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January 20, 2022

The students in your program are not likely to be “spoiled” at home, though you might find they’re occasionally “indulged” by parents wishing they could make their lives just a little easier. With a quick review of the milestone matrix prepared by Y4Y to accompany the new Stages of Child and Adolescent Development course, you’ll gain some basic ideas of what students need most from the adults in their lives at various stages of development. Use these tips and additional Y4Y tools to explore those areas where your program can offer students the royal treatment by supporting healthy growth and development for the best possible life outcomes.

Students ages 4-6 are improving their fine motor skills, are beginning to understand cause and effect, and want to show off their skills. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Establishing a program space rich with materials that “grow with” young peoples’ motor development, like crayons and paint brushes in different sizes.
  • Asking many leading questions, even ones that are not lesson-oriented, like “What could happen if I don’t tie this long shoelace of mine?”
  • Creating opportunities to show off talents great and small, reminding students to encourage one another and not always take a competitive position. For example: a hopping-on-one-foot “break” (not contest) could be a nice way to take a breather from academics. You can call out different students for how creatively or slowly they hop as well as the student who hops the longest.

Check out Y4Y’s Facilitating Positive Youth Development in Summer Learning Training to Go.

Students ages 6-9 may become more physical in their games, are beginning to read to learn once they’ve learned to read, and are beginning to identify their own personality traits in comparison with others. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Offering a variety of options during outdoor playtime with established safety ground rules and the opportunity to play contact sports to the degree all participants are comfortable.
  • Coordinating with school partners like the librarian to offer interesting reading material that supports academics. Offer “fact treasure hunt” activities.
  • Providing daily reflection opportunities. Choose an adjective each day like “confident,” “strong,” or “smart,” and ask students to remember a moment in their day when they saw this trait in themselves.

Check out Y4Y’s Effective Questioning literacy tool and Best Practices for Mindfulness tool.

Students ages 9-12 are developing faster reaction times, experiencing a rise in self-esteem as interest-based peer groups emerge, and are increasingly able to monitor and direct their own progress toward a long-term goal. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Interspersing “rapid-fire” quizzing as a study strategy for students who enjoy that activity and are not stressed by it.
  • Offering icebreaker activities throughout the year to help students continually look for things in common with all their peers. Challenge them to make “unexpected” connections.
  • Allowing long-term group projects to be centered on student voice and choice and student-driven goal setting.

Check out Y4Y’s Icebreaker Activities and Student Goal Setting and Reflection – Middle School.

Students ages 12-15 are completing puberty, growing critical of adults and siblings, may thrive on conflict ranging from intellectual debate to serious rebellion, and becoming anxious for the future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Firmly establishing your program as a safe space for different opinions and life experiences while fostering constructive debates about society and the world around your students.
  • Forging deeper trust and connections with students while maintaining healthy boundaries between adults and teens.
  • Offering a wide variety of career pathway activities to broaden students’ horizons and help them to envision themselves as successful adults.

Check out Y4Y’s Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints Checklist and Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook.

Students ages 15-18 are physically mature or nearly so, likely to be feeling strong emotions like anger or loneliness even if those emotions aren’t always obvious, and are increasingly able to take everything they’ve learned to make decisions about their future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Encouraging initiative and leadership skills in your program and beyond.
  • Continuing to educate students on all aspects of lifelong health and wellness, centered on better understanding themselves and their own needs, and making good choices in much more “adult” arenas.
  • Offering guidance through the practical aspects of career pathway choices such as test prep, college or apprenticeship applications, or speaking with military recruiters.

Check out Y4Y’s Youth Leadership Roles tool and Student Self-Assessment: Late Adolescence.

No Such Thing as a Spoiled Child

It may be decades before we can successfully remove the term “spoiled” from the long list of adjectives we might use for children. But as a youth worker, you understand better than most that term simply means that expectations on a child do not match what is developmentally appropriate for them. Often you are aware of why this might be the case for the students in your program. But raising these princes and princesses to be their best selves is an honor you share with their parents, so remember to team up with tools like Y4Y’s Sample Caregiver Survey and Partnering With Families for Healthy Child Development Training to Go.

One day your students will rule the world. We’ll all benefit from them ruling wisely.



April 20, 2018

The start of summer is a good time for 21st CCLC programs to focus on prevention. Why? Because most first-time use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco among adolescents under age 18 happens in June or July. This finding comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health. During these months, young people are usually out of school, with more free time and less adult supervision than usual. 
 
That’s why National Prevention Week is held during the third week of May each year. The purpose is to bring together communities and organizations across the country to raise awareness about the importance of substance abuse prevention and mental health. To get involved, consider partnering with your school to host prevention-themed events before the school year ends. 
 
There are many ways your program can raise awareness about this important issue among students and their families. Here are a few ideas and resources from the Y4Y Family Engagement course:
  • Direct families to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, where they can get information and resources or call 1-800-DRUGFREE to talk with a trained parent counselor. If their child is struggling with substance abuse, the counselor can help them develop an action plan.
  • Download tip sheets and other customizable materials to share with families from SAMHSA’s campaign against underage drinking, Talk. They Hear You. Also, let families know about an app called Start the Talk. Parents can use this interactive app to learn the do’s and don’ts of talking with young people about underage drinking. (Your program staff might find it helpful as well!)
  • Refer families to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Family Checkup website, where they can learn about five critical parenting skills that are linked to drug-free childhood, youth development and healthy family relationships. The checkup includes a video clip with positive and negative examples of each skill, such as handling emotional conflicts, along with additional information and videos parents can use for practice.
 
Additional resources to support your program’s efforts around drug and alcohol prevention are available on Y4Y.
 
Prevention, of course, is a year-round concern. The work your program does every day to strengthen community, school and family bonds can help protect young people from substance abuse.