The time students spend in afterschool programs is limited. And many program leaders struggle to fit homework help, reading time, free play, and engaging learning activities into two short hours.

The time students spend in afterschool programs is limited. And many program leaders struggle to fit homework help, reading time, free play, and engaging learning activities into two short hours.

For this reason, it’s important to make every minute count while your program is in session. The key is to optimize existing processes to avoid wasting precious afterschool time. Here are a few time-saving tips to help you maximize your time with students after school:

1. Stick to a routine

Afterschool programs are known for their flexibility, giving students more autonomy to explore their interests in an informal learning environment. But having a solid routine in place can help you avoid confusion, uncertainty, and wasted time.

You can establish routines for any task or activity, like snack time, recess, and cleaning up after an activity. And well-executed routines don’t just save time. They also minimize distractions, frustrations, and opportunities for misbehavior.

2. Design an efficient program space

Take a look around your program space. Do you see stacked boxes, overflowing cabinets, or messy work spaces? Navigating a cluttered, disorganized space can cause you to waste valuable afterschool time. Even more, a messy room environment can distract students, affect their learning and limit their ability to play and explore. Having an organized space, however, will save you the time and stress of rummaging through clutter to find what you need. 

Great Afterschool Programs and Spaces That Wow! by Linda Armstrong and Christine Schmidt provides insightful tips on tackling clutter, storing materials and supplies, and other ideas for creating a high-quality, functional program environment. Not only will you save time, but you’ll also design a space that’s both inviting and appropriate for your students.

3. Prepare materials in advance

Don’t waste time gathering supplies for activities while your program is in session. Instead, take time before the start of each day to prepare the materials needed for the activities you have planned.

Another idea is to use activity kits which provide all the materials you’ll need in one place. Like this Big Box of Art Materials that provides a range of craft materials for open and directed activities. Or this Primary Science Set, which includes basic tools you’ll need to conduct science experiments plus an activity guide. The less time it takes to gather materials, the more time you’ll have for learning and exploration.

4. Minimize disruptions

Poor behavior, tech issues and other unexpected events can disrupt the flow of learning and cause you to waste time. But the key to minimizing disruptions is being proactive and establishing rules and procedures beforehand.

For instance, outline clear expectations for student behavior, and follow a set procedure when problem behavior occurs. To avoid tech issues, become familiar with technology used in your program and give students clear rules on when and how to use it. Having a plan in place for when disruptions arise will help you be more efficient and save time.

5. Use transition activities

Moving students to and from afterschool and between activities can waste valuable learning time and encourage undesirable behavior. But successful transitions save time and help students stay on task. First, learn how to master smooth transitions. Then find quick and easy activities that will help students recharge and refocus in time for more afterschool learning and fun.

Afterschool time is limited. Therefore, any minute wasted takes away from the time students have to learn and explore after school. Apply these tips to make the most of your time with students after school.