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After-School Programs

- By Greenshoot Media

For working parents, the hours between when school gets out and when work is over are a challenge. They have to arrange for after-school programs for their children that not only keep them safe and cared for, but are also mentally or physically engaging.

A national survey reported by U.S. News & World Report showed that 65% of K-8 parents and guardians have children enrolled in after-school activities, both to provide care and also to expose their children to new experience­s, ideas and perspectiv­es.

The magazine said it was most important to let children explore a range of activities rather than specialize in one at an early age. The right mix of after-school activities can improve grades, boost school attendance and regulate behavior, the Afterschoo­l Alliance says. When children are exposed to a diverse range of ages and background­s, they can also build better communicat­ion and teamwork skills, experts say.

“That kind of group play is critical for social-emotional developmen­t,”

Karen Pittman, cofounder of the Forum for Youth Investment told U.S. News & World Report.

You can find after-school activities in an extended day option at your school, with organizati­ons like the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, at local churches and community centers, and with some sports teams.

Some parents may also opt for private lessons in music or other subjects. A Learning Heroes survey says parents use an average of two programs to occupy their children after school.

With all the options, experts advise parents to tread carefully. Afterschoo­l providers should have a background in child developmen­t and have enough trained and experience­d staff on hand to deal with children in a group setting. To find great programs in your area, the Afterschoo­l Alliance advises parents to talk to the teachers or administra­tors at their schools, then reach out to national organizati­ons that may be active in your community, such as the 4-H Council, Camp Fire USA and the local parks and recreation department. You can also talk to other parents in your school to see what they do or reach out to programs at community centers, museums, art councils, libraries and youth employment programs.

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