The benefits of after-school activities

Kids today face a growing problem that was virtually unheard of only a couple of generations ago.  They come home from school every day to an empty house.  Whether it’s because both parents have to work to support the family or due to the fact that they come from a broken home, the result is the same.  Children receive no supervision for a portion of each day, and left to their own devices, they can get into all kinds of trouble.  Of course, it might not be as bad as you think.  Very few kids are going to run out and join a gang because they have nothing to do between the time they get out of class and your return from work.  But why leave them lounging in front of the television or Facebook when they could be doing something useful and productive?  This is where after-school activities come in, and there are several possible benefits to your child.

  1. Supervision.  The best thing about these programs is that your child will receive supervision.  Adults who run the programs are there to facilitate the activities as well as manage disruptive behavior so that everyone can have fun and learn in a safe environment.
  2. Social interaction.  Certainly your child can interact socially in other ways, perhaps by loitering outside the 7-11 with their friends, shooting spit-wads at passing cars.  Or maybe they’ll sneak into movies they’re not old enough to see.  Most of us pulled a prank or two when we were young.  But today, it’s more likely that their interactions will take place on Facebook or some other social networking site, and let’s face it, that’s not exactly a safe bet when they’re unattended (if you’ve seen the popular news segment To Catch a Predator on Dateline NBC, you know what’s out there).  Through after-school programs, you can ensure that they’re associating with children of their own age in an atmosphere that promotes positive socializing and safety.
  3. Continued education.  You’ll want to choose an activity that suits your child’s needs and interests, but most after-school programs offer a variety of courses, including math and language games, art activities, recreational pursuits, and even community service (as most of these programs are sponsored and supported by the neighboring popuation).  Your child will not only be flexing their mental muscles, they will also have the opportunity to give back to the community that supports them and learn the joy of helping others.
  4. Improved standardized testing.  Because these programs can frequently offer your child more individual attention than they receive in the classroom setting, with tutoring and engaging games to make the material fun and easy to learn (not to mention reinforcing lessons taught in class), they have been shown in many cases to improve the standardized test scores of children who attend regularly.
  5. Exercise.  It’s not all learning.  Many activities, such as recreational games and sports, get your child moving after a long day of sitting in class.  This allows them to get fit and release some of their pent up energy so they’re not bouncing off the walls by the time you get home.  Additionally, it keeps them from loafing in front of the television for a couple of hours, a sedentary activity that could lead to issues with weight over time.

[Ryan Barrone is a writer for an online school website.]

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