COLLEGE STATION — Now is a good time for parents of children in day care to look at after-school programs, according to a family life specialist.
“It’s really a good idea to start looking a year before the child begins elementary school,” said Dr. Sarah Anderson, program leader for family development and resource management, Texas Agricultural Extension Service. “With the beginning of school, parents will have the opportunity to observe school programs, along with the other community-type programs.”
Some parents of pre-schoolers may already have their children enrolled in a child care that also has an after-school program, she said, but many do not.
Parents who are shopping for an after-school program will have many concerns. They need to look around to find the program that best fits their needs as well as the child’s, Anderson said. The questions are the same as those for pre-schools.
Many programs will have 20 to 25 kids per adult, she said. Most try to manage 10 to 12 children. At least two adults should be present in case of an emergency.
Some parents want to know what the program involves. Some actually want their children to do their homework, but that’s inappropriate, Anderson said. However, there should be a quiet place if the child wants to do homework.
“After school, kids usually want to jump, run and play,” she said. “Others just want to lie down and rest. Good programs allow kids the freedom to do both.”
The best programs offer a variety of activities, both physical and educational such as arts and crafts, computer games, lessons in piano karate or dance, according to Anderson. Schools usually collaborate with other agencies and services to offer a variety of activities.
“Children also need to have a snack because they get hungry,” she said. “Milk or juice and some type of nutritious snack should be served.”
Parents also need to find out the hours, the type of training the provider has and whether holiday care is offered.
School programs, which average about $65 to $70 a month, may be less expensive than others because they already have the facilities to care for children. In some cities, after- school programs at day care centers cost anywhere from $65 to $125 per month. Again, parents need to look at services and find out what the costs include such as registration and supply fees.
Services will vary, Anderson said. Large cities will have a wide selection to choose from whereas small rural towns may only have one type or no after-school program.
“The best thing to do is check in your community to see what’s available by calling the local Child Care Licensing Service, different schools and existing child care centers,” she said. “County Extension agents in family and consumer sciences can help provide information on training available in starting an after-school program.”