Arranging child care for school-age children presents a difficult set of challenges for working families. Although the time a child spends in school provides a supervised environment for a significant number of hours each day while parents work, many families experience “gaps” between these hours and parental work hours. The different types of care used to fill these gaps and the amount of time children spend in care vary widely across families and reflect a number of socioeconomic, demographic, and contextual factors. In addition, different out-of-school care arrangements can assist in keeping school-age children safe, provide oversight to ensure that they avoid high-risk behaviors, or, conversely, put children at risk of physical injury, emotional harm, or poor social and intellectual development.
The environment at a school age care should be comfortable and home-like. School-agers are larger than young children and take up more space inside as well as on the playground or in the bus. The space for a school-age program is extremely important and children need to help create their space. Children need different environments to accommodate their different moods and activities.
The NSACA Standards for Quality School-Age Care has suggested the following suggestions to assist school-age care providers set up an appropriate and inviting environment for school-agers.
- Provide Specific space for the following activities: Creative arts, board games & puzzles, blocks & construction, dramatic play, physical games & sports, nutrition & cooking, quiet, music, movement & dance, woodworking, collection, science & nature, math & computer, sand & water, etc.
- Provide the children with “Soft” Space that is comfortable and relaxing and which reminds them of home. This includes pillows and throws, bean bag chairs, rugs and carpets and couches.
- Personal Space is provided for belongings, to be with a few friends and to be alone.
- Make sure that Tables and chairs are appropriate size for school-age children and there is a variety of work surfaces that are easy to clean and allow for messy activities.
- The space should be well organized for a range of activities to go on simultaneously and without interruptions. Make sure that the pathways do not disturb ongoing activities.
- The furniture for school-age programs includes: Sign-in/out table, dividers to make private space, bookshelves, snack table, refrigerator or cooler for perishable snack items, telephone Cubbies for belongings, portable shelving units, storage area for teacher material and confidential information, informative bulletin board for parents, bulletin boards for children’s creations and so on.
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