Top American Idol competitors are often quoted as saying that they have been singing since they were 5-years-old. While inspiring, this kind of statement can be discouraging to many parents who struggle to get their child to focus on one activity for an entire school year, let alone throughout their entire childhood. However, as competition increases for apprenticeships, internships, and jobs, parents may want to consider planning an after school program pathway that keeps their kids committed longer, and increases their future competitive edge.
One successful model is that of youth-serving organizations (YSO), like the Girl Guides and Scouts, that aligns their programs with age-related social and behavioural needs. This helps kids:
“develop into capable, confident and well-rounded individuals, better prepared for success in the world.” — Scouts Canada
Here are the three general stages of YSO programming that can help parents better plan their child’s after school program pathway:
Let 5-7-year-old kids have fun learning
YSO programming encourages young children to have fun and make new friends. Their content focuses on learning about one’s own personal uniqueness and developing a mutual respect for others. This is an important time for kids to build their self-esteem, and parents should choose an activity or hobby for a young child that provides them with an interesting and fun experience.
Encourage 8-10-year-old kids to be adventurous and challenged
YSO programming for older children emphasizes independent work as well as group collaboration. The focus is on learning about personal interests and being challenged. This is an important time for kids to develop their personal identities. Parents should consider an activity or hobby that enables their child to explore new things and to establish some independence in their choice of activity.
Guide teens to lead and take on responsibility
YSO programming for teens focuses on leadership development and building self-confidence. The focus is on motivating youth to take up challenges in personal areas of interest and to make a difference in their lives or in their community. Parents should consider an activity or hobby that encourages their teen to develop a personal interest and increase their level of responsibility. They could take a babysitting course, work with animals, or build something using (safe) machinery.
In an increasingly competitive world it makes sense to treat after school programs or hobbies as an extension of a child’s education: a hobby building model airplanes could lead to a rewarding manufacturing career; and an iPad doodler may become a future computer graphic designer. Kids will take this knowledge and hands-on experience with them to their first part-time job or career interview. At that point, they’ll stand out confidently among the crowd of applicants and competitors because they’ve been building, drawing or taking care of others since they were 5-years-old!
By Talya Rotem. Talya holds an MA in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education.