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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

What to Do After School?

By Tanni Haas

As the new school year begins, parents ask themselves whether or not they should enroll their kids in an after-school program. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Experts agree that after-school programs not only boost kids’ academic performance, they also enhance their social and emotional development, as well as their overall health and well-being.

Academic Performance
Kids who attend after-school programs tend to do better academically than those who don’t. They pay more attention in class, are more involved in classroom discussions, develop stronger study habits, and earn higher test scores. Researchers believe that’s because they spend more time doing homework, and a wider variety of adults with different teaching styles explain the material. After-school programs generally offer more hands-on, experiential ways of learning, which are great for many kids.
In addition to academic tutoring, most after-school programs also offer different extracurricular activities, such as art, music, and sports. These activities also have a positive impact on their academic performance. When kids discover they have a particular talent, they gain self-confidence and that translates into better classroom behavior and performance. They also learn important time-management skills. When kids have homework to finish but are looking forward to a favorite activity, they learn how to manage their time so that they can do both.

Social and Emotional Development
After-school programs are great for social and emotional development. Kids spend considerable time interacting with children who are not their regular classmates, including kids from different grades. This teaches them important interpersonal skills and how to make new friends. They also learn much from the extracurricular activities. Whether they’re working together on an art project or a music performance, or are preparing for a sports competition, kids learn how to support one another and solve problems through teamwork. These are extremely valuable lessons that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Almost all professional jobs require good communication and conflict-resolution skills, and the ability to work well with others.

Health and Wellness
Finally, attending an after-school program is excellent for their overall health and well-being. Most after-school programs teach kids about proper nutrition, engage them in physical activities that are good for their health, and offer them healthy snacks—all in a safe and structured learning environment. Researchers have concluded that kids who regularly attend after-school programs are less likely to be obese than their peers. 

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., is a college communications professor.