How to Choose the Right Afterschool Program


If your children need afterschool care, it’s important to choose a quality program for them. Afterschool programs should be safe, creative, engaging and fun.

Studies indicate that good afterschool programs can provide a significant boost in the development of children 5-18 years of age.

Afterschool programs should be appropriate for the age of your child. At any age, the top priority is a safe environment that includes constant supervision and encouraging care.

When you look at options, it’s important to tour the facility, ask plenty of questions and observe the children and childcare specialists in action. Observe activity centers within the classroom, and review lesson plans and curriculum. Have questions for agency staff about the activities available to help your child grow.

Why Is Quality Afterschool Care Important?

It’s crucial that children have a positive, safe and rewarding environment after school. They are likely to spend valuable hours in their afterschool program, just like they do in school. Here are some ways a quality afterschool program can help your child:

  • They can help your child grow socially, emotionally and physically.
  • They support your child’s learning. Children who attend quality afterschool programs tend to do better in school.
  • Afterschool programs can play an important role in encouraging physical activity and good dietary habits.
  • Low adult-child ratios allow individual attention and help children build strong relationships with caring adults.
  • Children are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.
  • Children are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs.
  • Quality afterschool programs build links to the community and encourage community service.

Tips for Finding Quality Afterschool Care

If you’re looking for an afterschool program for your school-age child, here are some tips from the Tennessee Department of Human Services that will help you find the right spot:

  1. Start your search early and plan accordingly. Some afterschool programs start their registration process as early as the previous school year and may have limited spots available and wait lists.
  2. Make sure activities are age and developmentally appropriate. They should help children grow and learn new skills.
  3. Children should have the opportunity to participate in learning activities that involve community service.
  4. Activities are available that encourage hands-on learning.
  5. Children should have the opportunity for small and large group activities.
  6. Learning environment is clean, safe and healthy.
  7. Supervision is positive.
  8. The agency is inclusive. It supports children with special needs and the diversity of families.
  9. The program is licensed and regularly monitored.
  10. Teachers are well-trained and highly qualified.
  11. The agency has an open-door policy.
  12. Staff-to-child ratios meet the minimum state requirements or are lower than state requirements.
  13. The agency serves nutritious snacks and meals.
  14. The agency offers academic enrichment activities and/or tutoring, as well as opportunities for physical activities.

Child Care Resource and Referral Centers (CCR&Rs)

CCR&Rs are free child care location and counseling service centers. These agencies serve communities across Tennessee by offering information about quality child care. CCR&Rs help parents understand what to look for when choosing a child care facility. They help them find the child care environment that’s right for the child and family.

For parents, CCR&Rs offer information on child care providers in their area and answer questions on what type of care is best for their family. For more information, visit the Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Network website.

Watch: Choosing the Right Child Care

Watch this kidcentral tn video for tips on finding the right child care for younger kids.

Additional Resources

The Afterschool Alliance provides five places to start your search for a quality afterschool care program.

The Afterschool Alliance offers a guide for what parents should look for in an afterschool program at different age levels.

Get more information on the search for quality child care.

Learn more about benefits children can receive from good afterschool care programs.

Learn five important steps to take when choosing a child care facility.