After School Programs: Resources and Tips

After School Programs: Resources and Tips
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“I do feel more physically active now that I’m in Trailblazers because when my friends come over we usually sit inside and watch TV or play on our electronics. But now that I have cool Trailblazer games, we can go outside and I can teach them to my friends that aren’t in Trailblazers and we can have fun”.

— Shaelynn, student

Why is the after school time period so important for getting kids moving?Snowshoe Hike

  •  Canadian children and youth are increasingly sedentary, specifically during 3 and 6pm
  • Children and youth get a large portion of their daily physical activity – as much as 30 per cent – in the after school hours.
  • Physical activity after school can have an important influence on how likely children are active at other times during the day.

How much are they moving now?

  • Overall, only 9% of 5- to 17-year olds get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day.
  •  physical activity levels drop significantly after elementary school years, specifically among the female population
  •  The years of greatest decline in physical activity among youth are between the ages 12-15
    • The majority of after-school programs (88%) target children ages 5-12
    • Program for ages 12+ are particularly important

What do we know about the value of including outdoor time in our programming for kids?

  • Kids with ready access to unsupervised outdoor play have better-developed motor skills, social behaviour, independence and conflict resolution skills.
  • When children are outside they move more, sit less and play longer.
  • There are consequences to keeping kids indoors.
  • Access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks—is essential for healthy child development.

For more information go here


Hear from the kids: Local Trailblazers Outdoor After School Program


The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL) has released a report to tell the tale of the Trailblazers program.Recreation-kids-crossing-bridge2 (Large)

What you will find:

  •  images and stories of its young participants, parents, instructors and principals learn
  • inspired tales of the benefits of getting kids outside, playing and learning.



“I would absolutely join again because of everything that we’ve talked about today and because of the wonderful people instructing it and how kind they are and supporting. And I just love everything about it. There is literally nothing I could say wrong about it. It makes me teary eyed to think of a  world without Trailblazers”.

— Emelia, student

Trailblazers is a free outdoors after school program for children in grades 4 through 7 that takes place in wooded areas on or adjacent to school property at rural and community schools in Lunenburg County.

Program goals are to

  • increase participants’ physical activity;
  • develop their outdoor and leadership skills;
  • and foster a stronger connection with the natural world.

Trailblazer programs, with slight variations, are in several communities such as the Village of Bible Hill and Kentville.

For more information contact:

Britt Vegsund, Municipality of the District of Lunenburg 902-541-1343 or


Need some guidance? After School Physical Activity Guidelines

Heart and Stroke developed physical activity guidelines for after school programs.

These are the first of its kind in Canada and are offered as a guideline to support and guide inclusion of physical activity in the after school time period. There are two handy checklists in the document to assess areas of strength and improvement.

Go here for the guidelines.

What is a Quality After School Program?

The Canadian Active After School Partnership (CAASP) has developed a working description of what it means to offer quality after school programs.

The full report can be found here.

A quality after school program:
  • provides an intentional, child centred, community based and needs driven environment
  • provides a safe environment
  • is led by caring, trained and skilled adults
  • can be supported by mentored youth leaders
  • provides daily opportunities to enhance well being
  • ensures physical, social, emotional and intellectual development.
  • is fun and challenging and designed to bring about improvements in health and skill delivers a minimum of 30
  • minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
  • Food is healthy and portions are appropriate.
  • plans and budgets for inclusion of all children.
  • nurtures friendships and positive social interactions
  • ensures maximal access to a variety of indoor and outdoor community
  • facilities which are safe accessible and secure, and have well maintained
  • and modern equipment.
  • balances both play and sport and physical activity skill instruction,
  • is directed in part by valuing input from participants and their parents.
  • is regularly evaluated
  • has policies and procedures

Why risk is an important part of play?

Injury prevention practitioners in Canada are showing an increasing interest in the issue of risk taking as a positive contributor to resiliency and injury prevention among children.

Developmental benefits of risky play:   • physical/motor competence • spatial orientation skills • environmental competence & literacy • self-worth & efficacy • promotion of cognitive and social development • reduction of fear through natural gradual exposure • helps children learn risk perception and management skills which are important in                            developing an understanding of how to navigate risks and avoid injuries Other benefits of risky play: • promotion of physical activity • promotion of independence • reduction of mental illness and learning difficulties

Read the full two page overview from the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit

Let Them Play: Lessons from After School Programming in King's County

King’s County took a look at their After School Program and wrote up lessons and learning.


It is a great read called  Let Them Play 


* The Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth (2011);

* Studies on the Physical Activity Levels and Dietary Intake of Children and Youth in the Province of Nova Scotia (2005)

* ParticipAction 2015 Report Card

* Defining Quality for Canadian After School Programs: Canadian Active After School Partnership (2014)


Posted on

August 26, 2015

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