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Unfortunately, there are plenty of barriers when it comes to getting your kids into after-school programs. Especially in the Lower Mainland, parents struggle with factors such as transportation, time, availability and cost.Research shows that the benefits of after-school activities far outweigh the difficulties of making those activities happen for your kids. Ten per cent of children in the Lower Mainland between the ages of 9 to 12 are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. In Grade 7, as children receive more independence, this figure rises to 16 per cent. Those unstructured hours after school can translate into unhealthy development in children, including participation in negative peer groups, too much screen time, isolation and even depression.Not only do after-school activities help to counteract those negative effects on children, they also provide peace of mind for parents. For many, knowing that their kids are engaged and cared for during those few hours after school can make all the difference in the world. That’s why United Way of the Lower Mainland invests $5.1 million into programs and activities to help school-age children succeed. Many programs are no cost or low-cost.In a survey conducted by Insights West and United Way this fall, 93 percent of a sample of parents in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley said out-of-school programs have allowed their children to learn something they would not have learned in school. As well, 82 percent of parents said that their kids are more sociable as a result of attending out-of-school programs.When choosing an after-school activity for your child, the first thing you want to do is sit down with them and have an open conversation about what sorts of activities they would like to do. Do they enjoy problem solving and critical thinking? Chat with them about science and tech programs to gauge their interest. Have a child who won’t stop moving? Talk to them about the different sorts of dance classes they could try. After this conversation, you should emerge with a better idea of what sort of activity your child would enjoy the most. From there, you can start to research.Ready to find the perfect after school activity for your child? Take advantage of resources like dialing 211, BC’s community and social services help line. Check with your child’s school to see what might be available. Track down community centre program guides to see what options are available in your neighbourhood and what’s offered at local neighbourhood houses.Here are some of the after-school programs offered in the Lower Mainland.
Led by the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and hosted at various schools around the Lower Mainland, the Sticks and Stars Program offers extracurricular activities related to space science, hockey, technology and more to boys and girls aged nine to 11. They also partner at-risk children with role models who lead them in fun activities and teach them team-building skills so they can truly shine.
Soccer. Poetry. Community service. For your little Jack or Jill of all trades, Canada Scores has the solution. The organization aims to inspire urban youth to “lead healthy lives, be engaged students, and have the confidence and character to make a difference in the world.” Canada Scores hosts soccer practice, writing class or community service opportunities every weekday, making it easy to add to your children’s calendar.
YMCA BLAST (which stands for Bringing Learning to After School Time) blends homework help with recreational activities to encourage learning in a positive, active environment. Funded by the United Way, the program has previously partnered with organizations like Gymnastics BC, Mad Science and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts to make after-school time exciting and engaging.No matter your child’s passions, consider enrolling them in after-school programming that will nurture and grow their interests while building important social and independence skills. While this can seem difficult to navigate, it’s well worth the trouble to find your child an environment that will support and nurture them beyond the traditional classroom.