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Ask A Sacramento Expert: After-School Activity Ideas

Colleen Hendon
Manager, Learning Express Toys
2030 Douglas Blvd. Suite 25
Roseville, CA 95661
(916) 783-6310

Sacramento native Colleen Hendon takes having fun very seriously, and as manager of the locally owned Learning Express in Roseville, she gets plenty of opportunities to share her passion for fun. "I love to play," she says, "that's why I do what I do." Hendon's two children are in their early 20s now, but her experience as a parent has certainly shaped her outlook on after-school projects. One of her children is autistic, and she appreciates that many activities have excellent therapeutic benefits as well as being fun.

But after-school time does not always have to have a greater purpose. "As serious as life gets," she notes, "it is important that families remember to just play sometimes." Hendon describes herself as a huge advocate for arts and crafts, explaining that she personally loves "to cut, color and paste."

Take Advantage Of Community Resources

Hendon deems the Sacramento and Roseville City Parks and Recreation departments as "hidden treasures." Well-maintained and numerous, community parks offer plenty of space to enjoy the area's temperate weather year-round. The departments have numerous programs for kids of all ages that include sports, aquatics, crafts and even cooking classes, and the options are low cost and family friendly. In addition to such structured activities, just getting the kids to be active outside is especially beneficial in an electronics-obsessed society.

Hendon says kids love using things like chalk, bubbles, rocket balloons and "stomp rockets" at the park, which draw people of all ages to join in. She also suggests bringing old toys that the kids no longer play with – when used outside in a new environment, they seem brand new.

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Spark Their Interest In Being Creative

It is not necessary to use expensive or complex ingredients to get kids to stretch their creative muscles. After school, let the children cut out words or pictures from magazines to make collages of subjects of their own choosing. Hendon also suggests using different mediums – paper, paint, crayons, photos and three-dimensonal objects – to create things that tap into the individual child's interests. For example, a young boy who is a sports fan may not be into arts and crafts, until he is encouraged to trace his favorite team's logo onto Shrinky-Dink material to make a key chain.

Go Old School With A Board Game

Parents have a multitude of responsibilities, and finding even a few minutes for quality time with the children can be a challenge. Hendon suggests using board games as a reward for kids, since earning even a short period of playtime with a parent can be a powerful reinforcement for positive behavior. She says there are many great games that are educational as well as enjoyable, but encourages parents to also have non-instructional, just plain fun with the kids. Hendon says games like Tenzi, a simple and adaptable dice game, do not require a long time commitment or extensive skills. It is easy, fun and engaging for all age groups.

Yoyo class at Learning Exchange (Courtesy of Colleen Hendon)

Find Free Activities At Stores And Libraries

Many local places offer low- or no-cost after-school activities. Hendon's Learning Express location has regularly scheduled story times that include crafts and snacks, as well as free yo-yo and Kendama lessons. Sacramento and Roseville public libraries have numerous programs for children of all ages, from Lego parties and homework help to library mini-golf and reading sessions with dogs.

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Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at
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