How do I pick a great activity for my child? What parents should know

Written by: Candice Blansett-Cummins

What parents should know when picking an activity for their child

After you figure out which activities sound interesting, how do you pick the right one for your child? A word-of-mouth reference about a program that is new to your family is great, but when you don’t already have the inside scoop, here’s how to get it.

What to check ahead of time...
  • In Chicago, all children’s programs require a Children’s Activities Facility license ensuring that staff have passed a State Police background check and the facility has passed Fire and Building Department inspections. Not sure? Check how a business is licensed at this website.
  • What’s the buzz? Is the business thriving or otherwise? A simple NPN Discussion Forum search or Internet search can show you what the business is up to and if they’ve recently been in the news (good or bad.) If you took advantage of an early registration deal, will the business still be around?
What to ask...
  • Is the program drop-off? Does it require parent/caregiver participation or presence?
  • What’s the size and age-range of the program? Is it right for your objectives (e.g. large enough to be social, small enough to not be overwhelming?)
  • If the program is drop-off, what is the adult to child ratio? Is potty-training required? Are there field-trips or water-activities? Are staff members trained and certified in CPR/BLS and First Aid?
  • Were you asked about your child’s needs when you registered for the program? If not, how did the business respond when you brought it to their attention? If you describe a potential scenario for your child, did they want to understand it and ask questions about how to manage that scenario? How did they commit to handling it?
  • What kind of cleaning products are used and when? 
  • What will the day/week be like? Knowing what to expect can help some children to jump in and enjoy themselves more quickly in a new environment, even if you will participate at their side.
What you want to keep seeing...
  • Were you welcomed on the first day and every day? Does the staff know your child’s name? How do they interact with other participants?
  • Does it smell good? Is the temperature right?
  • Fun environments can be messy, but is the program well-planned and organized?
  • Good programs will ask for a lot of information on registration forms. Is the staff using that information to contribute to your child’s safety and enjoyment?
  • If your child is learning a new skill, are they enjoying the process and feeling well- supported?
  • Is your child leaving the program with a smile on their face? Did they have fun and make new friends? Kids are great reporters when asked these questions in an open-ended way (e.g. tell me about your favorite part of the day...)
What programs want you to know (from a Program Director’s perspective...)
  • It’s a super-fun job, and not an easy job.
  • A good program welcomes your feedback. 
  • About those forms...please fill them out legibly and completely.
  • Be on time for pick-up at a drop-off program and if you’re running late, call well ahead.  
  • If the program includes parent/caregiver participation, please participate-- the program is likely staffed to account for the parent/caregiver overseeing their child.
  • The range of special needs can be very broad. A good program could be watching for allergens, learning styles or sensory sensitivities for every participant, including your own.
  • Be respectful of the staff. Great operating guidelines are useless without great people that enjoy being at work and working with one another and your child. They are the main ingredient that makes a program amazing...everything else is just a recipe. 
Posted on July 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM