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After school clubs - what makes a good one?

(40 Posts)

This is possibly a little cheeky but I'm a regular (normally found on S&B rescuing people from bad bras!) and would really appreciate people's views.

DH and I are in the process of starting up a new after school club - literally from scratch so (within reason!) we can provide whatever toys/activities that we want. We've got some ideas...but I would really appreciate some more opinions . We are a little limited on storage space as it's a shared venue, which is why I'd love some extra opinions rather than buying loads of stuff and then finding we've got it wrong and don't have enough space or money to buy loads more immediately. Club is for primary school age (4+) but I think will be dominated by the younger children at least in the first few years.

We're thinking about possibly getting some specialists in to offer extra activities as it's something lots of the parents seem to like. We're also going to have some outside space (a decent garden but not huge) but there is a HUGE park on the way from school to club so we can do things there too.

What would you like your DCs after school club to do/offer/have? For those of you who use after school care what do you love (or hate, feel free to tell me what pisses you off!) about it?

All opinions appreciated smile

WooWooOwl Fri 06-Jun-14 17:07:16

I never used after school club, but the things that put me off using it was how unstructured it seemed to be. I know some children are quite happy with that, but I think mine would have been bored, so I think your idea of having different activities on offer is a very good thing. I do think children should be allowed to do nothing much if they want to though.

For older children it might be good to provide space for them to do their homework so they can get it done before they get home.

Giant garden games might work well, and a few board games.

Leeds2 Fri 06-Jun-14 17:16:53

I think it is great if they can get to play outdoors for a while, simply to run off some steam.

Lots of craft activities, possibly linked to the time of year eg Chinese lanterns for Chinese New Year, Easter bonnets at Easter.

Board games, although not ones with too many pieces as these will inevitably get lost.

A large, sturdy dolls' house and a garage, that will let more than one child play at once.

A quiet area for homework.

Chocotrekkie Fri 06-Jun-14 17:19:01

Mine are a bit bored at theirs tbh. It's attached to the school and cheap so they go. No cm with space.
The school won't let them so homework as it "should be done at home with the parents involved"
They mainly read their own books, colour in or play on the wii (if they get a turn).

Extra activities are ok but expensive and parents will kind of be paying twice - your cost and the specialist.

The problem you have is pick up times. Some will be collected at 4 some at 5:30 so board games etc become difficult.

Craft and theme are popular - so sea life week where they make pictures of fish out of pasta etc
Short story books - mine love reading although if you are looking at ks1 maybe not so much.

If you have outdoor space a parachute and games will be good - or something like rounders etc

How will you manage it in a public park - will your kids have hi vis vests etc - I would worry that if there are a lot of other kids there it would be very easy to lose one of yours - following a friend home etc.
Will non club kids be allowed to join in with the games ?

The latest fad is loom bands - mine would do them all day !
They have also learned finger knitting which was a major thing for a bit.

BackforGood Fri 06-Jun-14 17:22:32

Going to the park on the way from school sounds like a good plan, as long as you are where you should be when I pick up - it really put me off one after school club I was considering, that I might have to go off and search for them in the park, when I'd got 2 other dc to collect from different places !!
I like the idea of encouraging getting any homework out of the way.
I think having enough staff to offer choices - there's a BIG difference between 4 yr olds and 11 yr olds, but also between those who just want to chill out and those who need to have something to occupy themselves.
I love the variety of things that my dcs breakfast club provided - I think that's key - perhaps more so in an afterschool club.
From a charging pov - a lot of parents need someone until 4 or 4.30, but not until 6, so a tiered charging system would be good.

Thanks all!

Managing the park - still need to come up with a policy but we are thinking high vis jackets for the walk to the club anyway (it's not onsite) plus lots of staff and lots of headcounts! It's a big enough space that it would also be pretty easy to kind of choose a corner so you would notice anyone wandering. The park is fenced, and then there is a playpark within it with fences and gates.

