Choosing After-School Programs

Kids programs and classes .. They’re enriching, they give parents well-deserved downtime, and they’re a great way for kids to make new friends. Toronto and the GTA has an incredible range of extra-curricular activities for kids of all ages. From basketball drills to skating skills, there's a lot to be learned at an after-school or weekend class. Discover programs and recreational fun such as music, art, dance, gymnastics, sports, theatre, martial arts, and more.

How to find the best extra-curricular classes, training, or programs for your child…

Do you have a little Rembrandt on your hands, a budding Karen Kain, or mini Meryl Streep? Or does your child show signs of creative talent or a sporting ability? What should you look for when searching for after-school programs or activities for your child? And how does a parent choose between sports training or creative classes?

Ask your Child

To find the best activity to engage and stimulate your child, ask what they WANT to do after school. Are they brave enough to start a solo after-school activity or is there something they could do with a friend? Make a shortlist of activities with your child, and don’t just include what you think they will enjoy doing – they might surprise you and pick something off the radar! Be very clear with them about the commitment of choosing an after-school program: the last thing you want to do is invest in a program that they only like for a couple of weeks.

Think about their strengths – do they like to act? Sounds like a drama club candidate. Do they have an excess of energy? Maybe athletics would help with that. Always looking in the mirrors? There’s sure to be a dance studio.

Age Appropriateness

Check for programs that have classes or teams that are broken up into age appropriate groups. Not only will the excitement fade fast for a younger child if the classes go on for hours, but activities grouped with bigger kids (who seem like experts) can make them quickly feel self-conscious. If your child is older, a mixture of after-school activities would help them burn off energy from body and mind, while keeping them motivated. 

The Cost

The cost of a chosen extra-curricular activity does need to play a part in your decision. Certain sports require a lot of equipment; while some creative classes require supplies, instruments, or costumes. All classes will charge program fees. Before signing up, inquire about what is needed to participate in the class. Some programs will let children have a few trial lessons or training sessions before registering full time, so inquire beforehand. It’s good to try something out to see if your child is interested.

Things to Look Into

No matter what after-school program or activity you choose, make sure the facility, be it a sports oval, a gym, classroom, or house, is up to standard. Pay a visit while a class or training is in session. Make sure it’s clean and well lit, is secure, and has a qualified instructor. You’ll also want a low ‘children to adult ratio’ (for example, 1 coach/trainer per 10 children).

Feel free to ask lots of detailed questions to find out if programs will suit your child. Go to the prospective venue to have a look alone BEFORE you register with your child. You don’t want them to fall in love with the idea of the activity, only to have to nix it if it’s not up to par.

Activity Options

After-school programs and activities can let your child’s creative instincts thrive, improve their social spirit, or get them fit and active. It’s a also a known fact that kids who are involved in extra-curricular activities, perform better academically.

Whether your child is into solo sports activities, creative classes, dance lessons, or even training on a team – most extra-curricular activities can be found in the Toronto4Kids Directory or check out our 2013 Back to School Guide. You’ll find a broad range of programs and activities, at a variety of costs. Think of the bigger benefit of the activity. Is it just something to pass the time after school, or will it enhance their artistic nature or sporting ability? Call a variety of programs to get some information, or jump on the Web to check things out. Ask around within your circle of friends.  

Remember, for many children, after-school programs provide a structured, supervised and safe place for learning, fun, and friendship!

What are your kids’ favourite after-school activities? Is there anything you would like to recommend to other parents?

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