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 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.
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.
(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.