Some programs do the same things day after day, month after month, year
after year, providing the same games and activities, and then staff wonder
why children are bored or no longer want to come to the program.
The goal of this book is to help you think about how your program
environment affects children and to provide you with strategies to create
a program that will keep children coming back. Whether you have little or
no experience working with children or you have been in the field for a con-
siderable time, you can create an environment that engages children. The
ideas may challenge your current thinking. Start out with baby steps if that
is easier for you. Trying just a few new things can be the beginning of a new
environment, creating excitement in and renewed engagement with your
afterschool program. While the book does not cover every detail you might
need, it does compile information from a variety of sources and from our
years of experience. The ideas and information are based on hundreds of
visits to school-age programs around the world; input from afterschool pro-
gram staff, field experts, and parents; brain research; and our experiences as
school-age professionals, mothers, and grandmothers. Our goal is to help you
think about your space in a new way while sparking your imagination and
Before-and-after care personnel are busy people, frequently working
split shifts and having to tear down and re-create a school-age environment
each day. Afterschool programs often do not have large budgets, an abun-
dance of staff, or planning time. The absence of time limits the staff’s ability
to research and become aware of new ideas and cutting-edge information.
Limited budgets may restrict what changes can be made to the environment.
This book addresses these limitations by providing many low-cost or no-cost
solutions to common struggles in the school-age environment. We hope the
information in this book will motivate you to look critically at your program
and become inspired to make necessary changes to create an exciting and
supportive environment for the children you serve.
xii • Preface