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What to Look for in an Afterschool Program

Ages 5-10 | Ages 10-14 | Ages 14-18

Elementary: Ages 5-10


Characteristics of Age Group (5-10):

  • High energy and need lots of activity
  • Practicing large muscle and fine motor skills
  • Developing physical flexibility
  • Growing attention span
  • Respond to simple rules and limits
  • Eager to learn
  • Creative
  • Beginning to reason
  • Feel their ideas count
  • Easily hurt and insulted
  • Identify with the family
  • Eager to please
  • Enjoy small groups
  • Emphasize fairness

Wide variety of activities and choices, but offered under a set routine. Examples of opportunities to look for:

  • Frequent individual interaction with adults
  • Games with simple rules
  • Quiet areas as well as noisy areas
  • Outside experiences
  • Imaginative play opportunities
  • Some clear responsibilities like clean-up
  • Projects that apply school day lessons about the family and community
  • Opportunities to read aloud, silently, and to talk about books and ideas
  • Matching, ordering and sorting activities
  • Opportunities to apply arithmetic problems in real-world ways
  • Opportunities to ask questions about science and technology and think about how they can find the answer
  • Exposure to professionals and experts from various fields, such as scientists and engineers
  • Small experiments with everyday products
  • Nature walks and talks
  • Opportunities to work with a variety of materials for projects
  • Physical activities that do not emphasize competition 
  • Music, dance and drama opportunities
  • Opportunities to try experiences from diverse cultures

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Preadolescents & Teens: Ages 10-14

Characteristics of Age Group (10-14):

  • High energy and need lots of activity
  • Like to achieve and be seen as competent
  • Seem inconsistent in ideas and moods
  • Use logic and reasoning
  • Think beyond the immediate experience
  • Can exchange ideas
  • Seek independence
  • Want voice in decisions
  • Feel awkward and embarrassed in some situations
  • Need praise and approval
  • Identify strongly with peers
  • Begin experimentation

Wide variety of options . Examples of opportunities to look for:

  • Connections to real-world experience
  • Opportunities to interact in large and small groups as well as individual recognition
  • Experiences that explore ethics and values with respected adults
  • Opportunities to serve others
  • Physical activity
  • Opportunities for decision-making and leadership
  • Opportunities to apply school day lessons through performances and projects
  • Experiences emphasizing reasoning and problem-solving in subjects such as art, science, mathematics
  • Opportunities to explore subjects in-depth
  • Opportunities to meet a diverse group of professionals and exposure to college and career paths
  • Project based learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, applying concepts learned during the school day
  • Quiet times for homework with adult help and peer help when needed
  • Games that provide opportunities to practice basic skills, such as chess, checkers, puzzles, word games
  • Wide range of reading activities with discussion of the ideas found in the books
  • Experiences built on a wide diversity of cultures and ethnic groups

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Teens: Ages 14-18

Characteristics of Age Group (14-18):

  • Concerned about body and appearance
  • Highly developed motor skills
  • Worry about clumsiness, illness and diet
  • Think abstractly
  • Learn by doing
  • Less influenced by parents, more influenced by peers
  • Need and demand more freedom and privacy
  • Mask true feelings
  • Need praise and adult recognition
  • Admire heroes that demonstrate characteristics of friendship and romance
  • Recognize diversity of ideas
  • Earning money/working may be important

 Substantial choice. Examples of opportunities for look for:

  • Opportunities to explore a variety of career paths and college firsthand, and to meet a diverse group of professionals 
  • Real world work experience, ideally with academic credit/tie
  • Opportunities to serve others, contribute to community or mentor or tutor younger students
  • Opportunities to earn or recover credit, or catch up or move ahead with academic interests
  • Opportunities to interact in large and small groups as well as individual recognition
  • Physical activity
  • Opportunities for decision-making and leadership
  • Experiences emphasizing reasoning and problem-solving in subjects such as art, science, mathematics
  • Opportunities to explore subjects in-depth  
  • Opportunities to participate in research experiences and internships with mentors in industry or universities
  • Presentations and projects that involve appearance
  • Opportunities to discuss and address physical risk, including smoking, drugs, drinking, and sexual activity
  • Opportunities to show competence in a public setting
  • Opportunities to express feelings through projects and activities
  • One-on-one opportunities to talk with adults
  • Discussions of diverse ideas and opinions with adults and peers, and exploration of ethics and values
  • Specific help with skill areas that are causing problems
  • Opportunities to work on school day projects and papers with library and Internet support

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