DH is a CM at the moment, and one of the things our parents are always asking about is whether he can facilitate the kids going to the extension activities the school offers (which aren't free), but when you're just one person and only one of them wants that activity it's not feasible. We still need to investigate the extra activities side but it's something the parents around here really like confused

The venue has two rooms - a big hall and a smaller adjoining one. I'm thinking it might be best to make this a quiet space, where older children can do homework and younger ones who just want a break from the chaos can chill out on a bean bag for a bit and do something quiet - would that work?

It looks like it's going to be fairly busy so I think we will have enough kids (and enough staff) to be able to have different things on the go at the same time. We know how bored especially the younger children get quite quickly if they are left with nothing specific to entertain them!

Craft, lots of craft had been an initial thought, we do that at the moment (need shares in Amazon for the amount of stuff we get through!)

I hear you Backforgood re being where you are supposed to be! I think we'd probably have a "we'll definitely be in the club by 4:30" (or whatever time) policy!

WeeClype Fri 06-Jun-14 17:42:22

I worked in After School care for 10 years, we had 2 huts with 2 rooms in each.

Hut 1 was for the younger ones, they had a craft room for all the messy stuff and a room for TV, games, books etc

Hut 2 was for the older, you'll find the older ones mainly want a TV and games console with a decent snack grin.

Don't go for cheap outdoor toys, buy the best ones as they last a lot longer.

I wouldn't bother with getting people in for specialist things unless you are opening in the holidays then it's something to break up the day.

Hmmm. I'm thinking with the "specialists" we'll put it to a vote with the parents once we open. Find some good people, price it up, work out how many children would need to be interested in each activity for it to be worthwhile and then send something out with the info. If there aren't enough people interested that's fine by me - at least we've given people the option! Should help keep the peace too grin

Duly noted re cheap outdoor toys!

Interesting people are suggesting a TV - we hadn't actually considered one funnily enough as we don't use it after school at the moment. But probably necessary for older/more kids...

List gets longer....

WeeClype Fri 06-Jun-14 17:52:42

Also some decent storage for all the bags/lunch box/jackets etc

The venue doubles as a nursery so has tonnes of coathooks etc - we've learnt that one the hard way as my hallway looks like a dump at the end of the day!

shivs1974 Fri 06-Jun-14 17:58:39

Also consider what makes it easier for the for me I want my children to have a decent meal. The after school club at school doesn't offer that so when we get in at 6, we often have to cook. Easier now they're a bit older, but hard when they were in Reception.
I hope it all goes well - good luck

WipsGlitter Fri 06-Jun-14 18:05:30

My DS goes to a really good one. It's based in the school which is great. Pay per hour used. It's open to six pm. They do homework with the kids. They do reading / story rooms, craft, lots and lots of outdoor play - some structured like rounders / hockey. Some more informal. They sometimes watch DVDs or play the Wii.

Agree I'd be fuming if they were not there when I went to get them!!!

Wips would you be Ok if you knew that pick up had to be after a set time?

The one my dc go to is on the school site so I appreciate that makes some things easier.

We definitely like a club that will sort out picking up from school activities (this is by arrangement at current place and seems to depend on staff numbers/demand for the activity).

I also like the freedom to pick up whenever as my finishing time often depends on whether I've eaten lunch at my desk or taken a long lunch, for example.

The one we use charges a set amount for before school and a set amount for after school. I like that as I'd need to book them in until 6pm everyday but can often pick up before then. I expect that if you're someone who picks up at 4.30 every day you'd prefer to pay by the hour.

Our dc (7 & 4) like colouring/crafts followed by a film if they get tired. The club gives them a snack but not a full meal (I'm not fussed either way about that)

erin99 Fri 06-Jun-14 18:55:00

Proximity to school, and somewhere they can chill out. Running around outside is popular, but I am not sure I'd want them in a park with a ratio of 1:8 or fewer. Ours usually has someone doing skipping or football with the chn which is nice.

