If you’re a working parent, ask yourself what hours in your child’s school day cause you the most concern. If you’re thinking of those critical hours between 3 PM and 6 PM, according to research conducted by The Afterschool Alliance, you’re not alone.
The need for before- and after-school care for school-aged children makes a top-notch Extended Day program an integral part of an education decision. To ensure the highest quality of care and comfort for each child at the start and end of a busy day, a good Extended Day program should offer parents and school-aged students opportunities that are:
- Age appropriate
Extended Day professionals understand that students in different age groups have varied academic, psychological, and physical needs. To accommodate these considerations, they strive to provide a variety of settings, activities, and staff to best support each child.
A Good Extended Day Program
- Provides structure with flexibility: Students need a balance between structured activities and unstructured time when they are free to choose their own activities.
- Offers a variety of age appropriate activities: It is important for students to have a wide range of activities that provide a mix of social, physical, and emotional skills and that meet their unique interests.
- Provides help with homework and a dedicated homework space.
What to look for in an Extended Day Program
- Does the staff consist of responsible and caring adults who really enjoy working with children? What is the ratio of staff to student? Have the staff members passed background checks?
- Is the program flexible to accommodate parents’ schedules?
- How does the staff ensure that only approved adults can pick up students?
- Is the program in a safe, clean and spacious environment? Are there enough bathrooms?
- Is the space decorated in an inviting and age appropriate way for the size and age of the children?
- Does the program offer After School Enrichment Programs such as soccer, cooking, chess, etc.?
- Are healthy snacks provided? Are they considerate of serious food allergies?
- Can the students come before school and on holidays as well as in the afternoon?
Child care is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. A high-quality program that makes a smooth transition from the school day to Extended Day care benefits everyone. Not only does it set the stage for a positive afternoon with friends, any parent can tell you that picking up a content child at the end of a long day can make for a more pleasant evening reconnecting with one another until it’s time to do it all again tomorrow.
Ann Davis is the former Director of Extended Day at Sanford School in Hockessin, Delaware. She currently works in the Business Office.