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After School Activities

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Benefits of a good after school program

Children grow up in a society that demands expertise in everything. You
really cannot sit back and decide that learning from textbooks is enough 
for the overall development of your child. It's the age of specialization 
and your child cannot afford to miss out on this window of opportunity. 
So, scour your locality for the most advantageous programs and enroll them 
for the ones you think are the best.

After school programs are basically designed to develop a talent or a 
skill that is ignored by regular schools. These programs could be 
educational or recreational in nature. Whatever type they are, they 
basically aim to keep the child active and interested. 

The most important advantage of a good after school program is that it 
widens your child's area of interests. He or she is introduced to new 
things, sometimes interesting, sometimes challenging. Mastering a new art 
form or a new skill increases the child's self-esteem. It also allows you 
to introduce your child to new career options. A child attending a music 
class may decide that she likes it so much that she wants to make a career 
out of it in the long run. 

Socialization is another great advantage of after school programs. 
Children get to meet others who share their interests and make new 
friendships. An acting class or a soccer class can be lots of fun. Many of 
these programs coach children for performances or matches. Performing on 
stage or playing a match can be a great experience for a young child. 

After school programs keep your teenager busy. He or she thus has some 
amount of protection from destructive habits like drugs and alcohol. 
Surveys indicate that children who are kept busy through diverse absorbing 
activities are less prone to abuse, depression and burnout. Significant 
increase in achievement and attendance and a reduction in drop out rates 
are other advantages of a good after school programs.

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

Many children are put into recreational after school programs so that they 
reduce weight and remain healthy. A newly emerging trend shows that about 
15% children below the age of 16 are obese. Parents who cannot put their 
children on a strict diet resort to sports and games to burn fat. With 
cases of child diabetes on the increase, this has become a prime focus of 
many after school programs.

A good after school program has many benefits. It keeps the child 
entertained as well as busy, and thus prevents children from becoming 
addicted to TVs and PCs. By giving them ways to burn up their excess energy 
and explore their creativity, after school programs help to shape the 
overall personality of the child.

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 
ennui too.

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 
computer games. 

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.

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 
school programs.

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 
possible.

Set goals:

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. 

Reward success:

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.

How to find after school activities

Start off by making enquiries. Nothing can beat the power of information.
Approach the school authorities first. Find out if they are offering any 
after school activities. Get a list of the various classes that are 
available in your school. In case the school does not provide any 
extracurricular activities for the child, approach your neighbors. Collect 
information about any after school programs, the quality of the courses 
taught and the timings etc. Also, check out some of the community 
resources. These may include places of worship, community centers, 
Museums, libraries, the YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club etc.

After you have colleted all the necessary information, discuss the various 
options with your child. Find out what his interests are. The best way to 
find out what is most suitable is to ask your child. When little children 
are too small, you cannot completely rely on their feedback. In this case, 
monitor the development of the child on a regular basis. If the child 
shows excessive resistance to an activity, it may be necessary to look for 
other options. Always consider your family's schedule when planning the 
extracurricular activities. If it is difficult for you to chauffeur your 
child, you may want to employ tutors at home or conduct some activity at 
home itself.

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.

Kindergarten:

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.

Grade 1:

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.

Grade 2:

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.

Grade 3:

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. 

Grade 4:

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 
important. 

Grade 5: 

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. 

Middle school:

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 
child himself.

Effective after school activities

When there are so many activities on offer, and each one looks as good as 
the next, how do you gauge the worth and effectiveness of these 
activities? Sure, you want an activity that junior enjoys. But, we really 
cannot afford to waste time on pleasure for pleasure's sake, do we? There 
needs to be a grain of gold somewhere in there. Given below is a list of 
characteristics that any good after school activity must possess.

Clarity in objectives and goals is the first important thing. What does 
the course offer? How does it propose to achieve the results? How many 
kids make up a batch? Ask questions. After all, when you are dishing out 
the dough, you really need to understand what you are getting in return.

A good after school activity will provide lots of opportunities for the 
young to increase their level of understanding of complex concepts. This 
is true of recreational activities too. Learning to pitch a ball, or dance 
to a tune -- regardless of the activity involved, the child should be 
encouraged to grapple with and conquer new concepts. This not only keeps 
boredom at bay by challenging the child, but also builds up his 
self-confidence. Development of academic, personal and social skills is 
one of the prime aims of an after school activity. As the skills develop, 
the child's self-esteem also increases.

