As we make our way out of summer, ”school” is now taking on a much different meaning and description; even different than what it had just recently transformed into only months ago when all of this began.
Some kids are physically going into the classroom, some aren’t yet; some are practicing both approaches. Do parents even know?
And where does that leave enrichment?
Are “after-school” activities going to command more of the spotlight? Meaning, will it be enough to just enrich, or are parents going to need more of an education replacement, or at least a much heavier supplement?
There is also the need to provide social time.
As you can see, there are a ton of questions, and frankly, nobody has perfect answers.
What I can provide, though, is a deep dive into the many activities one might consider to be enrichment. This list can also be relied on more heavily by families needing to bolster their kids’ everyday learning activities.
What is an after-school enrichment activity?
An after-school enrichment activity is an experience where kids can extend their learning to improve or enhance skills, knowledge, well-being. After-school enrichment activities can include academics, sports, arts, and more, and are offered with the goal of providing entertainment and enjoyment, while sharpening and fleshing-out student skill sets.
Types of after-school enrichment activities
Coding for kids can take a variety of forms, ranging from intro Scratch coding to advanced Python. But beyond that, enrichment can come from any of the many available coding “toys” like those from Sphero and others.
Here are a few examples:
LEGO Robotics—LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or the LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Set can offer robotics fun through the familiarity of the classic building set.
When it comes to activities, the goal isn’t purely entertainment, so while board games are great and can hold kids’ attention, parents should strive for options that require deeper levels of thinking.
On a basic level, this could mean something like chess or checkers, or, even the strategy of Monopoly (which has multiple themed editions for another layer of learning) or word-focused fun of Scrabble. There are also board games that help teach coding fundamentals, like Robot Turtles, and math skills like Tri-Facta.
Here is a list of educational board games.
Arts & crafts
When you hear “arts & crafts” you may immediately think about glue, paper shreds, and big messes. But, these activities can certainly be enriching, especially if they involve creating something new and different, or something innovative if kids are given a prompt and only a set amount of resources, etc.
And, while not everyone has access to a 3D printer, there are many options now, with some being quite affordable. Thus, learning 3D modeling and then being able to print creations on a 3D printer can be a great activity for kids (see how the “Taco Bros” are using their 3D printing skills for good.)
Here are some ideas from the iD Tech blog:
You know about Minecraft, I’m sure. But did you know that in addition to all of the fun kids have with the game, Minecraft can be incredibly educational as well? There are a number of benefits listed via that link (creativity, problem-solving, etc.) but kids can also go from playing to turning their attention to Minecraft mods.
Here are a few Minecraft resources:
- Is Minecraft educational?
- What are Minecraft mods?
- How to make a Minecraft server
- What is adventure mode in Minecraft?
- Minecraft modding for kids
Sports, dance & exercise
Enrichment doesn’t have to be only about the “brain” and can also be about the body. Not to mention that exercise does both very good, and can certainly benefit the mind as well.
Now, this could really be any sport, but I’m trying to keep in mind the fact that many kids are still stuck at home, and often on their own. So, basketball is one of the easier sports for kids to play at length on their own.
In addition, though, there are also virtual instruction opportunities with something like a "smart" soccer ball, where kids can go through interactive training, and even join live classes.
The last thing many kids want to do is to have to go through a day that involves math in school, and then be tasked with more math during their after-school enrichment time.
So, look to make math fun, which means turning to supplemental activities that have a math component in order to “sneak” in the skill-building, for lack of a better term.
Think about things like creating a new recipe where kids need to double the given yield, or money management where kids are adding or subtracting from their allowances, and even couponing where you present different percentage-off coupons to kids and have them calculate new checkout totals, etc.
All that said, there are also math apps, and then the math board games mentioned above. Here are some resources on how to make math fun:
- How to make math fun for kids ages 8-12
- 15 fun ways to practice math
- 30 ways to make math fun for elementary kids
With after-school enrichment, one approach is to have kids dive into large projects that can be broken up over a number of days, with kids chipping away with progress during each sitting. The other approach is to go for breadth and to allow for kids to jump into quick-hitting options.
Design lends itself to both, as kids can take on a larger design project, like creating something in Maya such as video game assets or special FX for films, and more. This could also be a personal branding exercise where kids create a logo and online presence.
A “smaller” option could involve mini design exercises, like creating graphic quotes for social media or making a tri-fold monster doodle activity.
Photography is more than just a fancy word for taking pictures. It can be an involved, enriching activity if approached correctly. For instance, a photographer can adopt a particular theme and style, where they specialize in taking certain types of photos.
Not to mention that a camera is a tool, and requires precise skill and developed experience in order to truly understand all that it’s capable of, from the lens and flash, to viewfinder, shutter speeds, aperture, and more.
Movie making may have meant one thing years ago, but today, the opportunity is out there for anyone to try and create a special effects blockbuster thanks to the many available tools - like Adobe Character Animator, Premiere, After Effects, and more - or, to create a simple yet entertaining stop-motion movie from an iPhone.
Filming and producing videos allows kids an outlet for self-expression as they carve out their path from imaginer to storyteller.
Drawing & Animation
Like most activities, they can be fun at the entry-level, but can be fun and more at the advanced levels that follow. The same goes for video games (and yes, video games can be good for kids), where kids can have some good entertainment just by playing them, but can take things to new heights in terms of conceptualizing their own games, or even learning how to develop.
Anyway, back to drawing—it’s an art for good reason! A great enrichment activity, then, would be to task your child with something like character design, where they go through the different steps of defining a character, and then bringing them to life through animation and even 3D design.
Traditionally, there of course is trying to learn a new instrument, but when it comes to music as the focus of your enrichment activity, it can mean more. For instance, kids can get involved with digital music creation, feeding their inner-composer to create the next big electronic music hit!
By using professional software to create their own beats, and then learning how to polish them to studio quality, kids can realize creative potential they may have never known existed.
Robotics can be a ton of fun, but also provides benefits like problem-solving, teamwork, and even visual programming. Plus, robotics sets are accessible, including options from VEX and LEGO, and others. And who knows where involvement in robotics might lead—robotics engineer, programmer, designer?
Robotics also lends itself to teamwork and collaboration, and even though kids can't socialize in-person with others as much as they'd like to these days, all hope isn't lost. For instance, a virtual robotics course brings kids together to program robots with graphical code blocks, and to explore topics like AI and computational thinking.
Writing is a wonderful enrichment activity because it doesn’t take much to get started, and the opportunities are endless. Meaning, a child can sit down with a pen and paper or word processor, and with a prompt, can write creatively on what they’re tasked with.
For instance, how about:
- If you could change your name, what would it be and why?
- If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be?
- Which is better, baseball or golf?
You could go on and on, and here is a list of kids writing prompts to consider.
Don't be fooled...
Meaning, don't be fooled into thinking an activity can't be enriching. I think we as parents sometimes fall into the idea that if something is fun, it can't be enriching. Just like when it comes to food—if it tastes good, it can't be healthy!
But, there is definitely a balance that can be struck, with plenty of fun activities being enriching and "nourishing" for our kids.