Classroom Tips

15 afterschool program ideas for all ages and abilities

An after school program can only be as strong as its programming. After all, the activities are what will leave smiles on kids’ faces and keep them coming back for more fun. Choosing your lane is a crucial step in growing your business. Here are some of Sawyer’s top tips for developing your own after school programming and curriculum. Looking for support on how to start an after school program? Check out our guide.

3 principles of developing a curriculum

Before you launch your after school business into action, there are a few key questions that you need to ask yourself when it comes to your curriculum. How will you schedule your programming? How flexible will your classes and sessions be? Do you plan on offering a variety of activities? 

1. Listen to student input

Student input comes in several forms. Informal input can happen during activities from the genuine, positive reactions that you will pick up on from your students. Try to track and assess what works well. In addition, try to create space for your students to make their own choices when it comes to activities; this can be tricky with younger students, but will help them feel a sense of ownership and empowerment.

2. Always plan according to time constraints

This will take some practice, but students always prefer feeling a sense of closure at the end of an activity. If you only have an hour block to fill, make sure that you and your students can set up, complete, and clean up the chosen activity within the given time block. Always leave a little wiggle room to make drop off and pick up times easier for parents.

3. Look to expand your activity repertoire

We all know that it can be easy to settle into a routine. For lots of kids, after school programs might be the only scheduled time in their days where they can try new activities. Allow for flexibility within the structure that you have set up and always be on the lookout for fun, new projects. Alleviate any boredom and make your job that much more interesting and dynamic. 

Looking for more guidance on how to write a curriculum? Check out our full article.

What are the most popular after school activities?

Whether you are just starting out, or looking to add some variety to your after school curriculum, here are some wonderful options for activities that kids will love.

Arts and crafts

1. Homemade kites

Gather some fabric, string, popsicle sticks, or whatever you have around. A great way to teach kids how to sew if you’re up for the challenge!

2. Sidewalk chalk art

Find a piece of sidewalk and a bucket of chalk. One of the best outdoor arts and crafts projects that’s always a hit!

3. Snow globes

All it takes is some glue, water, jars (baby food jars work great!) and some creativity; add in homemade figurines or other creative flourishes to let kids design their own wintry scene.

4. Create a story

Challenge students to write and illustrate their own stories! Encourage kids to share their work and give positive feedback to one another.

Learn how Sawyer helps art educators run their businesses!

Outdoor fun

5. Obstacle courses

Another way to encourage creativity—not to mention exercise. Simply use whatever is at your disposal to build a course and pull out a stopwatch and challenge students to beat their best times.

6. Build a bird feeder

These can be as simple as pinecones with bird seed sprinkled in. Plant them in a tree and see which birds flock to your homemade feeders.

7. Nature exploration

See how many kinds of plants and animals your students can find. Have pairs of students keep logs and compare results at the end.

Learn how Sawyer helps nature educators run their businesses!

Community service

8. Random acts of kindness

Have your group decide what exactly this looks like. Whether you clean up a yard or park or leave nice notes around town, find a way to brighten people’s days.

9. Organize donations and visit a food bank

Have everyone bring in a donation and teach them about food insecurity. This can be a real eye-opening and meaningful experience for kids.

Game time

10. Backyard bowling

Set up bottles, cans, or whatever you have lying around. Kids can experiment with the distance and types of targets in a backyard rendition of one of their favorites. 

11. Who am I?

Combine acting with a fun guessing game. Similar to charades, have students begin by acting out a character—the guessers can ask questions for hints. Tons of fun!

12. Pictionary

A hilarious, classic game that gets everyone involved. Students can come up with silly words to draw and see if their teammates can guess.

Writing and theater

13. Write a letter

Teach them the (sadly dying) art of letter writing. Have the student pick a friend or family member that they have not seen in a while and craft colorful and creative letters.

14. Choose a theme

Maybe it’s pirates, maybe it’s a safari. Choose a theme for the day and have everyone act accordingly. Try it out for a whole session or even for specific times, like cleanup. 

15. Puppet show

Kids will love creating their own characters. Sock puppets are often the easiest way to start—you’ll be amazed at what they can create.

Learn how Sawyer helps theater educators grow their businesses!

Sawyer is here to help!

Regardless of the type of after school activities you decide on, it’s important to have the tools to run a successful after school program. Sawyer can help you get there with our suite of tools that will help you with scheduling, flexible payments, registration, and so much more. Take part in our ever-growing Marketplace of parents and other after school business to expand your visibility and watch your impact grow. Our after school class management tools are one of a kind and will help your business become the best that it can be. Get a demo or find out more today.

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