There’s no shortage of enrichment and afterschool opportunities available to kids these days. Music, dance, karate, swimming, theater, art and gymnastics are just some of the options that kids and parents can choose from. But with so many choices available, narrowing down which are the best programs to pursue can be a task. To help with that process, here are a few questions to ask when selecting an activity for your child.
How long has the program been around?
Before enrolling your child in an enrichment program, take a look at how long the organization offering the activity has been in business. Look for a well-established program that has many happy students and parents. Places with some history will have “tried and true” methods and know what works for their participants. See if staff turnover rate is an issue as well. Finding a program with instructors that stay year after year is a good sign.
What is the teacher-to-child supervision ratio?
Having enough instructors for students ensures that your child is well-monitored and getting the kind of specialized attention he or she might require. “The teacher to child ratio is extremely important,” says Emily DiNardo, owner of The Art Spark. “The younger the child, the lower we keep our ratio. When kids come for our preschool programs, we have one teacher for every four students.” With older children, the ratio can increase with one instructor supervising more children.
Are the instructors knowledgeable, well–trained and good with kids?
Staff should be upbeat and encouraging and kids should be having a positive and fun experience. Instructors should be qualified to teach the age and ability level of the children in their class. “In my program, teachers that I have teaching my younger kids don’t necessarily teach my older kids,” says Kristy Flesch, owner of Gotta Dance Studios. Sheila Vail, owner of Indian Springs Music Academy, emphasizes the importance of instructors staying current on new developments in their field. “If instructors are participating in professional associations and attending conferences and pursuing their ongoing education, that’s a real gift to their students.” When it comes to sports, an instructor should have experience not only as an athlete, but in teaching the sport as well.
Are all staff properly screened and is the facility clean and safe?
Dropping your child off for their class or lesson means you are entrusting other people with the care of your son or daughter. Find out if staff are properly screened, background checks are performed, and first aid and CPR certifications are required. Take a tour of the facility, inquiring about the number and location of exits, making sure there are fire alarms and a fire escape protocol and asking about safety procedures for tornadoes, etc. If the enrichment program includes one-on-one instruction, ask how those interactions are monitored. As Vail says, “To put a child into a room with a teacher and shut the door is not acceptable anymore.”
How do children progress through the program?
Find out how kids typically advance through skills and how it is determined when they are ready to move on to new levels. This may mean that your child has a curriculum they must complete or a series of physical skills they must master. “You want to make sure that your child is continuing to learn,” says Flesch. Understand this process before signing up to avoid unnecessary surprises later.
Are kids encouraged to share their opinion about the experience?
Great afterschool and enrichment programs want to hear how they are doing – both positive and negative comments. And they want to know what kids think – not just their parents. Organizations that strive to truly provide a good experience for their participants welcome honest feedback because they know this input can help make their program better.
Finding the right program for your child requires a little bit of legwork in the beginning, but seeing your efforts pay off is worth the effort. There’s nothing more rewarding than watching your child learn and grown in a new environment – because that’s what an enrichment program is all about!