For centuries, kids have been bribing their siblings to help them with one thing or another. You can imagine kids of every language, race, gender and century, asking their sibling that ever-important question: “What’s in it for me?” It’s not that they probably won’t help… eventually. But the chance of engagement is much higher if there’s something to be gained.
Now, imagine instead of siblings, you have an afterschool program and a community. Of course as physical education leaders we know the benefits of physical activity. But for a community, it’s not as easy to see a direct correlation. It’s important for us to connect the dots and help them understand “What’s in it for us?” so they can encourage physical activity engagement early and often.
What’s in it for your communities?
Parents, caregivers, schools, and other businesses are all part of your community. How they encourage engagement in children–and how they can benefit—varies widely between them.
For parents and caregivers, it’s important to make health a priority in the home, and carve out time for physical activity for children individually or together as a family. Making room in the day for physical activity helps support children in their health efforts, and encourages them to strive to reach goals. Coupled with the benefits of improved sleep, positive attitudes, lower chances of health concerns into adulthood like blood pressure, cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes, when parents or caregivers make time for physical activity at home it ensures their home is healthier and happier all the way around. Skillastics® even offers a unique Family Fitness Fun Activity Kit that gets kids moving AND fosters quality family time together, so you’re not losing that family time as you encourage kids to be active.
For schools and activity centers, the US Government site youth.gov highlights some amazing benefits for youths in their communities as a direct result of afterschool programs, including:
- Supporting social, emotional, cognitive and academic development
- Reduce risky behaviors
- Promote physical health
- Provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youth
Providing that environment helps kids feel secure, but it also gives parents and caregivers peace of mind knowing their kids have a welcome, safe, healthy place they can spend time outside of the parents’ home. An estimated 15 million kids are home alone in the hours between 3 pm and 6 pm. This is a prime opportunity to grow those vital skills and competencies that become the building blocks for brain development and future decision making. The US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention shared that there is a 60% greater chance of violent juvenile victimization in those same hours. But with afterschool programs, kids can channel those energies into activities, learn to set and reach goals, learn to work well with others in social environments, and typically in a less stressful environment than the time-constrained classroom.
After school programs aren’t just busy work or daycare. They’re an investment in the future of the next generation.
How you can partner with communities so they get involved
The benefits of physical activity in communities are clear. Studies both within the US and on a global scale have proven that communities that engage in recreation together are safer, and the community members “develop stronger bonds, and are healthier, and happier.” How can communities get involved to encourage kids to stay physically active, and what can you do to help foster that partnership?
- Extend the olive branch. You may need to get out in the community to let them know you’re available and what services you offer, as well as what the benefits are of physical activity and after school programs. Connect with leaders who can help you promote engagement, and connect with parents and caregivers to help them understand what you offer. Host fun enrichment activities like bring-your-parent-to-the-gym day, host a community festival in your parking lot, and just be available when adults or older siblings come to pick children up. We’ve talked before about the importance of acknowledging kids’ accomplishments. Even something as simple as sharing an awesome win for their kids reinforces to the caregivers that you are vested in their child, and you care about their development. That goes a long way, as they start to bring it full circle and encourage their kids to keep going.
- Make sure your programs add value. You want to offer programs that are engaging for kids, offer variety to help their brains grow, and are easy to get involved for kids of all athletic ability. Skillastics® offers After School Activity Kits, as well as digital programming taught by national experts in their field, which takes the pressure off you as a director. When our experts do the teaching, that gives you freedom to have fun and play along with the kids! And when your program adds value, it makes it easier for your communities to encourage kids to stay engaged!
- Make friends! That’s right, just as we encourage kids to make friends, you can use that same logic to collaborate with different groups in the community. Become familiar with other areas in the community where kids and families hang out, like churches and other places of faith, community centers, as well as places where parents are already volunteering, such as PTA groups or booster clubs.. As you begin making those connections you’ll become more visible in the community you serve, and quickly become a household name that they can’t live without.
Partnering with the community to keep kids engaged may seem like a daunting task but the benefits are clear, and the next generation is worth it. Whether you’re working with parents, caregivers, or partnering with local businesses as you encourage kids to stay engaged and active, your small actions today are shaping an amazing future. We’re here for you, every step of the way.