The dog days of summer are drawing to a close, which means back-to-school prep is right around the corner. But outside of the typical stuff like buying supplies, showing up for teacher orientations, scheduling sports physicals, and sifting through the latest fashion trends, most parents have one more key item on their to-do list: figuring out after-school care.
Just because school ends at 3 p.m. for the kiddos doesn’t mean our work schedules do. For many of us, we’ve still got another two or three hours left on the clock, and when you factor in the occasional early dismissal, teacher in-service day, etc., that can create a stressful balancing act for any parent. It would really help out if we had somewhere safe for the kids to go, and luckily, that’s where after-school care comes into play.
Below are a few tips on how to pick after-school care that fits you and your child’s needs:
See if your kids’ school offers any programs
Before you start looking to the myriad of childcare options throughout Denton County, keep in mind that many school districts have after-school programs with staff available as late as 6 p.m. The benefit is that your child doesn’t need to be bussed to another location and will be surrounded by the same people and classmates they see in the halls each day.
Check with your school for a preferred-provider list
Many times, your school’s administration will have a
preferred-provider list for after-school care. Even if they don’t, simply asking someone in the front office may yield a few decent options. This will at least give you a short list to work from while also providing peace of mind that these outside facilities have been referred.
Look to community organizations
Safe and healthy after-school care can normally be found at community organizations such as the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, and more. Many of these programs are perfect for families who need more affordable options and require flexibility for those situations where there is early dismissal, snow days, etc.
Ask the right questions
If you are forced to look outside your kids’ school, write down a list of your top questions ahead of time as you call facilities. Here are a few to get you started:
- Who is watching my child and what type of training do they have?
- What schools do you service?
- What activities do you offer and will my child have time to do homework?
- How do you ensure all children are getting along?
- How long have you been in business?
- What are your hours?
- Does the facility cater to kids with special needs?
A major concern for parents of children with special needs is whether or not the after-school program is set up to handle children with special needs or learning disabilities that likely require individualized care and 1-on-1 instruction.
Think outside the box
The tips above should definitely help you find an after-school program that can meet you and your child’s needs. But if you don’t feel comfortable, a few additional options include hiring an after-school nanny with experience in education or finding a family member or friend who can pick your children up after school – especially if it’s a friend whose kid goes to the same school or is in the same class as your child.
At the end of the day, we as parents want nothing but the best for our children. Selecting the right after-school program is another piece to that puzzle, and it takes careful consideration. Rather than wait until school starts, now is the time to start researching your options.