Program Benefits

Quality after school programs help young people develop:

Cognitive Thinking


Cognitive Thinking is the development of and interrelation between a series of cognitive skills that contribute to academic and occupational success. These skills are interdependent. The strength or weakness of one skill impacts the general effectiveness of others skills.

After school programs can help children and youth develop Cognitive Thinking Skills, such as:

  • The development of Attention and its components, which include:
    • Sustained attention to activities over a period of time
    • Selected attention to activities even when distraction is present
    • Divided attention to handle more than one activity at a time
  • The development of a Working Memory, which is the ability to retain information for short periods of time while processing or using it.
  • The development of Processing Speed, which is the rate at which the brain handles the information being taken in.
  • The development of Long-Term Memory, which is the ability to both store and recall information for later use.
  • The development of Visual Processing and its components, which include:
    • Visual processing, which is the ability to perceive, analyze and think in visual images
    • Visual discrimination or the ability to see differences in size, colour, shape, distance and the orientation of objects
    • Visualization which is the creation of mental images
  • The development of Auditory Processing and its components, which include:
    • Auditory processing, which is the ability to perceive, analyze and conceptualize what is heard, and is one of the main underlying skills needed to learn to read and spell
    • Auditory discrimination, which is the ability to hear differences in sounds, including volume, pitch, and duration, etc.
    • Phonetic awareness, which is the ability to blend sounds to make words, to segment sounds, to break words apart into separate sounds, and to manipulate and analyze sounds to determine the number, sequence and sounds within a word
  • The development of Logic and Reasoning skills, which are the abilities to reason, prioritize and plan.

(Adapted from - July 2012)


Emotional Well-being


Emotional well-being or emotional health has many aspects. Put simply, it is based on self-esteem how one feels about oneself - and about behavior that is appropriate and healthy. Someone who is emotionally healthy:

  • Understands and adapts to change
  • Copes with stress
  • Manages conflict and copes with changes in behaviour
  • Handles social rejection
  • Has a positive self-concept
  • Has the ability to love and care for others
  • Can act independently to meet his or her own needs

(Adapted from August 2012 and August 2012)

In terms of after school programs, the emotional well-being of children and youth is supported by qualified staff that provide a variety of experiences in individual and group settings. Programs where children and youth feel safe, where they will be accepted, and are not harmed, judged, ridiculed or bullied, help build a sense of emotional well-being in their participants.

Emotional outcomes associated with after school programs include:

  • Increased self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • Lower levels of depression and anxiety
  • Improved feelings and attitudes toward self (and school)

(Adapted from After-School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What it Takes to Achieve It, 2008 August 2012)

For further information on emotional development, as it pertains to adolescent youth, please go to: Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development, Government of Ontario 2012, August 2012


Social Skills


Social skills are characterized as the ability to communicate, persuade and interact with other members of society, without undo conflict or disharmony. (Definition from  

It is during the early years through to young adulthood that social skills are often developed. After school programs are a place in which children and youth can participate in a variety of structured and unstructured activities including, but not limited to arts, recreation, culture, sports, quiet games, homework, out trips, special events, etc. These opportunities to play and interact alone, in pairs, with small groups, and in large groups with peers, youth older or younger than themselves, and/or with adults create experiences that help develop and refine social skills.

Children and youth need social skills that will enable them to make positive connections. Learning how to get along with others, establishing friendships and developing a positive outlook on life are critical. Approaches to help children and youth develop social skills and competence, many of which are found in quality after school programs, include:

  • Learning to contribute to and comply with social group rules
  • Respecting different cultures, values and opinions
  • Learning to read facial expressions and behaviours
  • Understanding cooperation, fair play, team work, and good sportsmanship

(Adapted from August 2012)

Children and youth who participate in after school programs are able to develop social skills which can result in:  

  • Decreased behavioral problems
  • Improved social and communication skills and/or relationships with others (peers, parents, teachers, other adults)
  • Development of initiative

(Adapted from After-School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What it Takes to Achieve It, 2008 August 2012)

Social development takes social skills to a deeper level and concerns identity, relationships and moral capacity. For information on social development as it pertains to adolescent youth, please go to: Stepping Stones: A Resource on Youth Development, Government of Ontario 2012, August 2012

For further information on The Impact of After School Programs that Promote Personal and Social Skills, 2007, please go to: The Impact of After School Programs that Promote Personal and Social Skills, August 2012


Physical Health


Physical development in children and youth is traditionally divided into two areas.

The first relates to physical changes the body goes through until the individual reaches maturity. These changes include increases in height and weight, and the determination of the bodily build (bone and muscle structure). It also includes the development of secondary sex characteristics (presence of breasts, widening of hips, pubic and underarm hair growth in girls, and the presence of facial, chest, pubic and underarm hair, deepening of voice, growth of testicles and penises in boys).

The second relates to how youth learn to use and adapt to their changing bodies through physical activity and for the purpose of developing physical competence or literacy (developing proficiency in agility, balance, coordination and speed; being able to move comfortably in different environments such as on the ground or in the water; and mastering specific skills such as throwing and catching a ball, riding a bike and skating). School-age children usually have smooth and strong gross motor skills. Coordination (especially eye-hand), endurance, balance, and physical abilities vary greatly. Fine motor skills may also vary widely and can affect a child's ability to write neatly, dress appropriately, and perform certain chores, such as making beds or doing dishes. Genetic background, as well as nutrition and exercise, may affect a young person’s growth.

(Adapted from August, 2012, and August, 2012)

There are many positive outcomes from which children and youth benefit when they participate in physical activity. These benefits of regular physical activity include:

  • Showing better academic performance
  • Having a better self-esteem and body image
  • Improving mental health and contributing to growth and development (including skeletal health)
  • Reducing the likelihood of obesity and the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Creating a habit of physical activity that carries over into adulthood
  • Leading to better behaviour and a healthy lifestyle

(Adapted from  August, 2012)