After school activities are all about boosting a child's sense of 
competence. Good and effective after school activities promotes the 
resilience of youth and encourages them to grow stronger, be it mentally, 
emotionally or physically.

Safety is one of the first requirements of an after school activity. The 
staff should be qualified, adequate and alert. Never put your child in a 
program where safety is a matter of accident instead of a matter of 
priority. The staff should be friendly and should have a positive 
relationship with the child. Therefore, the program should have 
professional and trained staff that loves to interact with children. The 
program should maintain a cooperative and supportive attitude and a 
structured environment. Participation and collaboration as opposed to 
competition and antagonism must be encouraged. 

Some programs involve the children in planning activities and making 
decisions. Adults often forget to get the opinion of their children. By 
giving the children an opportunity to voice their opinion, programs become 
fun activities that children are motivated to participate in. Young people 
thrive when they are listened to, respected and allowed to contribute 
their mite. 

Routine evaluations are an important part of after school programs. If the 
child does not benefit from a class, don't waste time being 
over-optimistic. Try something new. 

You are now ready to look for the perfect after school activity for your 
child. But don't let us forget that having fun is also an important part 
of growing up. The child deserves a few hours of pure delight. Remember, 
all work and no play...

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 
group. 

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. 

School based after-school programs

In an effort to keep children motivated and safe, the U.S. Government
sets aside a good amount of fund for financing after school programs every 
year. A report by the U.S. Department of Education and Justice points out 
that after school programs are very effective and is in the interests of 
the society as a whole. Interestingly, it was found that Americans liked 
providing school-based after school-programs in their community.

Other than safety, boredom and loneliness, the poor performance of many 
students also led to the need for after-school programs that are based on 
the school curriculum. Children coming from low-income families were found 
to lag behind in reading and grammar after a long break in the summer. 
Statistics prove that if school-going children are left unsupervised after 
their school, the chances of poor grades and drop out are considerably 
higher. The funds provided by the Government will allow rural and 
inner-city schools to provide activities during the summer, over the 
weekends and after school. These activities will take place in a 
drug-free, safe and supervised environment.

Positive augmentation of critical skills is the prime focus of these 
school-based after school activities. Thus they enhance the skill level of 
the child. Most school-based programs offer assistance in math tutoring, 
reading, comprehension and problem solving. Many programs provide engaging 
activities that seek to prepare the students for college. Hands-on 
experience is provided for children who want to invest in a career in 
teaching. Access to telecommunication and technology and involvement in 
music and art are other benefits of these programs. This becomes 
invaluable, especially in low-income sectors where such activities are 
considered to be a luxury. 

As far as children are concerned, the snacks provided in after school 
programs are an added incentive. School sponsored after school programs 
are entitled to receive funds for snacks. The National School Lunch 
Program is designed to do just this. Free or reduced price snacks will be 
provided for children from schools that apply for it. The CACFP reimburses 
expenditure depending upon the child's income status. But this is 
applicable only till the age of 13. The funding that schools get depends 
upon the area in which they are situated. A low-income area gets more 
funding. Supper can be served to children below the age of 19. Longer 
programs can provide both supper and a snack. With the participation of 
non-profit private organization, it is possible to feed deserving school 
children breakfast, supper and a snack.

Recreational after school programs

After school programs can be divided into 3 broad categories: academic,
recreational and social. Balanced development takes place when there is 
compatibility between the physical, mental as well as the educational 
achievements of the child.As the name suggests recreational after school 
programs are based on a sport or recreation. Some of the more common 
physical activities include football, swimming and basketball.Some clubs 
offer programs like gymnastics, trekking and hiking. In this case, 
youngsters are often given a short class in first-aid class also.

Recreational after school programs offer children an opportunity to let 
off some steam and to destress themselves. The closed classroom atmosphere 
and a day full of textbooks and writing cause the child to repress his 
natural enthusiasm. He curbs his energy when he is required to sit quietly 
in class and learn. Physical activity is an all-time low during such 
times. This physical lethargy and inaction is countermanded by 
recreational activities. Growing concerns of obesity and child diabetes 
make it necessary for children to indulge in some strenuous exercises that 
will allow them to work up some sweat. 

Unlike educational programs, recreational programs do not tax the 
mental processes. But, they do aid the learning process by making the 
child more active. A child who is physically active is mentally fit, and 
is able to focus his thoughts on the work at hand. Additionally, 
recreational programs teach discipline, mechanics of teamwork and fair 
play. These are important lessons in the growing process. 

