How much is too much? 

– By Jared Fiel –

Sarah Ahnstedt was a single working mom when she had her first child, Stella Axline Lee. Her daughter is now 20 and already graduated college. Stella, as you may have guessed, was quiet and studious.

And now there is Race. Race is 7, and Sarah and her husband, Chad, have their hands full.

“We were on a first-name basis with the principal in the first week of school,” Sarah says.

One of the things that has really helped Race this year, though, is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, which opened Club Thompson at Race’s school, Garfield Elementary in Loveland.

“It’s like the carrot to get him through the day at school,” she says.

Because the program is in the school, there is no worry about transportation, and Race loves all the activities they do. Sarah got the idea because she enrolled Stella in the same Boys & Girls Clubs after-school program years ago, mostly because she needed a safe place for Stella while she worked. 

Parents like Sarah and Chad are always working out that delicate balance between scheduling too many things after school for the kids and having their kids get bored. Experts and parents alike say there is no magic formula. 

“You know, this is certainly different for every child and family,” says Theresa Myers, chief of communications for Greeley-Evans School District 6. “While too many activities can be taxing on some students’ ability to focus on school, it is also an incredible way to engage students.”

Ahnstedt has learned that firsthand. With her first child, there wasn’t much of a need to schedule a lot of outside activities because Stella was, well, who she was. But with Race, she has had to enforce a rule of only two activities during any one season.

Club members cheer each other during a game of foosball. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County.

“Do I have a life outside of Race’s activities? Not much,” she says and laughs. 

“First, we start with hockey. Northern Colorado Youth Hockey. The Junior Eagles. He loves that. Then there is baseball in the summer. And his dad got him into Junior Drag Racing. After all his name is Race,” she says. “If you sorted activities by the most expensive, he has picked them all.”

The Ahnstedts continue to work with Race and let him pick the activities. “Sometimes he wants to swim or play soccer, but hockey is always a constant. But he gets to choose,” Sarah says. “Society is so driven. As adults, we don’t do as good of a job of moderating achievement versus wellness. Every extra push needs to be offset with something enriching or you seek that in unhealthy ways. We need to set kids on a track where they find that balance early in life.” 

Jessica Schultz, marketing manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, agrees. “It is essential to keep kids active during out-of-school times, but it is also important they have enough downtime,” she says. “Participating in structured activities can help youth learn new skills, build relationships and prepare for their future.” 

Myers from District 6 agrees, which is why the district has a number of after-school programs as well for kids in Greeley/Evans. “We have after-school programs through a grant program called 21st Century. These are mostly at our Title 1 schools (these are the schools with the highest student poverty rate) and include academic enrichment activities as well as fun activities for students. We also have some extended day opportunities and Saturday School for students who need additional help catching up or credit recovery at the high school,” she says. “Of course, all our comprehensive high schools have sports, music programs and clubs before and after school, as well as a variety of clubs.  There are also clubs and sports at middle schools and K-8 schools. A few of our elementary schools have clubs as well.”

Myers says the benefits of the programs are for both the parents and the students. “For parents, after-school programs give students opportunities for experiences they may not otherwise have, such as cooking lessons, art classes and other fun activities. For those who need additional help in school, it can be a benefit academically,” she says. “For parents, this is free after-school care for students that they might otherwise have to pay for.”

Sara and Matt Kinnison live on a farm acreage outside of Nunn with their two kids, Nathan, 12, and Matison, 13. During the school year, their schedules are flexible and staggered enough that they can get the kids home, where they have plenty to do (aka chores, not always their first choice). 

But in the summer, Sara and Matt have leaned on the Boys & Girls Clubs program in Galeton.

“It really helps the kids socially,” Sara says. “It’s not a day care. They do basketball, and the counselors really incorporate what the kids are interested in. If the kids suggest something, they look into it and try to make it happen. It sure beats them being on electronics all day.” 

RESOURCES

There are a number of activities for kids to get involved in after school around Northern Colorado. From sports to music to rock climbing to geocaching, finding something your child is interested in is just a Google away. 

There are also a number of general after-school programs in Northern Colorado such as:

Young Peoples Learning Center in Fort Collins, childhooddoneright.com 

The Learning Experience in Fort Collins, thelearningexperience.com/center/fort-collins 

ABC Child Development Centers, abccdc.com/programs/school-age-programs 

Sunshine House of Loveland, sunshinehouse.com  

#1 Child Enrichment Center of Greeley, 1childenrichmentcenter.com  

In addition, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer and Weld counties offer a number of options for after school and summer programs located in their main centers and throughout all of the communities they serve. 

“Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County provides programming in five main areas: music & arts, fitness and athletics, STEM and academics, social-emotional learning and special initiatives,” says Marketing Manager Jessica Schultz. “Many of the programs and activities implemented are derived from Boys & Girls Clubs of America curriculum, which has specific targets and lesson plans. For example, in athletics, we implement Triple Play, a comprehensive health and wellness program that strives to improve the overall health of youth by increasing daily physical activities. In STEM, we implement Hour of Code, a program designed to expose youth to coding and computer science. For social-emotional learning, we administer the Youth for Unity program that supports and promotes diversity and inclusion.”

In Weld County, the clubs have served kids 6 through 18 since 1964. “We offer comprehensive youth development programs both after school and during the summer in seven different Clubhouse locations across Greeley, Milliken/Johnstown, Fort Lupton, and Eaton/Galeton,” says Vice-President of Programming & Operations Emily Stanfill. 

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Jared Fiel is a writer in Northern Colorado who, after hearing from these parents is very relieved his sons are 24 and 22 now.