After-school learning doesn't have to take place at a desk with lessons and a tutor

When we enroll our kids in an after-school program, sometimes our motivation is to simply keep them busy. Other times we want them in a fun, safe, engaging environment until we come home from work. But it turns out these programs sometimes offer hidden opportunities to build skills and reinforce what they’ve learned in school.

In the best of these settings, hands-on fun can help them pull together the smaller lessons related to science, math and reading that they have learned in the classroom, and then apply them. At that point, the lessons become real, tangible, and relatable. As you can imagine, such an outcome can lead to even more powerful experiences in the classroom.

As you explore and weigh your options, consider your child’s strengths and interests, including the kind of environment in which she thrives.

Enrichment classes: These interest-driven programs are usually hosted by the school district or perhaps your city’s recreation department. In many cases, they focus on a specific activity or interest such as drawing, cooking, robotics or even building with LEGO® Bricks. These structured activities take place in a relaxed, low-stakes environment and can help kids discover new interests as they build on their current passions.

Scouting: These programs often emphasize character building and community involvement, but many also offer outings and hands-on activities, all in the name of earning badges. Sure, some cover topics you’d expect, such as cooking and camping, but others focus on unexpected subjects like empowerment, financial literacy, creativity and inventing your own game. The beauty of scouting is that your child can get out of it what he or she wants to put in to it, making it the perfect vehicle to open kids up to new experiences.

Unstructured play: This old-fashioned idea has been getting more attention lately, especially among the free-range parent movement. While you may not be ready to just turn them loose in the world unsupervised, you can definitely embrace the spirit of it: give kids time and space to explore and figure things out. How about an afternoon excursion in the woods? To get started on how this might work, check out this piece about a Vermont teacher who experimented with a weekly outdoor classroom. If the weather is rough, offer materials and space to build and create. Free-form building with LEGO® Bricks is a great way to turn kids loose. You may be surprised by what they come up with!

After-school care: This offers a social and supervised space for kids to spend time after the final bell rings, and the approach can vary, depending on who is offering it. Some programs are highly structured, while others feature a buffet-style offering of activities like open gym, art stations, homework help, science experiments and more. Check your school, or your city’s child-care centers, YMCA or city recreation departments.

Our Valued Customers

"My son learned how to make his favorite dinosaur as a LEGO® robot at a party! He loves to go to Bricks 4 Kidz after-school classes now"

— Miranda K.Jacksonville, FL

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