As more and more nuclear families emerge, the child faces greater 
isolation. Many children shuttle between their classroom and their 
bedrooms and do not have any meaningful relationships outside these. 
Recreational programs offer ample avenues for socialization. This is a 
place the child can go to and play even when his neighbor is not the most 
welcoming. The Boy / Girl Scout programs are excellent recreational after 
school programs. Lately, survival classes and camps have devised to 
combine important survival skills with sports and games to educate 
children on how to handle emergencies. 

Like any good after school program, recreational programs are designed to 
give children a safe area where they can indulge in some group activities 
that interest them. This is one of the most effective ways to keep kids 
out of the streets and out of trouble. But, one has to be careful when 
enrolling children for recreational classes. The age of the child, his 
temperament and his physical caliber has to be taken into account before 
you choose the right program for your child.

Reading activities

In a world that is slowly but surely turning away from books and getting 
glued to monitors or television screens, the importance of developing a 
passion for reading cannot be overlooked. Reading is a habit and should be 
established when the child is relatively young. What can you do to foster 
this habit?

Enroll your child for reading classes:

There are many well structured after school reading classes that aim to 
draw the children to books. They help kids with diction, idioms and 
phrases. For young children, these classes can be fun with animated 
characters and pictures. Illustrated picture books, rhymes, silly songs 
and pretend stories all attract the young child. Use creativity to capture 
the child's vivid imagination. 

Pique your child's interest:

If your child has a favorite character, pick a series of books that 
features this character. For my son, it was Spiderman. Thanks to friendly 
neighborhood spidey, my son latched on to comics fairly early in his 
childhood. 

Build a home-library:

A skill like reading cannot be learnt in isolation. Do not leave all the 
hard work to the after school program. Pick up books that you think your 
child will like. The Internet is also a rich resource of reading games 
that will attract little children to the fine art of reading.

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.

Investigative Skills:

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 
scholarship.

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 
past.

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 
challenges. 

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.

Too much of school

When my mom finally decided to take that plum posting as a Divisional
Head, I knew I was in trouble. Her office hours stretched way beyond my 
school hours. And anyway, I was privy to the many discussions my parents 
had about 'Honey, what do we do with the kids?' Well, finally they struck 
gold -- an educational after school program. Won't that be just grand? Kids 
are learning new things while parents are happily minting greenbacks!

And so, we went directly to another class after our school. The brochure 
said that they would be 'using fun activities and innovative teaching 
methods to fill the gap in your child's understanding'. I suppose they 
meant that the teacher would write down the homework and we were to copy 
it. At least, this is what happened most of the time. Of course, we didn't 
tell our parents. How would that help? They'd simply get smart and shift 
us to a class that would actually make us solve our homework.

I hated the classes. Mostly, I was bored to tears or falling asleep.  
After so many hours at school who'd want to spend the entire afternoon 
with the same books? But, as a child, one had little choice in these 
matters. Especially when one's parents were cleverly telling one that 
mommy's salary will help get us that spanking new TV or that video game. 
Lose some, win some!

Then, one day, my sister decided to rock the proverbial boat. She decided 
she had enough of studying and refused to go to the after school program. 
That's when my parents began to smell something stale. Shortly after that, 
they put us in a better program (o, yes, another educational one). This 
was bigger, brighter and somehow more fun. We had some  interesting games, 
and a COMPUTER too. Each of us got a chance to do something on the PC 
(this, when PCs were just beginning to make their presence felt). We 
somehow managed to blaze through our homework, most of which had to be 
done by us. Then it was time to have fun. We had a little bit of 
everything. Acting classes, speech, games and of course painting. Those 
hours we spent splashing color on pages and laughing at silly jokes were 
really the highlight of an otherwise boring day. Ironically, I began 
looking forward to my after school program. 

Now, so many years afterward, when I need to take up a job and leave my 
own child alone till I get back, I know how important these after school 
programs have become. Talk about history repeating itself! I just hope I'd 
get her into a good one, and yes, it's going to be educational too.




The Learning environment 

There is often a trap in the words 'after school activities'. One may 
easily believe that since these activities are after school, they are not 
of much importance. But, one couldn't be more wrong. Research suggests 
that children pick up some of their most important skills from after 
school programs. That is why children who do not participate in any extra 
curricular activities are generally slow and less vibrant.

