I watch my daughter’s after-school LEGO Engineering class in awe. Awe because she’s engineering multi-functional bridges and machines at age nine
After-school enrichment programs like my daughter’s give children essential skills not always covered during the regular school day. Choosing a Science-Technology-Engineering- or Math (STEM) educational activity even prepares kids for career success in their futures.
What’s more, quality after-school activities enrich children intellectually. Studies show that participating in an after-school activity can increase school attendance and school engagement. It also helps children develop higher aspirations for the future. (NIOST fact sheet [http://www.niost.org/], Safe and Smart [http://www.ed.gov/pubs/afterschool/afterschool.pdf])
Parents want these kinds of programs – programs that help children develop new skills. In a survey commissioned for Sylvan Learning by Kelton*, 33% of parents most wanted after-school programs that would help their children develop new skills. In fact, 88% of parents of children in grades 1-8 said they would sacrifice other purchases or vacations to pay for them.
However, many parents are still more likely to choose traditional after –school activities like sports (64%) or hobbies (60%) than education-focused programs (47%).
It could be lack of awareness. There are many other after-school programs outside of athletics that can benefit children’s mind, social skills, confidence, and future abilities. Look for after-school programs offered in the places such as:
- Recreation centers
- Community centers
- Non-profit groups
- Faith-based groups
When you find a program, check to be sure it is high-quality. You’ll want to find a program with these characteristics:
- Licensed with highly qualified instructors who have been background checked
- Welcoming towards all children (including diverse learners)
- Offers age-appropriate activities
- Held in a safe and clean environment
- Positive behavior management used
- Low to medium teacher to student ratios
When you find a good program for your child, you’ll know. Your child will tell you. He or she will be learning and having fun. And you might be in awe. Because when it works, it’s magical.
*The Sylvan Learning Survey was conducted between February 10th and February 17th, 2015 among 1,015 American parents of children in grades 1-8, using an email invitation and an online survey.*