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Should You Use After-School Clubs?

With school now back in full swing and the first term almost over with, many after school clubs will be re-starting. These days there are numerous after school clubs, as well as breakfast clubs, which can extend your child’s day at school from the usual 9-3 by several hours. This can be really convenient if you have work commitments or a child in another school on the other side of town who you also need to drop off and collect - but is attending an 8am breakfast club and then an after school activity too much for your child to cope with? Should we be using these before- and after-school clubs for our children or are we overloading them when they already have enough on their plates?

The answer is, like most things involving parenting, down to the individual. For some children, just getting through the usual 9 til 3pm can be a real challenge, and they arrive home weepy and exhausted with just enough energy to eat tea and go to bed. For others, not so much; they finish school at 3pm itching to run around the playground a little more, to learn more, to do more. It’s also worth noting that most after-school clubs don’t start until after the first half term because both teachers and pupils are very tired for those first few weeks of the new school year. The fact your child is exhausted right now does not necessarily mean that the entire school year will be spent like this.

After-school clubs tend to have a more relaxed atmosphere, and can be a great place for a children to learn things without feeling like they’re actually learning. After-school clubs are often a lot less formal in setting, which can help to give children an added confidence which can translate into other areas of their lives. Another reason after-school clubs can be a good idea is that during these activities children are often not separated into the usual classes and year groups - so your child will play and learn with children that are older and younger. Since in the real world we rarely spend time with people who were born within twelve months of us, this can be useful experience. 

Some children are shy or introverted, and do not want to attend after-school clubs. Perhaps they have social anxiety or simply prefer to read a book in the afternoons. If that is the case, forcing a child into an after-school club can be a bad idea. It is worth perhaps speaking to the school about coming for a trial session though. Many less confident children may be put off by the idea of an after-school club where they don’t know exactly who will be there or what will happen, but if you can persuade them to just give it a go "just this once” they may well find that they enjoy it.

It is of course also worth noting that if your child really hates to be outside in the elements or to get dirty in the mud, signing them up for a gardening club will always be a bad idea. Your child will only agree to go to an after-school club if it is in a subject they enjoy. If it’s something they’ve never tried before, by all means give them the opportunity to try it out, but bear in mind that if they don’t like it, there is not a lot you can do as a parent. 

After-school clubs can be a great way for children to try new skills or to improve on existing ones. They can be great for making friends and for improving social skills. While it might seem like they lengthen the school day to an unmanageable length, if the club is something your child is passionate about, they may well surprise you with how well they cope.

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