The learning environment that one fosters in after school activities must 
be as disciplined and as functional as that found in the school. This is 
especially true of educational after school programs. This is the best 
place to teach the child important skills like time-management and goal 
setting. Time-management is a vital skill, but it is not achieved easily. 
Children need to feel the discipline that is needed to finish a task and 
the happiness of finishing the allotted work in a specific time frame. 

Children look for different things in an after class program. The learning 
environment should be attractive, colorful and informative. Use charts, 
pictures, posters and drawings to liven up a class. Additional resources 
(resources that are not easily available in the school) will make the 
classes interesting. For instance, when teaching a biology lesson, allow 
the child to see through a microscope or see slides of bacteria. This 
will add to his knowledge and also make him more enthusiastic about his 
after school program.

Discipline is a must in after school activities. In fun or sport-based 
activities, it is easy for children to step out of line and wreck havoc. 
While children should be allowed to have fun, they should be curtailed 
from unacceptable behavior. The best way to enforce discipline is to lay 
down the rules at the very beginning. Let the children know what is 
unacceptable, right at the beginning. 

Rewards are an important part of any learning process. The reward can be a 
simple pat on the back or a token of appreciation. Motivate your children 
to aspire for higher things by rewarding their achievements. Holding 
competitions or sport activities where the children can show their 
proficiency is a reward in itself. 

Children can get bored easily, especially in the case of an educational 
program. The main thrust of an academic program is to repeat what has been 
taught in class and to allow the child to learn it quickly. It is 
difficult to pique the child's interest a second time, especially when the 
child is already tired of one dose of the same lesson. It is best to 
thwart boredom by using creative techniques like an impromptu extempore on 
any topic, a quiz program or a slideshow. 

After school activities are becoming more popular by the day. Parents want 
their kids to learn more. Children too have an insatiable quest for 
knowledge. In an after school program, it is possible to pay individual 
attention and quench this thirst using various effective techniques.

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. 

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 activity for the hyperactive child

ADHD refers to attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder. Most children who
suffer from this disorder suffer from attention problems as well as 
hyperactivity. Parents of such children are well aware that inattention and 
hyperactivity continue throughout the day. Keeping such children busy after 
school hours can be as difficult as keeping them safe during the school day.

The first step while choosing the right after school activity for your 
child is to understand how ADHD affects him. Is your child interested in 
sports? Is he put off by the fierce competitiveness, or does he find it hard 
to get along with teammates? Does your child vocalize his feelings, or is 
communication a problem? 

For a child suffering from ADHD, physical exercise is always beneficial. 
Exercise takes up the extra energy and helps to stimulate the brain. Team 
activities teach social skills and discipline. But, if your child shies 
away from team sports, you may want to look at activities like dancing, 
cycling, swimming or gymnastics. Martial arts not only teach techniques of 
self-defense but also teach self-control and patience. 

If your child shows aversion to sport and shows inclination towards the 
fine arts, you may need to look at some other options. Acting classes are a 
wonderful form of creative exercise. It also provides the child with ample 
opportunity to develop his social skills. Music, art or dance can  help the 
child to keep himself busy and entertained. 

In case the child is not interested in any of the above, you may want him 
to join a Boy Scouts club or other community oriented clubs that take up 
social work. Cleaning a park, putting on a show, helping out in an old age 
home are various activities that may pique your child's interest.

Whatever form of activity you choose, make sure that you monitor your 
child's progress periodically. If you feel that there is no progress, you 
may need to change the activity. Anything that increases your child's self-
esteem is good. You may enlist the help of the coach or teacher to assess 
your child's development.

There are certain activities that are detrimental to a child suffering 
from ADHD. Computer and video games are a definite NO. Since these games 
need no interaction, children will feel all the more isolated. These 
children also find it difficult to distinguish between the good and the bad 
messages. They may therefore show an inclination to stick to messages that 
are not needed. Games that need the child to sit and wait for his turn 
patiently tax his patience and will not be a success. 

Although you would want these children to be as near to normal as possible, 
understanding their needs and limits will help you select the right after 
school activity -- one that is fulfilling, tiring as well as challenging.

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 
refuse food. 

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. 

After school activities and relationship building

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 activities and burnout 

For millions of parents around the world, the day does not end with the 
school bell. There are still pictures to be painted, songs to be sung and 
games to be played. This all adds up to keeping children happy, safe and 
out of trouble. But, parents have to steer away from going overboard.

After school is not baby-sitting:

After school activities thrive only if it is backed by sufficient 
parental involvement. What would a soccer match be without parents cheering 
their little heroes from the sidelines?.

