An after-school club is an excellent way to complement traditional school learning, enrich your child’s life experiences and improve social skills
For some children, the time between the end of the school day and dinner at home is an opportunity to play in the park, hang out with friends, or catch up with homework. For parents, it’s an awkward time: jobs to do, errands to run, and kids to keep on the straight and narrow.
After-school clubs in the Netherlands are an excellent way to ensure late afternoon time is productive learning time, according to Christine van de Poll of Basisclub, an after-school club near Amsterdam. Studies show that good quality after-school clubs are good for a child’s mental and physical well-being, and can also complement academic study.
There is a wide network of after-school clubs in the Netherlands for both expat and Dutch children, catering to a broad range of interests and needs.
“A good after-school club is one which gives children individual attention,” says Van de Poll, a mother of three and qualified psychologist who runs Basisclub with her business partner Jessie Mooij. Their after-school club provides remedial teaching and homework support for children between the ages of six and 12.
“Children benefit from one-on-one attention coupled with group learning, and it is essential that staff dedicates sufficient time to get to know the children and understand their personalities,” she stresses. “A good afterschool club, particularly one which offers academic support, will not take a ‘one program fits all’ approach.”
Quality after-school clubs and activity centres in the Netherlands can keep children happy, healthy and meaningfully engaged outside the school gates.
For Christine van de Poll and Jessie Mooij, co-founders of Basisclub, working with children is a passion. Christine studied psychology, and Jessie has a Master’s degree in Educational and Pedagogical Sciences, with a 10-year experience in assisting children with various backgrounds or special needs. They infuse their work with a safe yet fun and positive energy, and remain on top of new methods and developments.
After-school clubs develop social skills
Some children can feel overwhelmed when communicating among and within large groups, and will shy away from participation as a result. In after-school centres, group sizes tend to be smaller than school classes. That in itself may be enough to coax a child out of his or her shell.
“A good after-school club will proactively seek to develop a child’s social skills and independence,” says Mooij, a master in Educational and Pedagogical Sciences who specialises in children with special needs and learning disabilities.
“For example, they might promote concepts of interpersonal co-operation, support or respect among children, which can have a really positive impact on self-esteem and self-confidence, not only among the other children in the group but also in terms of their relationships with adults,” she adds.
Van de Poll agrees. “The greatest benefit we see for our children, for example, is when they play and interact with each other. This is great for their confidence and independence, and particularly for language development.”
After-school activities build confidence
Good after-school clubs in the Netherlands will create an environment of inclusivity and security above and beyond that which a school may be able to provide. In a highly supportive ecosystem, children with a heightened sense of belonging may flourish. Children with learning or attention issues may also find an after-school program is more sympathetic to their needs and can be tailored accordingly.
“We focus on increasing self-confidence via personal learning programs,” says Van de Poll. “If possible, children are paired to support each other and to practise together.”
After-school activity centres boost physical health
An after-school activity which promotes the benefits of exercise and healthier lifestyles and raises awareness of nutrition can help stave off childhood conditions and diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
After-school centres provide academic support
Most after-school clubs in the Netherlands offer structured programs which directly address the specific needs of children. Many offer assistance with homework or coursework – often in liaison with the pupil’s school – to address specific academic areas.
“An after-school program can fill a gap not offered by the school, but should be viewed as complementary to school learning,” says van de Poll.
“We liaise closely with the child’s school and teachers, and we take time to try to understand the pupil and their academic background before developing their personalised learning program,” says van de Poll.
Activity centres in the Netherlands make learning fun
Kids universally respond well to creative, fun learning methods, and many after-school clubs in the Netherlands place a premium on fun, stress-free learning activities.
“I like to challenge children in an energetic and positive way, while also creating a safe and comfortable atmosphere,” says van de Poll. “We play educational games such as charades and hangman, for example, which the children usually find is a fun way to learn.
“We also make sure to keep things fresh, using varied teaching methods and plenty of visual concepts to keep children engaged.
Technology, as well as being an established learning enabler, also has an important role to play in making learning fun. “Technology is the single biggest evolution in afterschool clubs,” notes Mooij. “We will routinely use computers to explain concepts to the children and they also find that a fun way of learning.”
Learning Dutch at after-school programmes
Being a working expat parent juggling professional and family duties can be a tough balancing act, especially without family support networks. It can also be a challenge when your family is new to the local language: how do you support your child with homework when you don’t speak any Dutch? After-school clubs for expats in the Netherlands are often safe, secure and nurturing environments for children who might otherwise feel isolated at school. They’re a great way to integrate into the local community, but also and especially to learn the local language faster. After-school programmes who focus on the expat community, such as Basisclub, will help children with an international background integrate in the Dutch education system. For example, Basisclub offers a Friday afternoon “Dutch Club” with the specific goal of improving its international students’ Dutch skills, including reading, listening, writing and speaking – and even maths!
It needn’t cost an arm and a leg, either. In the Netherlands you may be eligible for government assistance for qualifying after-school programmes.
After-school activity centres should be a positive and productive alternative to extra-curricular activities normally available to young people and their families in the Netherlands.
“A positive approach towards learning is very important. Every child is unique and I am convinced that children benefit from a personal and positive approach,” Mooij concludes.