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Afterschool Programs and Activities for Kids

From sports and dance to educational fare and arts and culture fun, there are plenty of ways to complement – or spark – their interests

An afterschool program can be ideal for families that want to extend their kids' learning or cultural experiences. (They're also awesome for working parents looking for an enriching babysitter alternative!) And, fortunately, there are plenty of choices for kids today, focusing on a range of interests. Here's a look at some of the options and their benefits.

Sports programs

Baseball, soccer, football and basketball – all of these, among others – are considered competitive sports. There are many benefits to putting a child into a sports-centered sports program. They learn good sportsmanship, how to be a team player, discipline and they get plenty of exercise.

If your child is competitive and loves a physical challenge, this may be perfect. It can also be good for kids who aren't motivated to exercise. But keep in mind: If your child hates the sport, he or she most likely will not excel.

Karate and martial arts, while not technically competitive sports, are excellent choices when it comes to discipline, self-control and a physical outlet.

Dance programs

From jazz to ballet, dance classes are a favorite for girls – but can be great for boys, too. Popular TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? have helped to wipe out the notion that dancing is only for gals. Strong, manly guys demonstrate that dance is a killer combo of athleticism and artistry – great for girls and boys.

Ballet, for instance, teaches self-control, discipline and perseverance. Dance in general is fun and provides plenty of exercise. There's also tap, square dancing, clogging and ballroom. These classes help children with grace, balance and large motor skills. They also provide an opportunity for social skills – since performances are often part of the program.

Educational programs

If your child would rather read or pore over a chemistry set, consider tapping into a good educational afterschool program. Whether it's reading, science, math, history or language, your child will get more in-depth study on the subject than he'll typically get in class.

Bonus: This enhanced learning can also help improve grades – making it a good choice if your child is struggling with a certain subject, too.

Arts and cultural programs

Think music lessons, theater and drama, chess clubs, painting or even arts and crafts. These activities allow kids to explore different areas of the art world before deciding on something long-term.

The emphasis here is enrichment, encouraging creativity and exploring areas not normally open to kids. If your child is shy, drama may draw her out. Music classes bring out hidden depths in a child and teach discipline.

Remember: Whatever program you pick for your child, regular evaluation is the key to success. Make sure the program is working for you and your child. The goal is learning and enrichment, but having fun is important, too!

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