The pre-teen and teenage years are delicate times when kids can start picking up harmful and risky behaviors. They are most likely to engage in these behaviors after school periods. Many working parents are unable to have complete oversight on their kids to know what they might be doing. Via mobile technology, their kids could communicate with them to inform them of their activities. If they are teenagers, you would just have to take their words for it. If they are raised right, they will be forthright in stating their actions and whereabouts, keeping the mind of the parent at bay while they are still at work. Younger children could be watched by a nanny, another family member, a trusted close acquaintance or they are kept at daycare or enrolled in an Afterschool Program (ASP) until they get off work. While it is essential to work and make money to take care of the children, it is also vital for caregivers to pay attention to their growth and development. Research over the years has confirmed that youths who participate in the Afterschool Programs (ASPs) gain psycho-social, emotional, academic and wellness benefits.
“Parents need a full continuum of care and support from birth to kindergarten that is affordable and accessible—that means full day and full year. And let’s not forget that even in elementary school, working parents need access to the same kind of quality, affordable after-school programs!” — Randi Weingarten
ASPs are essential as they engage and expose children to many activities that support their development. ASPs can be grouped into Creative Art, Leisure, Physical, Transition, Wellness, and Nutrition; and Educational/Mental activities. Creative art activities can help to support self-expression and creativity in children. In this afterschool possibility, students can be involved in arts and crafts classes. Some other examples of creative art activities are healthy snack art, Suminagashi, Apple Stamping, etc. Leisure activities are not structural in any way and avail the opportunity for choice-play (e.g., board games, reading, puzzles, and passive games). Leisure activities bolster emotional, cognitive, and social development in the children.
Physical activities involve outdoor play activities that enhance endurance (e.g., soccer, basketball, football, taekwondo, etc.), flexibility (e.g., dance, ballet, stretching, etc.), and strength (e.g., outdoor play parks, where climbing, pushing, and swinging are involved). Transition activities occur when change is happening (i.e., changing activities, start-and-end of programs, etc.)—an example could be singing at the end of a program before the start of another. Wellness and nutrition activities are opportunities for children to learn about overall wellness, social relationship building, safety, and nutrition (e.g., cooking, safety talks, hygiene, etc.). Educational or Mental activities involves enrolling your kids in afterschool educational programs, classes, or clubs (e.g., Math, Robotics, Science, Debate, Coding, learning to play a musical instrument, etc.).
10 Benefits of ASPs
Child development is a crucial process in every home. Every parent wants children they can be proud of. They fancy the best for their children as they grow up. Because of this, parents go the extra mile in ensuring that they are giving their children the very best and exposing them to all positive avenues to improve their psychological, social, physical, and intellectual wellbeing. No one wants their child to go off the tangent and assimilate bad and risky habits. No one wants their child to become a statistic and social stigma that all parents’ advice their own kids to stay away from; hence, a bad influence on others. Parents resort to using ASPs as support in helping them mold the positive characters of their progeny. There are several benefits of ASPs, and they are as follows:
#1. Improvement in Academic Performance
Being a part of ASPs has been said to increase academic performance in schools because, during these programs, kids learn courses related to some subjects they are taught in school. Repetitious learning helps in grafting the knowledge in the memories of the students. This allows them to do better and earn better grades in school.
#2. Child Safety and Security
Most parents are sometimes swamped with work and do not return home until several hours after schools have closed. With these ASPs, they are sure of the safety and security of their children and can carry on with work, rest assured that they will pick up their kids after they are done for the day. They do not have to worry knowing their kids are in safe hands. ASPs help to protect your children.
“In Chicago, you have an absence of strong family units, and that absence gets filled by gangs. You have a failure in the school system, after-school programs and other social programs to help keep kids off the streets. Amnesty International speaks to that in some way, by keeping these issues in the forefront.” — Lupe Fiasco
#3. Learning is Fun
Because the program is less formal than what obtains during school periods, it is a fun experience for the children since they are more comfortable in this learning environment. This fun part of ASPs has also been revealed to decrease the tendency of students to skip or drop out of school. It helps them stay engaged and removes any apprehension surrounding the rigors of academia.
#4. Good Dietary Habits and Physical Activities
Due to the wide variety of physical activities and healthy food made available to children at some ASPs, attending and participating in the program has revealed significant health outcomes, such as reducing obesity in kids. Many of these habits they are taught at these programs stick with them for life. This is a great character building block and a positive disposition towards a healthy living lifestyle.
#5. Improves the Social Skills of the Child
ASPs provide a shared ambiance where children can interact with the ASP staff and other children. The ability to interact fosters good social and interpersonal traits. They also learn to be more open-minded and become more confident. They also develop enhanced self-esteem. Reports have shown that ASPs among teens caused decreased shyness and aggression.
Not all the activities offered during the ASPs are taught in school. This provides and exposes the child to varieties of skills they are generally not familiar with. From there, the kid could even find new and previously unexplored passions. This positive exposure expands the horizon of their innovative thinking and creativity.
In school, a child could find themselves the only ones interested in an activity, but with ASPs, they meet and interact with other children who share the same interests as them—Birds of the same plumage always conglomerate together. Many times, they go on to develop good, long-lasting relationships with one another.
#8. Protects against Risky Behaviors
ASPs expose kids to healthy behaviors and make them aware of the risk of engaging in harmful practices (e.g., smoking, drinking, drugs, violence, gangsterism, etc.). ASPs influence the children to take up affirmative actions while having fun and enjoying themselves. Research shows that children who attend ASPs have reduced drug use and criminal behavior.
#9. Improves Leadership Skills
The statement above is another reason why children should be given the opportunity to participate in the ASPs. They are placed in charge of tasks, assist in duties, and there are also the opportunities for attending conferences that would benefit them. All of these set the child up for professionalism and excellent work habit in the future.
#10. Learn Teamwork
ASPs avail kids the opportunity to start learning teamwork at a young age. While in school, children might find it difficult interacting with their classmates, but the fun learning environment, interpersonal relationships they’ve developed in ASPs makes it easier for them to learn how to cooperate and work with others.
“In a world where people are hungry for quick fixes and sound bites, for instant gratification, there is not patience for the long. Slow rebuilding process: implementing after school programs, hiring more community workers to act as mentors, adding more job training programs in marginalized areas.” — Dan Hill
Recapping the sundry benefits of ASPs, first, they help in improving the academic performance of children. Second, they provide a safety and security net for children. Third, we have seen that it affords a fun space for kids. Fourth, it teaches kids good dietary habits and physical activities. Fifth, it helps children improve their social skills. Sixth, it exposes the child to varieties of skills they are generally not familiar with. Seventh, it allows kids who have similar interests to find companionships. Eighth, it shields kids from going off the tangent and embracing risky behaviors. Ninth, it helps kids to improve their leadership skills. Finally, tenth, it allows kids to learn teamwork.
We have seen all the benefits of ASPs—they are in no way exhaustive, there could be more benefits that are not mentioned here in this article. However, let it suffice us to stipulate that any activity that could help nurture a child constructively after they get out of school could technically be considered an ASP and such enterprises should be embraced, provided it is there to improve the child from a positive perspective. So, if you’re a working parent, concerned about what your children are doing between the hours when their schools close for the day and when you return from work, an ASP for your kids might be a win-win solution for you and your kids. Consider and ASP today.