Choosing the Right After-School Program

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How do you choose the right after-school activity for your child? Finding the “right” one can be a bit of trial and error, but kids love trying all kinds of things!

Scouts, drama, chess, choir, art club, martial arts, cheerleading, gymnastics, marching band, dance, engineering club, swim team, video gaming club — phew!

That’s a lot of stuff! And those are just a few of the activities kids can get involved in! Getting your child involved in after-school activities is important for his social and emotional development and it’s also just plain, old fun. So how do you choose the right activity?

Finding the right activity that my son Joey enjoyed was difficult. When he was little, we tried all the obvious choices — soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. He didn’t enjoy any of them. In fact, he was always relieved at the last game and only tried each sport for one season. Choir was a bust after one year and chess club only lasted two. I figured out early on that I was going to have to think outside of the box when it came to my now 16-year-old.

We discovered Odyssey of the Minds when Joey was in kindergarten. Odyssey of the Minds is an international creative problem-solving program that engages students in learning by allowing their
knowledge and ideas to come to life in a productive environment. This allowed Joey to work as part of a team while using his intelligence and creativity instead of physical abilities. His team stayed together through the seventh grade. He was able to make great friends and do something he loves. Odyssey of the Minds is offered at many schools, and the teams are made up of schoolmates.
From second through fourth grade, we also found that Cub Scouts was a good fit. Joey enjoyed the camaraderie, camping, archery and all the activities that went along with it. Many schools and churches offer Cub Scouts.

Michelle Hathorn, Cub Scout master of Troop 437, advisor with Crew 437 and Cub master of Pack 437, says Cub Scouts is a great choice for all kids.

“It allows each child to come and learn skills that they will carry with them throughout their lives,” says Hathorn. “They can learn about everything from fishing, boating, first aid and even skills that may someday translate into a career.” She says some of her Scouts have used lifesaving and first aid skills in their daily lives when a family member had a medical emergency.

“Our pack is STEM-based, so we are planning on rocket launching and geocaching in addition to the traditional scouting activities,” says Hathorn. “We recently had a CO2 car race for all our Scouts that was a ton of fun. I know for my son, he has a strong circle of friends, and they challenge each other and support each other,” Hathorn continued about her 15-year-old son who is in Scouts. “All of our Scouts are rooting for each other.”

Find what Fits

One activity Joey found is outside the box — he started going to circus camp when he was 11 years old and now works for Cincinnati Circus Company. Over the years, he has learned to juggle, ride the unicycle, walk on stilts, perform diablo, walk on a rolling barrel, make balloon animals, perform magic and more. This started as a week of summer camp and turned into lifelong love that allows him to learn new skills including showmanship and work ethic. There are at least three circuses in the Greater Cincinnati area that offer circus camp and classes.

My daughter, Andi, went the more traditional route by playing soccer and being a Girl Scout. Soccer of course taught her how to be part of a team. In Girl Scouts, she learned how to plan activities, run a meeting, prepare for a campout and more. She also loved the camaraderie of Girl Scouts and is still friends with the girls in her troop.

Andi was also a member of the speech team in middle school. Speech team is a great extracurricular for kids who enjoy writing, speaking in public or want to improve their public speaking skills. Being a member of this team gave her the confidence to take speech as a freshman in college and to speak in other classes and at work. There are many schools that offer speech teams.

Annie Brown, homeschool mother of two and after-school instructor for Pones Inc. and Classroom Antics, says after-school activities should expose children to things not offered in the classroom.

“The most important place to start is with what the child is interested in,” Brown says. “Followed by what is important to the parent that their child be exposed to and then, will this program expand on what they already know about the subject?

Fill the Gaps

Brown says to look for experiences that expose your kids to what they lack at school: opportunities for more creativity, the ability to freely explore a subject, autonomy in some of the choices of what to study and exposure to the real world.

Tricia Gibbons, mother of one who has surveyed plenty of activities in Northern Kentucky agrees with Brown.

“Extracurricular activities fill the gap between requirements and interests,” Gibbons says. “Our schools have so many demands on what they can offer. Activities give young people an opportunity to explore their passions. I recommend no more than three so they can develop leadership in at least one.”

Between the programs offered at schools, the YMCA, Pones Inc., Classroom Antics, The Children’s Theater, Daniel Beard Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public library programs and hundreds of other businesses and organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area, you’re sure to find a program that is the perfect fit for your child.

ENRICHMENT

Find the perfect after-school
program for your child with all
of the choices in Cincinnati and
Northern Kentucky.

STEM

HAPPEN INC.
513-751-2345 / happeninc.com

CLASSROOM ANTICS
800-595-3776
classroomantics.com

DANCE, GYMNASTICS,
KARATE & SPORTS

CINCINNATI DANCE AND
MOVEMENT CENTER
513-521-8462
cincinnatidance.com

DANCE ETC.
513-576-1400 / dance-etc.com

TIPPI TOES DANCE
513-578-1280 / tippitoesdance.com

PONES INC.
pones@ponesinc.com / pones.org

THE LITTLE GYM
513-204-1400 / thelittlegym.com

YMCA OF GREATER CINCINNATI
513-362-9622 / cincinnatiymca.org

SCOUTS

GIRL SCOUTS OF WESTERN OHIO
888-350-5090 / gswo.org

DANIEL BEARD COUNCIL
OF BOY SCOUTS
513-577-7700 / danbeard.org

ART, DRAMA & MORE

THE CHILDREN’S THEATRE OF
CINCINNATI
513-569-8080
thechildrenstheatre.com

RED BALLOON CAFÉ’ AND PLAY
513-620-8328 / redballooncafe.com

BAKER HUNT ART
AND CULTURAL CENTER
859-431-0020 / bakerhunt.org

CINCINNATI SCHOOL OF MUSIC
513-560-9175
cincinnatischoolofmusic.com

Gina Stegner is a local writer and mother of two.

Puzzle Pieces ldrbrd 1118
Wing ldrbrd 1118
King Arthur’s ldrbrd 1118
YMCA ldrbrd 1118
Boys Girls Clubs ldrbrd 1117

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