Use of After-School Time

How children spend their after-school time can have a considerable impact on their development. The after-school hours, between 3pm and 6pm, have been identified as the “critical hours,” because children may be left unsupervised and may engage in risky behaviours during this time Vandell et al., 2020. Yet, providing children with access to quality programming, safe spaces, and supportive adults during the after-school hours presents opportunities to support and improve children’s well-being, including their social and emotional competence, feelings of connectedness to their school and community, academic success, and positive behaviours Durlak et al., 2010; Durlak & Weissberg, 2007. Children’s involvement in activities outside of school hours exposes them to important social and learning environments. A healthy balance of structured after-school programs, social opportunities, physical activity, play, and rest are all important experiences that promote children’s thriving and resilience Immordino-Yang et al., 2019; Linver et al., 2009. After-school activities such as art and music classes, sports teams, and community groups provide distinct and important experiences that can help children to build relationship skills and gain competencies.

The MDI's Measures of After-School Time

Organized Activities
Participating in activities outside of school hours can provide children with important benefits and enrichment opportunities. Children who participate in a variety of after-school programs (sports and other activities such as art and music) have more positive developmental outcomes than those children who do not participate in any activities or only participate in sports Linver et al., 2009. After-school programs also offer opportunities to form positive relationships with caring adults which can boost children’s social and emotional skills and well-being Hurd & Deutsch, 2017.
Challenging and enjoyable after-school programs can improve children’s ability to reason and problem solve, exercise choice and discipline, and be creative and flexible, all of which are strong predictors of academic, career, and life success Diamond & Ling, 2016. Taking part in organized after-school programs in the middle years is also linked to higher scores on academic assessments, greater social confidence, and less risk-taking and impulsivity into the teen years Vandell et al., 2020.

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) asks children how many days in the past week they participated in organized activities between 3pm and 6pm.

How Children Spend Their Time
Children in the middle years also need time to relax and play and should have some choice in how they spend their free time. After-school time should include a variety of activities both structured and unstructured. For example, quiet reflection time is just as essential to brain health and social-emotional development as are active and focused activities Immordino-Yang et al., 2019. The MDI asks children how much time per day, on average, they spent on unstructured activities during the previous week between 3pm and 6pm.
After-School People & Places
The after-school hours can provide children with important opportunities to build and strengthen relationships with peers as well as with important adults in the community, at school, and at home Durlak & Weissberg, 2007; Fredricks & Simpkins, 2013; Rhodes, 2004. In addition to asking about who children spend their time with after-school, the MDI also asks children about where they spend their time after-school, and the perceived availability of programming and safe spaces to hang out in their neighbourhood or community.
Children's Wishes and Barriers to Participation

Sometimes children in the middle years are not participating in after-school activities because the options available do not interest them. The MDI gives children a chance to identify the activities they wish to be doing.

Children also have the opportunity to describe the reasons they are not doing the activities they wish they could be doing. These barriers may include having to go straight home from school, being over-scheduled, having too much homework, or concerns about cost and transportation.

Explore other dimensions
Explore other dimensions

For more detailed information on the measures included in the Use of After-school Time dimension of the MDI including a full list of questions that contribute to each measure, how each measure is scored, and how the results are visualized, please consult the MDI Companion Guide.

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