Once a child starts school, there are new issues for working parents to consider about childcare, according to Nancy Beaver of the Dallas Association for the Education of Young Children (DAEYC). The time a child spends out of school but away from her parents calculates to about half the childhood of the 6- to 12- year-old. The adults in charge of your child’s care and the activities offered him each day are significant. These hours should not be wasted.
A good after-school program helps children become healthy, intelligent and productive members of their community. It should not merely provide a place to sit and wait until parents get off work. Considering the following criteria may help you evaluate your child’s current program or help in selection of a new one that promotes physical, social emotional and cognitive development.
For positive interactions to occur, the number of children should be limited so the adult can focus on the group and the individual children. Different activities will need differing numbers of adults.
Does the curriculum encourage children to be actively involved in a variety of activities that are relaxed, fun and interesting experiences with the real world and real-world objects? Children should have choices between activities that encourage:
- Motor development. Balls, bats, jump ropes, playgrounds.
- Intellectual development. Books, language, science experiments, writing and problem solving.
- Creativity. Art, music, drama, cooking, blocks, nature projects, wood working and table, card and board games.
- Responsibility. Self-care needs such as preparing and serving snacks, planning for care of equipment and helping to establish rules.
- Positive self-image. Opportunities for everyone to succeed at several things.
- Special interests and activities. Field trips, special visitors, drama, sewing, woodworking, art and long-term projects.
- Quiet time and/or small groups. Activities should be offered as alternatives for children who choose not to participate in large group activities. Card games, jacks, jump rope, drawing, books and headphones for listening to music or stories.
- Homework area.
Five to seven areas of interest or activity centers prevent choices from becoming too overwhelming or too limiting. These areas should have a relaxed atmosphere that has homey touches such as rugs, pillows and rocking chairs, soft chairs and art objects such as pictures or sculptueres.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends that teachers in after-school care have at least an associate degree in early childhood or a CDA (Child Development Associate) credential. For more information about your child’s care, visit www.naeyc.org.
Reprinted by permission from Dallas Child Magazine.