Very young children will practice and showcase what they are learning. Young children want to develop further skills and will show interest in reading,
drama and problem solving. The older children are ready to research and question things. They will enjoy figuring out puzzles for example.

All after school programs need to address the interests of the children depending on the category they belong to. Knowing the children in your program and appreciating their individual needs and interests will help surpervisors to plan and structure programs that will be optomised to benefit group.

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Boring After School Activities

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Children can get bored easily.

If your child seems to have lost interest in an after school activity, do not jump to conclusions and cancel the direct debits yet.

You should first talk to them so you can understand more. Ask your child what they do in the class. Determine the cause of the problem. Subsequently, ask the supervisor the same questions and compare notes.

Your child may feel the program is too structured, their is too much disipline or the activity too difficult.

Use your own instincts. Does the program sound like fun? Would you have wanted to do it yourself,  when you were their age? Are they offering enough encouragement and motivation to keep them interested?

The surpervisor-to-child ratio is also an important factor. Kids need attention. If the number of supervisors is just enough to handle a class (i.e one surpervisor for 15 children), it is possible that your youngster is not receiving enough attention.

Do they have enough friends? Encourage them to organise a play date with some of the children from the activity.

If your best efforts do not pay off, and your child still resists, then it may be time to let go. Never force the child, especially when it comes to extra-curricular activities. It is important to fuel their interests and not push them to continue with an activity they do not enjoy or are not getting any sense of acclomplishment from.