As a child grows into an adult, different aspects of his physical,
emotional and mental self needs development. To help a child reach his
full potential, it is necessary to recognize the child’s developmental
needs and abilities. To be effective, after school programs should assist
children with tasks they must accomplish during each stage of development.
A child’s growth curve can be divided into three main parts:
1) Young child (ages 3-5)
2) Middle school (ages 6-8)
3) Older school (ages 9-12)
The four important domains of development are: The Physical Domain, the
Social Domain, the Emotional Domain and the Intellectual Domain. Each of
these domains needs to be separately addressed during the various phases
of a child’s growth. After school programs should concentrate on
developing each domain as applicable to the age of the child. Although the
children participating in these programs may have similar developmental
needs and age, do not expect development to be uniform. Children will
develop as and when they are ready.
When children are young, they want to perfect skills that they have just
learnt to control. A variety of movements such as jumping, catching and
throwing delight them. The middle school child, on the other hand, wants
to learn more complex skills and get involved in team sports. This is also
the best time to learn about rules and discipline in sport. The older
school child is ready for more adult-like activities that need greater
structure and discipline, like dancing, gymnastics, music classes etc.
Young children are observing others and will be interested in games where
they play the roles of family members. They develop short-term friendships
and need an adult’s presence to assure them. The middle school child is
intrigued by society and will love trips to factories, public buildings
etc. They want to know the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of things. The older school
child is ready to learn about different cultures, food and customs. They
want to do some amount of social work too.
Young school children will practice what they are learning. Middle school
children want to learn more skills and will show interest in reading,
drama and problem solving. The older school children are ready to research
and probe. They enjoy getting a puzzle and pondering over it.
Any after school program needs to address the interests of the child depending
on the category he belongs to. Knowing the children in your program and
appreciating their needs and interests will help staff to plan and
structure programs that are most useful to that group.