Children and youth get a large portion of their daily physical activity - as much as 30 per cent - in the after school hours. Physical activity after school can have an important influence on how likely children are to be active at other times during the day. To realize these benefits, after school programs should be enriched with physcial activity and healthy food choices. But what makes a quality after school program?
The Canadian Active After School Partnershiop (CAASP) has developed a working description of what it means to offer a quality after school program:
The Working Description of quality active after school programs:
- A quality active after school program is evidence-based and provides an intentional, child centred, community based and needs driven environment for children. It begins the moment the school day ends and continues until the moment the parent or caregiver resumes care for their child. It is led by caring, trained and skilled adults, ideally supported by mentored youth leaders who, together, provide a safe environment for children to grow.
- A quality program provides daily opportunities to enhance the well-being of all participant children, and ensures their physical, social, emotional and intellectual development. A variety of physical activity is provided everyday for at least 30 minutes. It is of moderate to vigorous intensity, is age and stage appropriate, and includes skill and knowledge components. Quality programs have a good balance of both play and instruction, to ensure the mastery of physical and life skills. Food provided is nutritious, and portions are appropriate.
- Quality programs value, plan and budget for inclusion of all children (Disabled, aboriginal, ethnic, economic, status, etc.). Friendships and positive social interactions are valued and nurtured between children.
- Quality programs ensure all children have maximal access to a variety of indoor and outdoor community facilities which are safe and secure, have well maintained and modern equipment and are accessible for all. Programs are both fun and challenging and designed to bring about improvements in health and skill.
- Quality programs are directed in part by valuing input from participants and their parents/guardians. Participating and having a voice from both, is encouraged.
- Quality programs are regularly evaluated and lessons learned inform program enhancements.
- Policies and procedures are drafted, taught, implemented and reviewed regularly, and are open to review by parents/guardians to ensure quality, as described above is maintained.