Child Care

Out-of-School Time Care

Selecting an OST Program

Below is a list of tips to help better identify a quality OST program, through the environment, staff, structure, philosophy as well as final outcomes.


Indoor space is comfortable, adequate in size, clean, well organized.

  • Indoor space is separated for different types of activities.
  • Storage is available to keep the space neat.
  • Children have a place to store their personal belongings.
  • Children's special needs are taken into account.
  • Supplies and materials are accessible to children.
  • The physical space is cheerful.
  • Children have enough space and chance to work individually and in groups.
  • Ventilation and temperature are comfortable.

Outdoor space is adequate in size and has enough equipment and activity choices.

  • Equipment is age-appropriate to offer safe challenges for children.
  • Enough equipment so children do not need to crowd.
  • Space is clean, safe and protected from traffic, unwanted visitors, etc.

The facility meets fire and life safety regulations.

  • Fire exits are clearly marked.
  • Smoke alarms are present and working.
  • Safe play surfaces.
  • All equipment is safe for children.

Staff Relations

Staff demonstrates warmth and respect for children; actively promoting their development and self-esteem.

  • Staff enjoys children and is interested in their well-being.
  • Staff has age-appropriate expectations of children's abilities and behavior.
  • Staff values the individual needs and contributions of children and groups.
  • Staff encourages children’s efforts and praises their success.
  • Staff finds value in children's activities and accomplishments.
  • Staff encourages children to try new activities and master skills.

Staff to child ratios and group sizes are small enough to enable staff to meet the needs of all children.

  • Staff engages in activities and conversation with all children.
  • Staff supervises children appropriately.
  • Staff provides choices for children.

References are available.

  • Talk to parents of children who attend or have attended the program.
  • Able to obtain at least 3 references.

Program Structure

Questions to ask the director and staff:

  • Is the program or provider licensed or registered?
  • What is the background/training of director and staff?
  • How many children are there in the program?
  • What would a typical day be like for my child?
  • How do you meet the needs of different age groups?
  • Are nutritious snacks/meals provided?
  • What rules will my child be expected to follow?
  • How do you involve parents in your program?
  • What are your fees and what do they include?
  • What days and hours are you open (summer program, vacation days, holidays)?
  • Do you have a parent handbook describing rules, fees and policies of the program?


School-age care should allow children to relax within a comfortable environment.  Some educators of school-age care believe it should not feel structured like "school".  The mood should be relaxed, free-flowing and full of interesting things to choose from.  Look for a place offering children their choice of activities, plenty of time to play, run around and laugh out loud.  

Activities should be well-rounded in the following areas:

  • Physical - Allows children to exercise their large and small muscles, coordination, etc.
  • Cognitive - Allows children to think through activities and develop their intellectual abilities.
  • Social - Allows children to cooperate with other children and learn social skills.
  • Emotional - Allows children to play individually and express feelings and thoughts.

Desired Outcomes

(from Wellesley College's National Institute on Out-of-School Time)

  • Relationships with caring, competent and consistent adults;
  • Access to enriching learning activities;
  • Access to safe and healthy environments; and
  • Partnerships with families, schools and communities.