Parents: After-School Programs

Parent Guide to Choosing an After-School Program

Qualities of a Good After-School Program

The best programs offer a comprehensive set of activities that do the following for children:

  • Foster the self-worth of each child, and develop the children's self-care skills.
  • Develop their personal and interpersonal social skills, and promote respect for cultural diversity. For adolescents, foster an appropriate sense of independence based on their level of maturity, and develop their refusal skills.
  • Provide help with homework, tutoring, and other learning activities.
  • Provide time and space for quiet study.
  • Provide new, developmentally-appropriate enrichment activities to add to students' learning at school, help them develop thinking and problem-solving skills, and spark their curiosity and love of learning.
  • Provide recreational and physical activities to develop physical skills and constructively channel children's energy pent up after a day sitting in a classroom.
  • Encourage participation in individual sports activities to help youth develop self-esteem by striving for a personal best, and participation in group sports to provide lessons about cooperation and conflict resolution.
  • Provide age-appropriate job readiness training.
  • Provide information about career and career training options, preferably through firsthand experiences with community business leaders and tours of local businesses.

What to Look for in an After-School Program

It is best to visit programs when they are in operation so you can see firsthand what the staff is doing and whether the children seem happy. Besides asking whether the program includes the activities listed above, you can use this checklist to help you decide whether to enroll your children in the program:

  • Does the staff consist of responsible and caring adults who really like children and who can provide support and guidance?
  • Is supervision adequate?
  • Is the program in a safe and clean environment?
  • Is there enough space for activities and quiet time?
  • Are the rest rooms adequate?
  • Is the space decorated in an inviting way?
  • Are nutritional snacks or meals provided?
  • Are there good resources, such as a library and sports equipment?
  • Do the activities look exciting and challenging? Are they age-appropriate?
  • Are the participants having fun as well as learning?
  • Are the activities offered the ones that your children like to do or want to learn?
  • Does the program coordinate group and individual learning with the school to be sure that participants benefit as much as possible from it?
  • Can children come before school and on holidays as well as in the afternoon?
  • Is there an extra fee for that?
  • Is there a late fee if you must pick up your children after the program is over?
  • Can children attend only a few times a week instead of every day - to accommodate parents' schedules, to save on costs, or to allow for partial sibling care?
  • What are the costs?
  • Are there extra fees for trips, personal tutoring, and lessons?

Information excerpted from, Parent Guide – A Guide to Choosing an After-School Program, by Wendy Schwartz.

Information in this guide was taken from the digest After-School Programs for Urban Youth, published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Box 40, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, 800/601-4868, Fax: 212/678-4012, Internet: