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Help your child choose an after school activity

Choose an enrichment program they will love!

There are good reasons to enroll your child in after school activities, according to Ellen Smith, a licensed clinical social worker and certified health coach in Poughkeepsie. It’s a great opportunity for them to develop hobbies, learn new skills, and socialize. It also provides supervision to kids who might otherwise go to an empty home.


Research shows that after school programs can boost academic performance and test scores. However, Smith says a key factor to extracurricular success is that kids enjoy the particular activity.


When selecting after school activities, begin by thinking about what your child chooses to do in his or her down time. Every child has natural abilities. Smith tells parents to observe their child to discover what they are good at and help them further their interests in that direction.

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Once you have an idea of the possibilities, make a list of activities that your child has expressed an interest in, along with their daily schedule. Help them weigh the pros and cons. Explain the time commitment involved. If they chose an activity that involves purchasing equipment, discuss whether they will be partially responsible. While parents should have the final say, children are more likely to practice and actively participate in an activity they helped select.


If your child demonstrates a gift, it is wonderful to nurture that talent through lessons. But pushing your child into a full load of after school classes in order to give her a head start may backfire, says Smith. One solution is to break it up with something different. For the budding concert pianist, that might mean a martial arts class one day a week rather than piano lessons every day. For the sports star, a fun science-related program at a local Mad Science program could expand her horizons. Give her other options and encourage other interests so she doesn’t feel pressure.


Roberta Cruse-Fordham of Sports, Fitness and Fun in Florida says if trial classes are offered that is a good way to find out which activities your child will be happy participating in. If trials aren’t an option, Cruse-Fordham suggests visiting a potential activity while it is in session so you and your child can get a true picture of the environment, the staff and the program. Sports, Fitness and Fun offers a wide range of after school activities that develop gross motor and fine motor skills. She points out that not all children are naturally gifted athletes, so there are programs where kids can simply get moving, socialize, practice teamwork and have fun.


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Most experts recommend that parents enroll their children in no more than two activities during the school year. If there is a huge time commitment limit it to one. Smith says that when trying to determine if your child should get involved in multiple activities, consider your child’s temperament, how much homework they have each night and the amount of time each week that the activities require. “Listening to your child is key.”


A safe environment


Nancy Moore, child care director of The Greater Newburgh YMCA says the YMCA after school program is a safe haven for children of working parents that offers a well-rounded program where kids can make friends and feel they belong. Beyond the basic concerns such as safety, trained staff and enjoyable activities what else should you look for? Ask yourself these questions when evaluating potential after school activities:


Is the programming age appropriate?

Does it offer fun, hands on approach to learning?

Are the kids enthusiastic and do they seem happy?

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Keep your expectations realistic. Your child may need to try a few different actitivities before they find one that suits them. In the process of choosing after school activities remember they will get more out of the activity if they are having fun while doing it. Look around until you find a good match for your child’s temperament and your family’s needs