Research and choose:

Instead of convenience being the decisive factor, find out things that 
will interest your child. Once you select a program, get the fine print 
and find out what you have to contribute.

Free time:

Many children attend piano classes, followed by ballet and squeeze in some 
time for play dates in between just before they rush home in time for bed. 
This rigor is too much for a child. So, go slow.

When to quit:

Often, parents enroll their child in an activity to discover that he may 
not be the prodigy they thought he would be. This is the time to let go. 
Your child may not become the next wonder-kid. But, let him cultivate an 
interest that he enjoys. Remember, happiness and fulfillment are all that 
matter.

A home-based after school program

So, your son's school does not offer any extracurricular activities. You 
are worried of depriving your child of all that extra knowledge and fun. 
What should you do?

After school activities need not be taught in a school-like environment by 
professional teachers in a structured and timely manner. There is a lot 
YOU can do to support your child's academic, physical and social 
development. Do not be too concerned about formal programs, as many of our 
children are already over-scheduled. 

Obviously, school is top priority for children. They need to go to school, 
and finish their homework. They should then do their daily reading or 
writing work etc. This may take about 30-60 minutes. In the course of his 
daily work, your child may develop certain academic preferences and 
interests. In that case, you can try and find a program in a college or a 
community center that will help him and encourage him. In the age of the 
Internet, information is really not a rarity. Allow him to use the net to 
find more information about thing that he likes. Encouraging the child to 
do independent research to gain in-depth knowledge is something that no 
formal program does. 

If you are concerned about the lack of social life, enroll him or her in a 
club -- a reading club maybe. Visit public libraries or even the theatre, 
if your child is interested. It is not necessary for your child to make 
friends with children his own age. A parent-child book club is another 
interesting option. If you can round up a number of like-minded children 
and their parents, you may well start your own after-school program. 

When there is no organized group activity, look to your community. Many 
children love to get involved in social problems. They get their first 
real taste of suffering, charity and community help from such experiences. 
Volunteering for clean-up sessions, adult education programs etc could be 
a real eye-opener for your child. The lessons thus learnt are invaluable.

If physical activity or the lack of it is your major concern, enroll your 
child for some dancing classes. If organized sports are impossible to get, 
try to enroll her in a gym. She may find friends there and may take to the 
treadmill. 

Your child does not necessarily have to be a part of an organized group to 
benefit from after-school activities. There are various avenues open in 
front of you. Roping in the enthusiasm of your children in daily household 
activities like cooking, cleaning etc can also provide them with a 
refreshing extracurricular experience. Moreover, it will improve family 
ties too.

Over-scheduling kids

Several studies are expressing a growing concern that after school
programs are pressurizing kids to do too much too soon. They point out 
that when a child's afternoon is filled with classes, trips, sports and 
other forms of organized activities, kids do not really get the time to be 
just kids. They are even being deprived of the cherished family time.

Undoubtedly, there are children who are being burdened with a schedule 
that places too much demand on their time. This leads to increased levels 
of stress on the child and the family. As regular studies cannot be 
ignored, children are almost always on the run to achieve more. Such 
children are really bearing a burden that is too heavy for their frail 
little shoulders.

In an ideal world, all children would go home directly after school to 
loving and caring parents who are waiting for the children to come home. 
But the social and economic realities show that many children have to 
attend after school courses because there is no one available at home. For 
such children, these classes are a boon. 

Parents should however restrain themselves from reading too much into 
these activities. After school programs are complimentary in nature. They 
give additional support. Therefore, their importance should also be 
limited.

Developmental after school programs

As a child grows into an adult, different aspects of his physical, 
emotional and mental self needs development. To help a child reach his 
full potential, it is necessary to recognize the child's developmental 
needs and abilities. To be effective, after school programs should assist 
children with tasks they must accomplish during each stage of development. 

A child's growth curve can be divided into three main parts:

1) Young child (ages 3-5)
2) Middle school (ages 6-8)
3) Older school (ages 9-12)

The four important domains of development are: The Physical Domain, the 
Social Domain, the Emotional Domain and the Intellectual Domain. Each of 
these domains needs to be separately addressed during the various phases 
of a child's growth. After school programs should concentrate on 
developing each domain as applicable to the age of the child. Although the 
children participating in these programs may have similar developmental 
needs and age, do not expect development to be uniform. Children will 
develop as and when they are ready.

