The 3 Rs of After School Activities:
Right Age, Right Program and the Right Implementation
Parents are enrolling their young kids in after school activities which help them to acquire expertise and specialization to deliver against the modern challenges and competition that awaits them. Meanwhile, these after school activities also provide opportunities that offer relaxation and scope of self-exploration – elements which are often difficult to focus on amidst the overwhelming demands of the modern competition. However, some parents have reservations over letting their children pursue after school activities as they believe:
- It can overburden them.
- Make their children dull and tired.
- Inhibit their development.
To an extent, this is true. But, the blame does not lie with after school programs. The main problem lies in the poor understanding of the elements which make an after-school program successful.
The Three Rs of the After-School Activity
“The Right Age”
Knowing when to enroll your child into an after-school program is the most important element that dictates its success and positive impact. Parents must strike the perfect balance. They must find the right age where the mental and physical capacity of a young child is ready to embrace a new set of instructions, all the while making sure that the additional exertions do not leave the children feel exhausted. Where generally most parents prefer to enroll, their kids intro a program at the age of five or six – this should not be a rule. To determine the right age, parents should consider following points:
- What type of after school activity do they want their child to be a part of?
- What commitment levels will be needed—both as a parent and as a child—to follow the after-school activity?
A child’s development is not a linear graph between two variables. Depending on the age – your child will be able to grasp specific subject instructions more firmly in comparison to other set of instructions. Besides that, even if the child is ready to commit to new set of instructions, it could be possible that the required activity may demand exertions and commitment levels which would be too burdensome on the young body and mind. Only after evaluating both these points, parents can decide the appropriate age for getting their children enrolled in a specific after school activity.
“The Right Program”
The next important element which ensures the success of an after-school activity is choosing the right program. Whether the after-school activity focuses on academics and learning new skills or on a recreational sport – as a parent you need to pick the program which is best for your children. For example:
- If you are enrolling a child who is yet to go to school, as parent your focus should be on choosing activities that are fun. The program should emphasize on introducing the activity rather than shelling out instructions on how to master a skill.
- If they are grade school children, as a parent you should focus on choosing an activity that instills discipline all the while providing scope of exploration. You need to create a balance. For example, the program could be based on multiple activities one which involves martial arts for instilling discipline and the other one could be gymnastics which has a free play aspect to it. At this age, you can have more than one after school activities for your children but make sure they are not too effort intensive or time consuming.
- If they are middle or high school children, as a parent you can select an after-school activity that focuses on helping your kids master a skill or an art. The more engaged you keep your children with after school activities during this age, the better. You can go for a program that requires intense mental and physical exertions, but only after your child agrees to it.
In general, the after-school programs should offer positive reinforcement, provide sense of achievement, inculcate element of enjoyment, provide long term benefits (like developing an important skill or presenting a career option) and encourage the development of decision making and leadership skills.
“The Right In-House Implementation”
Getting your child enrolled in an after-school program is just the first step towards making a positive contribution to their development. To ensure that the results and benefits are worthwhile – maintaining the focus and interest of your child in the activity is also important. Quite often children eagerly agree to be a part of the activity but they soon lose their interest in it, especially if the after-school activity orientates around educational learning. Like organizers of the program, the parents too need to take steps to make sure that the interest of their child does not wane off after the initial excitement.
- As a parent, you can organize in-house activities which revolve around the implementation of the skill or instructions which are being taught in the program.
- Try to establish and explain the importance of learning the specific skill in real world and in terms of career growth (if it’s an educational after school program).
- Set goals for your children that align with the objectives of after school activities. Reward your children for achieving those goals.
Parents simply want the “best” for their children. They want their children to receive the best education, best care and best attention to help them in their mental and physical development. As such after school programs combine the elements that are essential for the development of a child to help them grow on personal level as well as to equip them with the tools to compete in the modern world. By keeping these three R’s in mind, parents can make the best decision when enrolling their children into an after-school activity and in turn maximize the positive impacts of the program.