• Editors of Family Living Magazine

Best Bets for After School


In a city where creativity is king, there are an endless amount of after school activities to keep your children on their toes, in the water and scoring goals.

In this special issue of Family Living Magazine we have compiled some of the best after-school resources on Florida’s Suncoast that are sure to extend their school day in enriching and creative ways.

How do you decide what’s the best after-school activity for your child? How do you find a good program?

How to Choose

After you have an idea of the possibilities, talk with your child about what he’s interested in. Give him some options that complement his interests — an artistic child might enjoy a ceramics class, while a boisterous one can work off energy dancing or playing a vigorous sport. But don’t overlook what might seem like unlikely matches. Shy children often enjoy expressing themselves on stage in a drama class; fidgeters can find a way to focus through martial arts.

Once you’ve narrowed the options down, visit them while they are in session so you can get a real idea about the environment, the staff, and the program.

When you visit, look for:

1. At least one adult for every 12 children — in younger groups, the ratio should be closer to one to 10.

2. Whether there any “hidden”costs, such as for uniforms, costumes or other equipment.

3. Friendly, enthusiastic staff. Are they certified or otherwise expert in their field? Ask for references and check them.

4. Is there enough equipment and other resources for everyone?

5. A calm environment. Does the activity appear well organized and supervised?

6. Happy, enthusiastic kids! Wondering how many days a week your 2nd grader should be practicing the guitar? Searching for good ideas for after-school programs for your 10 year old? Use the following guidelines to steer your decisions — but remember that you know your child’s maturity and temperament best.


Keep your kindergartner’s after-school life simple and free — one or two after-school activities a week are more than enough. Wait until they have adjusted to the daily school routine. Then find an extracurricular that involves their creative and/or physical side, such as an art, dance or music program.

Grade 1

Balance your 1st grader’s schedule with play dates, playground visits and one or two days of an after-school activity per week. Best bets are noncompetitive sports and other physical activities since this is around the age when your child is starting to get a grip on the abilities of their own body. Plus, after being in school all day they need an outlet to play and run.

Grade 2

Get your child involved in choosing extracurriculars. They’ll probably tell you what they’d like to do anyway! Steer them towards activities that they do not get to do at school, whether it’s sports like swimming or skating, computers or art and music lessons. Many kids start learning piano or violin around this age. Make sure your child has at least one or two days free a week for alone time, which they are starting to need to unwind.

Grade 3

After sitting all day in a classroom, your 3rd grader needs to move and socialize after school. Team sports are a great choice — now they are old enough to remember and follow rules and can handle losing (though they are still not ready for anything ultra-competitive).

Other good choices are activities that use and develop fine motor skills, such as painting and drawing, sewing or learning to play an instrument.

Grade 4

Try to get your 4th grader involved in one or two extracurricular activities that they are good at and love doing. It will build confidence and help them manage stress, which is key at this age when cliques and social pressure in school are beginning to build. Another thing that’s growing is their pile of homework, so make sure they have adequate time to complete their work without having to stay up late. Set limits on seeing friends and activities if they are often crabby and irritable, if their grades drop, if they have trouble sleeping, complain of mysterious illnesses, or if they shows other signs of stress such as overeating.

Grade 5

Over-scheduling is a problem you and your child will probably face this year.

Your 5th grader is full of energy for everything and wants to spend all their time participating in activities and hanging out with friends. To ensure they are completing their schoolwork and not becoming burnt out, you should make sure they have two free afternoons a week. While you’re at it, block out a once-a-week family time that you and your child stick to so they remember that family is a priority.

Middle School

Try to steer your middle schooler toward activities that reinforce learning and get them away from the TV. On average, middle schoolers spend an equal amount of time every week watching TV and socializing with friends — about 20-25 hours a piece.

To improve academic performance, encourage your preteen to spend time volunteering, joining school clubs like band, chess or foreign language, or to sign up for extracurriculars with a leadership element, such as the school newspaper or student council. It will help them feel more connected to the school community while forging friendships based in common interests and experiences.

As always, keep an eye out for signs that they are not overextending themselves with after-school commitments. As a general rule, they should be spending fewer than 20 hours a week participating in their after-school activities.


The Sarasota Ballet School provides professional instruction for students of all ages. We offer the very best in training by our exceptionally qualified faculty. Tour the beautiful new studio at the Rosemary Square location in the heart of downtown Sarasota.

Call today for more info: 941-225-6520

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