The Transition to Afterschool: One City’s Approach to Connecting Young Children and Their Families to Learning and Enrichment Opportunities
The transition to kindergarten represents an opportunity to link families to schools and to afterschool learning opportunities in their community. During this period of transition, afterschool programs can serve many different functions for families and their young learners. As children transition from early learning settings to kindergarten, they are growing—physically, cognitively, and socially. Afterschool programs can help promote and stimulate this growth, encourage learning based on children’s interests, and broaden and deepen children’s understanding of school subjects. These programs can also offer families an opportunity to help build on their children’s learning, empower families to connect their children to new learning spaces and experiences, add to families’ support networks, and function as a necessary place of extended care, safety, and supervision for their children. They also contribute to children’s academic performance. Kindergarten children make gains in math when parents enroll them in afterschool and other structured out-of-home activities.1, 2
Families play an important role in accessing appropriate afterschool programs for young children. So that families can easily identify, navigate, and choose from available afterschool programs, a coordinated effort among preschool and school staff and afterschool providers needs to occur.
What should this coordination look like? How can families make informed choices about afterschool opportunities in their school district prior to kindergarten enrollment? What information do families need? What are some steps that programs can take to help families successfully transition to school and afterschool?
In this first video in the series, Meghan White, after-school manager for the Division of Childcare and Family Support at the Department of Human Service Programs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, discusses the kinds of information that families need on afterschool opportunities. She highlights one approach to helping them obtain that information—a brochure titled After-school Programs: A Guide for Parents of Future Kindergartners or Grade 1 Children. The brochure was developed in response to a mother’s concern about how difficult it was to find an afterschool program for her soon-to-be kindergartner.
Working collaboratively to attend to this expressed need, the Department of Human Service Programs in Cambridge, the Cambridge Public School District, Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grantees (who are funded by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care), a Kindergarten Transition Project consultant, and families created this four-page resource, which includes phone numbers to call and websites to visit for a list of programs, a checklist of things to do in the months leading up to kindergarten, and program components (e.g., hours, cost, and transportation options) for families to consider when selecting a program.
Check out the follow-up: Click to Watch (Part 2) video