Meeting the Childcare Needs of School-Aged Children
While many parents and childcare providers place a high premium on the importance of meeting the needs of infants and toddlers, the unique demands of caring for older children are equally deserving of attention. During the school year, children may be released from school before working parents return home, leaving a gap in which childcare becomes a necessity. Extended seasonal breaks like summer vacation and the winter holidays may also create a hardship in working-parent households, as children are no longer attending school and are in need of temporary care. Meeting the childcare needs of school-aged children comes with different requirements than those related to the care of younger children, as well.
Homework Assistance and Tutoring for School-Aged Children
One common need among school-aged children in childcare settings is assistance with homework and/or additional tutoring outside of the classroom. Childcare providers seeking a competitive edge over other care options in their area should consider the implementation of a cohesive homework help and tutoring program, which allows school-aged children access to resources which can improve their academic performance, and to which they may not have access otherwise.
After-school programs may be community-based initiatives in some areas, but aren’t municipally-supported programs in all areas. In communities with existing after-school programs supported by public funding, private childcare centers with an emphasis on after-school care may be able to offer extended services which make them more appealing to parents. Childcare providers who are actively seeking ways to boost enrollment of school-aged children should certainly consider the benefits of instituting programs with a direct focus on improving academic performance.
Seasonal Fluctuation in the Childcare Needs of School-Aged Children
Throughout the school year, most childcare providers who specialize in the care of older children will find their services required primarily in the late afternoon to evening hours. During vacation periods like spring break, summer break and the winter holidays, however, these childcare providers will need to expand and supplement their offerings in order to keep up with the increased demand. Homework help will become a less pressing demand, but supplemental curriculum such as summer reading programs are often attractive to the parents of older children.
Individual childcare providers and small, home-based daycare centers typically have much lower enrollment figures than large centers. Disparities in age and grade level may make a set curriculum less feasible for these caregivers, but still leaves opportunity for academic enrichment when school is no longer in session. In-home childcare providers, family daycare operators and large daycare centers alike should consider summer outings and field trip plans to keep older children engaged during these extended hours of seasonal operation.
Structure and Balance for Older Children
Pre-adolescent children may not require the same level of structure and routine as their younger counterparts. In fact, as older children approach adolescence, their need for a reasonable level of independence increases. While these older children still need the direct supervision of adults and some structured activities, it’s important for caregivers of school-aged children to strive for balance in this area. Heavily structured schedules may be restrictive for some older children, causing them to resent the need for childcare after school and during session breaks.
Childcare professionals should understand the needs of their older charges, and the ways in which those needs differ from the younger children under their care. Differentiating between the needs of younger school-aged children and older ones is important. Where children between the ages of five and nine may require more direct supervision and a structured routine, those between the ages of ten and twelve naturally tend to be more independent. Separating school-aged children into groups can ensure an age-appropriate approach to after-school and seasonal care, meeting the needs of separate age groups with distinct differences in terms of need. Larger establishments may also consider the implementation of recreational programs, which allow school-aged children to participate in activities in which they have a particular interest.
Older children can often resent the idea of childcare, especially if their peer group is largely comprised of children much younger. Programs which cater to the unique childcare needs of these older school-age children can be ideal for those who are not yet prepared to care for themselves at home, but also resist attending a daycare center. To adequately meet the needs of school-age children, childcare providers should be prepared to offer a variety of options for a variety of age groups and maturity levels.