As kids across the Tampa area return to school, parents are scrambling to find the right after school program. According to a study conducted by the After School Alliance, more than 14 million K-12 kids are responsible for themselves after school, while only 6.5 million kids participating in after school programs. With all of the dangers for kids out there, it’s critically important that parents find additional ways for their children to stay active and stimulated after school.

It can be hard when choosing an afterschool program to find a balance of academics and fun, all while trying to find someone you trust to watch after your child. Here are some things to consider when looking for a quality after school program and some great after school programs in the bay area that we recommend.

A good program addresses the entire child: academic, social, physical and creative. Compared to unsupervised children, students who regularly attend quality after school programs tend to achieve higher scores on standardized testing, have improved school attendance and higher graduation rates, learn to respect other cultural backgrounds, and develop better conflict resolution and social skills. recommends making sure that your child has time in the afternoon to do their homework, which should be a part of their time at their after school care. After school programs keep your child busy. Studies indicate that children who are kept busy through diverse, engrossing activities are less prone to abuse drugs and alcohols, depression and burnout. Significant increase in achievement, attendance and a reduction in dropout rates are additional advantages of a good after school program that focuses on academics.

Staying Active
Many children are put into recreational after school programs so that they stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Sports like soccer or cheerleading, tae kwon do and dance classes are a great way for kids to have fun and to stay active. By giving them ways to burn up their excess energy and explore their creativity, after school programs help to shape their physical and mental health.

One of our favorite after school care programs might actually be one of the most obvious, which is the YMCA. Kids actually can do everything from swim lessons to youth sports to reading lessons at the YMCA after school program, so it really has something to offer everyone. The other advantage to the YMCA is that when you go pick up your kids, you might be able to squeeze in a quick workout or class for yourself.

Socialization is another great advantage of after school programs. Children get to meet others who share their interests and make new friends. An acting class or a soccer team can be lots of fun allowing the kids to effortlessly make new friends. Many programs, like these, coach children for performances or matches. Performing onstage or playing a match can be a great experience for a young child.

Another way to help your kids socialize after school is with an after school sitter. Whether you are looking for a nanny who can cook dinner and take care of the kids, or a college student to watch after your kids after school, after school sitters can help your kids with their homework, play outside with them, and will provide interaction with someone that isn’t a parent or teacher. Just make sure to fully interview and back-ground check any private sitters you choose.

Always remember it is important to talk to your kids about their after school activities, if they don’t feel comfortable at a certain after school care, talk to them about it.

For more info on after school activities and great after school care options, check out and take a look at our After School Guide.