Physical Domain:

When children are young, they want to perfect skills that they have just 
learnt to control. A variety of movements such as jumping, catching and 
throwing delight them. The middle school child, on the other hand, wants 
to learn more complex skills and get involved in team sports. This is also 
the best time to learn about rules and discipline in sport. The older 
school child is ready for more adult-like activities that need greater 
structure and discipline, like dancing, gymnastics, music classes etc. 

Social Domain:

Young children are observing others and will be interested in games where 
they play the roles of family members. They develop short-term friendships 
and need an adult's presence to assure them. The middle school child is 
intrigued by society and will love trips to factories, public buildings 
etc. They want to know the 'how' and 'why' of things. The older school 
child is ready to learn about different cultures, food and customs. They 
want to do some amount of social work too.

Intellectual Domain:

Young school children will practice what they are learning. Middle school 
children want to learn more skills and will show interest in reading, 
drama and problem solving. The older school children are ready to research 
and probe. They enjoy getting a puzzle and pondering over it. 

Any after school program needs to address the interests of the child depending 
on the category he belongs to. Knowing the children in your program and 
appreciating their needs and interests will help staff to plan and 
structure programs that are most useful to that group.

Boring after school activities

Why does Lisa grumble when it is time for her to go for her piano lessons?
How come Johnny abhors the sight of his skates now? After all, these 
children were very enthusiastic about the programs when they started off. 
What happened? Parents are often confused by the disturbing and often 
incongruous signals they receive from their children. One day the kids are 
excited about the new theatre class and in just a few short weeks they 
wail and moan when it's time to go.

The first thing a family should do when a child begins resisting a 
previously loved activity is to listen and investigate. Do not jump into 
conclusions. A little bit of intelligent sleuthing is required. Ask your 
child what he or she does in the class. Find out what exactly is the cause 
of the problem. Then ask the teachers the same questions. Compare notes. 
You may stumble on some important clues. Usually, children start out on an 
activity thinking it's all fun. But when they realize that they cannot 
just hang out and that they need to follow rules etc, they begin to 
resist. Your child may feel stifled if the program is too structured. If 
the discipline is too rigorous or the activity too painful (like a karate 
class) some children balk.  Use your own instincts. Does the program feel 
like fun? Would you want to attend it yourself? Are they offering enough 
motivation to keep the child interested?

The teacher-to-child ratio is also an important factor. Children need 
attention. If the number of teachers is just enough to handle a class, it 
is possible that your child is not receiving enough attention. State 
recommendations usually specify that there must be 1 teacher for 15 
children. 

Children try to avoid problems they cannot solve. If there are no 
perceivable problems with the class and the teachers, perhaps you need to 
have a chat with your child. If your judgment says that the place is good 
and the activity engaging enough, then it's time to work with your child. 
More often than not, social pressures may be at work here. Does your child 
have friends there? If she is lonely or miserable because of the lack of 
friends, help her find a friend. If she finds a friend, she will get more 
involved in the activities 

If your best efforts do not pay off, and your child still resists that 
fantastic guitar classes, then it's time to let go. Shift your child to 
some other program. If he or she still retains interest in guitars, you 
can take it up after a few months. Never force the child, especially when 
it comes to extra-curricular activities. Since they are 'extra', they must 
bring in extra happiness and extra enthusiasm too.

Art-based activities

A recent report by several independent researchers concludes that 
participating in the arts nurtures the development of social, personal and 
cognitive skills. Programs based on Arts can improve academic achievement 
and decrease the tendency towards delinquency. It helps youth form 
positive attitudes about themselves and build self-esteem.

Arts programs involve communication, interpretation and understanding of 
complex symbols, much like mathematics and languages. Thus it fosters 
higher-order analytical skills and skills of evaluation and synthesis. 
Many of the programs make the child regularly use multiple skills thus 
making him dynamic and versatile. 

Development of imagination, judgment and philosophy are fringe benefits of 
an arts-based activity. As opposed to the short 45-minute duration of the 
art classes at school, the extra time allowed in after school activities 
allows the child to get more involved. This results in more satisfactory 
opportunities for development of latent capabilities in the child. In 
turn, the child learns to set high standards of achievement. He 
understands what sustained focus is and learns that regular practice is 
the way to excellence. 

In the shy or the withdrawn child, theatre, speech or drama lessons may be 
an outlet for pent up emotions. As drama entails getting into the 'skin' 
of another person, the child learns to verbalize emotions and express 
thoughts. These reasons account for the popularity of arts-based 
activities.  






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