I’ve been caring for school-age children for over 13 years as of the date of this blog post. I have grown to love this age group because they love to have fun and they look forward to going to a program that meets their needs.
Throughout the month of June, I have been featuring blog post about how to create a cool place for school-age children and I thought I would end this month’s theme by covering 10 areas that I believe contributes to providing a quality program for school-age children.
1. Find out what the children want. The best way to keep the children interested in your program and to prevent the children from being bored is by asking the children what they like to do. Upon enrollment, ask the child to tell you what he or she likes to do and plan to incorporate what the child likes into the daily activities.
2. Serve Breakfast and Snacks that the children love. I have walked into my school-age classroom and found some children enjoying snack while others choose not to eat, because they do not want what is being served. To assure that all the children participate at meal time, ask the children in advance what they would like for snack and add those food choices to the menu.
3. Choose a teacher that connects with the children. Many early childhood professionals prefer to care for preschool-age children for a variety of reasons. However, I think that it takes an individual that desires to work with youth, understands the school-age child and is highly trained to work with them. Moreover, the teacher must be very energetic, because school-age children have lots of energy and they need a teacher that will keep them motivated.
4. Connect with the local school. It is vital that you connect with the local school and adapt your program to what is happening in the local schools. In fact, I’m sure the parents and children love to see a bulletin board in your program that displays their school’s activities and events. Moreover, when you connect with the local schools by sending them information about your after school program, they will tell parents about your program. This is a great way to build rapport with the school principal and staff. Also, consider featuring the local schools on your website as a resource link to parents that visit your website.
5. Plan plenty of open-ended Art & Sensory activities. Believe it or not, school-age children love to do messy activities just like preschoolers. During the process of getting my center accredited, one of the requirements of receiving accreditation was to provide sensory activities for school-age children. I was quite shocked and I gave it a try. The kids loved all the hands-on and sensory activities. Many of the activities included:
- Shaving cream fun
- Pails of water with cups, spoons, bowl
- yarn, scissors, glue
- Variety of construction and white paper
- Flour and measuring cups
- Home made playdoh
- Variety of felt and tissue paper
I know many of the items above are messy and that’s the point….kids love messiness!
5. Promote Literacy, Math, Science and Technology Use. Offering daily literacy activities will help the children to develop their writing, reading, speaking and listening skills. So be sure to have a variety of books and magazines on hand for the children to read. Also provide a place for writing that is well stocked with paper, pens, markers and pencils. To support math and science, be sure to add the following items in the environment: calculators, calendars, clock, maps, math problem cards, plants to water, rocks, leaves,etc. Moreover, we are living in a time where technology is a necessity and the children will love it if they can bring, cell-phones, i-pads, i-pods or laptops to the program. Be sure to create technology rules.
6. Have a Transportation Policy in Place. To assure that your expectations are clear on van safety rules, pick-up, drop-off and driver procedures; it is vital that you create a transportation policy. Moreover, be sure to create a policy with safety in mind. Some of those rules could include, but are not limited to:
- Drop-off and pick-up times at the local schools
- Parent responsibilities to call when children will be absent
- Van rules (wear seat belts, no loud voices, do not bring weapons on the van,etc)
- Bad weather procedures
- Car seat regulations for your state
- Transportation fees
- Number of children allowed on the van
- Information that should be available to the van driver
- Head count procedures
7. Fun Filled Daily Schedule. To create a consistency in your program, create a daily schedule. Your daily schedule must meet the needs of the children in your school-age program. Here is a sample morning schedule:
6-7:15am- Free choice activities (computers, writing, reading or table games)
7:15-7:30- Clean-up/prepare for breakfast
8:00-8:15am Clean-up/prepare to leave for school
8. Daily Chores. Having a chore for each child is a great way to promote independence and to teach the children to be responsible. Simply create a chore chart, post classroom chores and invite the children to choose their chore of choice. Chores can include: plant helper, meal time helper, line leader, office helper, preschool helper,etc.
9. Parent Involvement. Parents play a very important role in their children’s lives and it is important that parents are involved in everything that you do in your before/after school program including: getting their advice on after school activities, home work time or even inviting parents to talk with the school-age children about their careers.
10. No Bullying Policy. Bullying seems to be a major problem among school-age children, however it does not have to be a major problem in your before/after school program. In fact, it is vital that you create a no bullying policy and discuss it on a regular basis with the children. Also, the parents must be aware of the “No Bullying” policy. Don’t forget to post, NO BULLYING signs.