Kids: After School Recreation - Fun!
by Theresa Wojtasiewicz
For parents of elementary school-aged children, figuring out how to provide care for your children between the end of the school day and the time you get home from work can be a problem. Childcare centres are one solution, but they can be expensive and wait lists for subsidized spaces are long. You might also rely on your neighbours, a babysitter, or members of your extended family – but what happens if you don’t have any of these options?
The City of Toronto recognized the need for afterschool care, especially in areas of the city that didn’t have a lot of services. In 2005, City Council approved funding a program for after-school care. Council directed its Parks, Forestry and Recreation department to design and put into action recreational after-school programs for children ages six to 12 as an alternative to babysitting or childcare, while being affordable for their parents.
Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Toronto Children’s Services developed the After-school Recreational Care (ARC) program model. Seneca College provides specialized training modules for staff working in the programs. The ARC program curriculum is based on the following principles:
- healthy child development;
- fine arts;
- character education;
- physical activity; and
- resiliency (how to recover or bounce back when something happens that you didn’t expect).
ARC started running in September, 2006 with 10 programs for children aged 6 to 12 years. This expanded in 2007 to 19 programs with over 600 children enrolled, and in September, 2014, there are programs available at 35 different locations, with more than 1000 children taking part.
What do my children do in the program? While each program follows the basic principles listed above, the kinds of activities the children take part in depends on the location and the ages of the children participating. The children could have the use of a gym for an hour or two for indoor sports, or a school field for outdoor sports. The program also focuses on arts and crafts as well as other group games and activities. About half an hour is spent on homework, but the majority of the time is spent doing recreational activities. Children need to play; it’s how they learn to socialize with one another and playing games, particularly sports, encourages them to be physically active as well.
Who is looking after my children?
Staff are drawn from the community, usually youth between the ages of 16 and 24. They are well trained by Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Seneca College, and can apply their participation in ARC towards a credit in Early Childhood Education. If the program is held in a location different than the school the children attend and enough children are registered from that school to make up a group, staff will escort the children to the ARC program location.
What about snacks?
Children should bring their own snacks from home; however, if some children don’t have a snack, one will be provided so that they don’t go without. There are some programs that have partnerships with organizations that will provide food, but it’s best if your children come with their own snacks.
How much does it cost?
For the period September 2, 2014 - June 19, 2015 the fee is $2.34 per day per child, with fees payable monthly. When you subscribe to the program, it will be for the full five days per week. There are subsidies available from Children’s Services or Social Services that would reduce or fully cover the fee, depending on your eligibility. Parks, Forestry and Recreation also offers financial assistance through its Welcome Policy.
Can I come, too?
ARC holds special events from time to time so that parents can participate in activities with their children. This also gives staff a chance to speak to the parents to get their advice and feedback on the program.
How do I find out about ARC?
Similar programs are available in other cities.
In Manitoba, Visit After the School Bell Rings or call 204-925-5751.
For information about daycamps and after-school programs in Vancouver phone 3-1-1. Outside Vancouver call 604-873-7000.
For other areas, go to your favourite search engine and enter "after school recreation in program" and the city where you are looking for the program. Programs are not (yet) available everywhere - but in your search, you may find out how to help create one - or how to get a job working with children after school. Where there is a need, there is an opportunity. Helping change your community for the better will help build your network, give you Canadian experience, give you a chance to learn more English and get involved at a grassroots level with Canadian culture.