Food. Ours only offers 'snack' but this generally includes a sandwich option. I'd love them to have a proper meal but tbh cost is a big driver so that might not be sensible.

You could develop it with an optional activity, maybe charged at a premium, eg french club on Mon, street dance on Tues, multisports on Weds if you have the space. You'd then open up another market.

BrianTheMole Fri 06-Jun-14 19:00:33

Decent cooked meal is important. Help with homework. An outdoor space to let off steam. Arts and crafts stuff available. To be able to pick up when I want. Some scope for using it on an ad hoc basis.

Unfortunately we are off site - there is an on site club at the schools we're covering but no where near big enough with huge waiting lists. One of them has just been reduced - down to 25 spaces for a school fo 250. They're actually kicking people out! It does limit our options a bit for after school class pick ups (and proximity), as it's not an area with many venue options. Our waiting list is pretty long already, there's so much need so we just want to make it as good as we can.

Although you're technically allowed 1:10 for under 4 hour sessions we're thinking 1:8 maximum.

It's a tricky balance - some people really want outdoor stuff (more than can be done in just the garden) but I can see people have concerns over their children being outside. The parents of our current mindees all love them being outside and really don't seem too worried - DH has up to 7 (variation in place) but that includes younger children who need more attention and tbh it's totally manageable.

nancy75 Fri 06-Jun-14 19:15:37

I work for an after school/sports provider. With regards to using the park how would you get insurance for this and do risk assessments?

All of our stuff is done either at a school or on our site so I'm interested in how a park would work.

erin99 Fri 06-Jun-14 19:27:24

With so much demand I would think garden and some play equipment is plenty. I like your idea with the 2 rooms, and YYY to the craft.

The children at ours also help make their own snack, do easter nests, and on pancake day each one cooked their own pancake. It doesn't have to be all singing all dancing tbh, I just want somewhere they can chill and not be in a stressed social environment. Homely and child centric, which I'm sure it will be.

WipsGlitter Fri 06-Jun-14 19:37:27

I'd prefer if they were just there as pp said I might be able to leave early for whatever reason.

I'm not fussed about food.

Agree - homely and child centric is good.

Nancy75 we'd have to be insured to have the kids out and about anyway - the after school club isn't on site and walking them to the club requires walking through the park from one school (well, you could go another way but that's along a main road, the park's safer!) The insurance we're looking at covers organised and supervised out of school club outings and trips to playgrounds so long as the ratios are followed. We're also used to doing risk assessments, childminders have to do this for absolutely everywhere we do (or so it feels like!)

Erin I think you are right about somewhere to chill, especially for the youngest ones who have just started. They're better now, but when the current group of P1s started coming here after school at the start of term the poor wee mites were knackered. And ravenous, they would have eaten their own arm! The "fruit, breadsticks, yoghurt, light snack etc" rapidly turned in to sandwiches and wraps! Don't know if our school lunches are especially light!

Catmint Fri 06-Jun-14 19:44:47

Not too many out of the way spots where big ones can teach little ones swearing. ( bitter )

Ragwort Fri 06-Jun-14 19:47:30

I would want flexibility about pick up time without exhorbitant fines - ie: I have never worked in an environment where you can just leave at 5pm or even 6pm. So I would want somewhere that will just charge me a reasonable sum per extra quarter of an hour rather than some of the fines that are threatened. (Obviously I wouldn't expect to be ridiculously late).

Food wouldn't bother me - just decent snacks grin rather than a full meal.

Ragwort we're planning on running til 6 at least - really don't want to have to start threatening fines, hopefully all our parents will be good wink It's tricky though - the rules mean we have to have two staff on site at all times, so if someone doesn't pick up by closing time then that's two staff wages that have to be paid. I can understand why places threaten it, but as a parent who's used nursery I don't like it myself.

Ooh Catmint that doesn't sound good at all!

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