After School Time
Thriving children in the middle years enjoy a variety of experiences after-school. They spend at least 2 days a week participating in some sort of organized activities – music lessons, sports, art classes, clubs – which offer quality social experiences and opportunities to learn. But this is balanced with unstructured time during which they can play with friends, enjoy some screen time, do homework and express their creativity. Thriving children have a say in the activities they pursue and how they structure their time.
Measures of After School Activities
The environments in which children live and play are important, yet we know very little about how and where school-aged children actually spend their after-school hours. The data provided by the MDI attempts to fill gaps in the existing research on children’s activities between 3pm and 6pm. These are known as the “critical hours” because it is during this time children are most often left unsupervised. See theTechnical Guide for the list of questions for all dimensions and additional detail on scoring the MDI.
Participation in organized after-school activities
Children’s involvement in activities outside of school hours exposes them to important social environments. Participation in after-school activities has been shown to boost children’s competence, self-esteem, school engagement, personal satisfaction and academic achievement. They may meet new friends, strengthen existing friendships and feel like they belong to a group of peers with shared interests. After-school programs also provide an important opportunity for children to develop supportive and meaningful relationships with caring adults.
Daily time spent doing unstructured activities
How does the child spend their free time each day? Children in the middle years also need time to relax and play and should have some choice in how they spend their free time.
What children wish to be doing after-school
Sometimes children in the middle years aren’t participating in after-school activities because the options available don’t interest them. The MDI gives children a chance to list the activities they wish to be doing.
Perceived barriers to participation
Children have the opportunity to describe the reasons they aren’t doing the activities they wish they could be doing. These reasons may include having to go straight home from school, being over-scheduled, having too much homework or concerns about cost and transportation.
Across British Columbia, children are reporting spending most of their unstructured after-school time on homework, TV and computer use. When asked how they wish to spend their time, children’s top wishes for after school time are related to physical activities, including soccer, gymnastics, hockey, swimming and dance.
What does your own community data tell you?