A good afterschool program can turn the aimless hours after school into productive learning time. That’s a big benefit, especially for kids who learn and think differently. Here are six things a high-quality afterschool program can do for kids.
1. Create a sense of belonging.
If the afterschool program isn’t run by your school district or a local facility, it may be a way for your child to make some new friends. Being away from school can offer a break from any usual cliques or social concerns.
If the program is local or at school, it may be a nice way for your child to connect with peers in a new setting. Kids in afterschool programs are more likely to be included and feel like they’re part of a group. These programs often have more adult supervision than playground time offers.
2. Improve social skills.
A good program promotes cooperation, support, and respect. This can help kids feel more secure about joining a game or starting a conversation. And if they slip up, a sympathetic staffer should be on hand to remind them to take turns or stop interrupting.
3. Provide academic support.
Many afterschool programs provide homework help. This time can be very helpful for kids who struggle with homework at home or who can’t sit down to do it until late. Getting it done after school can make everyone’s evening more pleasant.
Make sure that the aides or other kids aren’t doing the homework for your child. Some centers don’t have teachers or aides who are equipped to handle kids who struggle with homework.
4. Make learning more fun.
Some afterschool programs offer classes in areas like science or computers. In these sessions, there aren’t tests and students may work together in groups. It’s a fun and meaningful way for kids to work with other kids in areas they enjoy. Programs may also offer arts options like drama and music, which can help kids find new interests.
5. Provide safety and supervision.
The hours between 3 and 6 p.m. are when older kids are most likely to commit crimes or become crime victims. It’s also prime time for some kids to drink or use drugs. Research shows that these risks are even more likely for kids who learn and think differently. But keeping kids busy can keep them from engaging in risky behavior. And afterschool programs can be a safer option.
Studies show that kids in afterschool programs may get better grades. They also may see fewer behavioral problems.
For kids who lack confidence or have learning challenges, an afterschool program may feel more forgiving than school. The stakes may not feel as high. Kids may be more willing to try new things and take more positive risks. This, in turn, can lead to higher self-esteem.