There are many different types of afterschool programs. Some are small programs that focus on a special set of activities, like sports, drama or tutoring. Others are larger with a wide range of activities. Some are in your child’s school. Others are in out of school locations like, Boys and Girls Clubs, YWCAs or community centers.
How do you select the best program for your child and your family?
Start by deciding what is important to you. Should the program be located at the school? Should it provide transportation if it is not at the school? How much can you spend? Many programs are free or subsidized, while others charge tuition. Are there specific activities you want your child to participate in?
Afterschool programs should all meet certain standards. The National Afterschool Association has identified several keys to quality. Look for these keys when you visit your local afterschool program. If you see them, you’ll know that your child will be well-cared for in a safe and enriching environment. If you don’t see them, feel free to ask the program director about them. Here’s what to look for:
Look at how staff members work with the children
- Do they treat children with respect and listen to what they have to say? They should make children feel welcome and comfortable.
- Do they know each child’s interests, personality, culture and home language?
- Do they help children learn by giving them opportunities to think for themselves?
- Do they use positive techniques to guide the behavior of children by giving children attention when they cooperate, share, care for materials or join in activities?
Look at the indoor environment
- Is there open space for activities?
- Is there comfortable furniture for relaxing?
- Is there a quiet space for homework and tutoring?
- Is there enough room for all activities?
Look at the outdoor environment
- Is there are variety of play equipment?
- Do children have a chance to play outdoors?
Look at the schedule of activities
- Is there a wide variety of activities to choose from?
- Are the activities stimulating?
- Are the activities well-suited to the children’s interests and ages?
- Are there plenty of supplies for each activity?
Look into health, safety and nutrition
- Are the facilities clean?
- Is there adequate, heat, ventilation and light?
- Is the play equipment safe?
- Are staff members responsive to individual health needs of children?
- Are children well supervised at all times?
- Are healthy snacks served?
Ask how the program is run
- What is the staff to student ratio? It should be between 1:10 and 1:15 for children ages six and up.
- What is the policy towards parent involvement?