Guest columnist Natisha Bowling is vice president of youth development at the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.
Although the start of the next school year still seems like a long way off, now is the perfect time for parents to start thinking about their after-school program options for their children.
According to the Afterschool Alliance, school-aged children spend 80% of their waking hours outside of school. And 1 in 5 young people in the United States are alone after the school day is over.
High-quality after-school programs promote positive youth development and provide a safe space for children to explore their potential. These programs can support social, emotional, cognitive and academic development; reduce risky behavior; promote physical health; and provide a safe and supportive environment.
Although after-school programs have a cost, they also provide a significant return on investment, with every dollar invested saving at least $3 by increasing young people’s earning potential, improving their academic performance, and reducing crime and corruption. juvenile delinquency, according to the covenant.
How to choose among providers? The Early Years Resource Center recommends inspecting the center to see if it is safe, clean, organized and child-friendly.
Parents will want to ask about sanitation policies for caregivers and children. Also find out about the facility’s policies on vaccinations and the admission of sick children. Are there plenty of clean, developmentally appropriate toys and teaching materials?
Materials should include:
• Items for dramatic play (such as a puppet theater and costume clothing)
• Sensory materials (sand, water, modeling clay)
• Materials that help children learn reading, math, science and social studies
• Materials that help children develop their gross motor skills, such as pulling, walking, climbing, going up and down, moving across/around and under, pushing, pulling and rolling.
School-age children should be offered programs that meet Ohio’s K-12 learning standards.
Not everyone can afford quality child care. Some providers, such as the YMCA, offer financial assistance to eligible individuals.
Childcare.gov suggests parents follow these steps when selecting a child care provider:
Start early: Start looking as far in advance as possible.
Make a phone call: Start by calling the local experts. For example, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland is one of the largest child care providers in our area and may have a location near you. There are also several other providers in our area.
Visit and ask questions: Be sure to visit any child care programs you are considering. Discover these key quality indicators: adult/child ratio, group size, caregiver qualification, rotation and accreditation.
Make a choice: Think about what you saw on each visit and make the best choice for your child and your family.
Stay involved: The job isn’t done once you find good care. You and your child’s caregiver are now partners. Meet regularly with the supplier. Volunteer to help with programming and field trips.
Finding quality, affordable child care can be difficult, but few choices parents make in life will be more important.
The YMCA is a national leader in providing enriching after-school programs to help students continue learning after they leave the classroom. Locally, the YMCA of Greater Cleveland has offered a variety of programs for decades to help students develop social and cognitive skills, promote fun screen-free activities, and keep children intellectually engaged.
The YMCA of Greater Cleveland and other quality child care providers in this area look forward to speaking with parents and guardians to help them make the right choice for their child.
Readers are invited to submit opinion page essays on topics of regional or general interest. Send your 500-word essay for review to Ann Norman at email@example.com. Essays should include a brief biography and photo of the author. Essays disproving today’s topics are also welcome.