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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 creativity. 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 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL