As your seven year old self pops out of the hustle & bustle of the school hallway into a light filled space you are greeted by a smiling, familiar adult who gives you a hug while asking how your day at school was, listens to your response and invites you to a table laid out with your favourite snack of warm apple crisp. As you scan the room, you see other kids arrive, curiously observe new activities & items the Early Childhood Educator has set up for this afternoon’s time of relaxation & fun. There are different kinds of blocks, mazes, games, and crafts all purposely planned according to your interests because the ECE has spent time getting to know you. Some kids are sitting on chairs and others are sprawled across cozy pillows. This scene has me conjuring up images of my adult children’s favourite past TV show “Barney” the big purple dinosaur, in retrospect he ran a kick butt after school program twenty years ago!
In Early Childhood programs the classroom is often called the 3rd teacher in the room, so what happens when you can’t count on having that?
3 Ingredients of before & after school age program (and apple crisp);
- The right person – Sugar & Cinnamon Hiring responsive, caring professionals who understand the unique developmental needs of school aged children. A person willing to work outside of work hours to daily contribute to & set up the environment. A staff with customer service skills, proficient in communication with the children, parents & school personnel.
2. The right investment – Apples Administration demonstrates the value they place on the program by making regular visits, have daily correspondence, financially compensate the staff for the split shift inconvenience, and by giving the staff time to daily prepare & organize their environment.
3. The right stuff – Oatmeal Negotiate for the most flexible, consistent space available (non-shared space is utopia). Ensure there is adequate storage as school kids need a lot of stuff (indoor & outdoor). Set up a club like environment where kids can “chill”; soft comfy furnishings, variety of curiosity provoking items. The space should reflect the children who live there.
If you leave out one of the ingredients, the program and snack will fall apart. Mix equal parts, give time for trusting relationships to build, and you will be part of making sweet joy filled childhood memories.