School age programs provide activities that encourage independence, social skills and cooperation. It is also important to offer a variety of activities to choose from in a safe structured environment, allowing fun independent learning.
ECA’s school age specialist, Karin Gilbert, suggested you might want to create a Y.O.T Box, (pronounced “yacht” and stands for “Your Own Time”) for each child. This is where kids can store and work on individual hobbies and projects – such as collections, scrap books, journals, sketch books, craft projects, etc. Although the intent is for individual work, one child’s interest often sparks a similar interest in others, and they then become co-creators of special projects together.
Karin also emphasized that even if you create a Y.O.T. Box, it is important to remember that in quality school-age child care, many activities are happening at the same time in an organized way so that kids with different interests, abilities, needs can choose different ways to use their time. School-agers who help to shape their out-of-school time experiences will stay engaged, longer; so give them a say on what they do, when they do it, and with whom. Choice, flexibility, and wide-variety are key. Find out what they’re interested in by observing and asking them. You can ask them through child interest surveys, point out ideas in magazines and books, or make a trip to the local hobby store. Or, just ask them!
- What are your favorite things to do?
- What do you want to know more about?
- What makes you happy?
- What have you always wanted to try?
- What are you really good at? What would you like to be better at?
- What do you want to do when you grow up?
She encourages you have a variety of areas and materials that promote exploring, learning, and creating. Your areas might include: creative art; blocks and building; dramatic play; cooking; games; music and movement; sensory play; quiet social area; media and technology, math, literacy and science; and homework assistance.
Materials for these areas might include;
- Variety of art materials that school-agers can choose between, get out and put away on their own
- Variety of blocks and boxes of all kinds and sizes
- Legos, Lincoln Logs, K’Nex
- Vehicles: cars, boats, planes, trucks and trains
- Animals and dinosaurs
- Variety of dramatic play themes, such as: camping, castle, pet shop, veterinarian’s clinic, restaurant, mall, grocery store, flower shop, etc.
- Variety of dramatic play materials, such as: aprons, computer keyboards, costumes, dress up clothes and uniforms, mirror, etc.
- Cooking tools and utensils, for supervised cooking projects
- Board games, card games, dice games and game tables (air-hockey, pool, fooseball, and table tennis) Here are some sample resources:
- CD Player, MP3 player, headphones, karaoke machine, and musical instruments
- Playdough, sand, weaving loom, fuzebeads, jewelry-making, bubble liquid and bubble wands, etc.
- Age-appropriate books, magazines, journals and writing tools
- Computer, iPads, camera, printer, scanner, video camera, tripod, etc.
- Magnets, magnifying glasses, microscope and slides, tangrams, compass, protractor, ruler, measuring tape, play money, prisms, etc.
Karin also recommended the book, Great Afterschool Programs and Spaces That Wow! by Linda J. Armstrong and Christine A. Schmidt – a great resource for quality school-age spaces and materials that includes child-interest surveys.
If you have questions about setting up a great learning environment to include school age children, contact Karin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 574-360-3070.
Have a Great Week!