As kids across the Tampa area return to school, they’ll also head back to sitting at their desks for six or more hours a day. It’s critically important that parents find additional ways for their children to stay active and stimulated after-school.

As Hilary Clinton states, “For millions of children, ‘Home Alone’ is not a funny movie, but rather the way they spend their time after school and during the summer. It is during these hours that our children face the greatest risk of violence and other threats, but it also is during these hours that they have the greatest chance to learn, grow and find the hero within.”

After school programs are designed to develop a talent or a skill that is usually neglected. These programs can be educational, recreational or both. Whatever type they are, they should aim to keep your child active, interested and have been proven to them exceed in academics.

A quality after school program is more than babysitting and homework help.

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 and learn to respect other cultural backgrounds and develop better conflict resolution and social skills.

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 drop out rates are additional advantages of a good after school program.

Many children are put into recreational after school programs so that they stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Currently
 15 percent of children below the age of 16 are obese. Sports, tae kwon do and dance classes are a great way for kids to have fun and to stay active.

Programs also keep a child entertained as well as busy, and thus prevent them from becoming addicted to TV, cell phones and other technology. By giving them ways to burn up their excess energy and explore their creativity, after school programs help to shape the overall personality of the child.

A good after school program also widens your child’s area of interests and introduces them to new things, which will be interesting and sometimes challenging. Mastering a new art form or a new skill increases the child’s self-esteem. It also allows you to introduce your child to new career options.

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.

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Here are some of the programs offered in Tampa Bay: