From managing emotions to developing grit, afterschool programs that cultivate social-emotional skills offer learning that goes beyond the classroom. Research shows that these skills are often more predictive of a child’s future success than their test scores.

“Knowing how to develop relationships and cope with different stresses can really help kids in the long-term,” says Sara Plachta Elliott, Ph.D., executive director of the Youth Development Resource Center. “Kids who learn how to experience a failure but then overcome it and keep trying are a lot more likely to be successful adults than kids who don’t have the opportunity to learn from challenges.”

Afterschool programs that focus on emotional regulation, building social know-how and exposure to diverse cultures offer exciting opportunities that the school day doesn’t often allow. For example, yoga programs combine exercise with channelling difficult feelings into positive emotions. There are also afterschool opportunities that introduce children to world cultures and customs, expanding their ideas about diversity.

Life skills might also include activities such as how to write a resume, plan a budget or apply for college. Many programs encourage leadership skills where youth get to choose their activities and plan their day. “Parents should be looking for programs that offer kids the opportunity to take on a leadership role. That’s one attribute of a really high-quality youth program,” says Elliott.


What to Look for

  • Programs that encourage leadership
  • Strong check-in and check-out process
  • Programs that offer scholarship–always ask if they are available 


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