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 their knowledge and also make them more enthusiastic about their 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
acceptable and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 them know that an excellent career is wholly dependent on wholesome learning. To develop their interest in studies, plan family activities that are connected with their studies. Emphasize the real-world connection to academics whenever possible.
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, they are more likely to put in hard work. Such children are also less likely to drop out of programs and college at a later stage.
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.
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 them what they should do in case the class is suddenly cancelled. Show them the first-aid kit at home and make sure they know 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 them.
Tell them 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.