Creative Ideas for School Age Programs! Pg. 1

CREATIVE means… Original, resourceful, imaginative, inspired, artistic, inventive, ingenious, innovative, productive, having vision, freshness, novel, unique…. Do you have any ideas that suit the word “creative”?

Below are some activities from about the site–to get you going…

Barb Shelby


Choose 1 day a month to try a different type of food. Go through cookbooks with the kids and put together a shopping list of international foods aisle items…. Or, go to the produce department to find fruits and vegetables from other countries to try.
You also can go through the newspaper’s local restaurant review section with your kids and choose an ethnic restaurant where you can pick up specialties to try…

As the children try the new food, talk about how they are the same or different from what they usually eat. What are the different tastes? What are the different ingredients?

PLAN A HEALTHY HEART DAY! (Read this, it’s fun!)

Celebrate a “healthy” heart with fun, aerobic activities that get children up and moving. You may want to set up several skill stations; this is an idea adapted from Celebration Games: Physical Activities for Every Month (2006 Human Kinetics).


  • Step Aerobics Station:  Set up four or five step aerobic steppers and music.
  • Healthy Heart Station: Demonstrate several aerobic exercises and have children perform three aerobic exercises of their choice at this station (ie. jumping jacks, jumping rope, jogging in place)
  • Cholesterol Game:  Pictures of both high and low cholesterol foods are taped down. Children throw beanbags underhand from a throw line at low cholesterol foods.
  • Blood Pressure: Make a sign that says “normal blood pressure 120/80” and tape down pictures of things that can raise blood pressure such as smoking, unhealthy foods, lack of exercise and stress. Children THROW BEANBAGS UNDERHAND from a throw line at the things that will raise blood pressure. (You can put point values on targets and total points)
  • A healthy, yummy snack table at culmination of activity.

Divide the children into groups and disperse them evenly among the stations. Place them in a numerical order and have them keep this order for all stations. Set the number of tries for each turn and announce when it is time to rotate to the next station. Leave ample space between stations and advise children not to stand in the throwing areas. Adapted and expanded upon from: School-age Note of the Day- 2/5/07


Can you find or borrow one or two good quality stethoscopes?
Show children how to use the stethoscopes to listen to their heart beat. Show them how to tap out the rhythm of their heart: lub-dub-lub-dub.

If young—Ask children if they can think of any way to change how fast their hearts are beating.
For all kids—Have them jog in place for several minutes, then have them recheck the rhythm beats of their hearts.

Extended Activity:
Are any of your parents or friends a nurse or doctor? Ask him/her to visit your group and bring in a stethoscope. Have the visitor talk to the kids about keeping their hearts strong and healthy. (With exercise, good food and sleep!)

START A BOOK” of RECORDS~ Your own Guinness Book of Records!!! 
This one is a winner! Keep your own SAC book of records and have the kids try to set records for things such as:

  • Most jumping jacks
  • Jumps in jump roping
  • Running laps in gym
  • Running laps outside
  • Most crafts made for the month or year
  • Longest handstand
  • Most books read, puzzles completed, etc.
  • Anything else that you can think of.

Example for “Book of Records”…
ALL IN ONE! Group Activity: Stand in a circle holding hands. One person is in the middle. That person in the middle calls in some one–one at a time. The goal is to see how many people you can fit in the middle—without breaking hands. Use this yearly to see if each new year can beat previous years!

  • When kids seem to be tired of this activity give them a new record to break and a fun reward if they set a new record!
  • Be sure to make this a yearly ongoing event—NEW records can be set each year!!!
  • TIP: Remember–with something like this–CONSISTENCY is the key!

TWO BEGINNING OF THE YEAR IDEAS! Creative Fun from the ‘Back to School’ Category’!!!


I do an opening week activity that also takes care of a bulletin board for the first month or so. I cut several block shapes (like cement blocks) out of brightly colored paper. On each, I write a declarative statement.

  • I love broccoli. I have broken a bone. I went ice-skating this summer. I have been in another country. I have met someone famous. Be creative with your statements!

Sometime during the first few days, I pass them around and students sign all blocks that apply to them. I sign them also, then circulate them through the rest of the teaching staff, the administrators, the cafeteria workers, custodians, crossing guards, playground aides, etc. It usually takes  about a week to get them all back.

I then “build” a wall with them on a bulletin board under a banner I made on the computer that says “Building New Friendships.”

Whenever visitors come into our classroom, I ask them to sign the appropriate blocks, also. This is really a conversation starter and helps the kids find common areas of interest with people they might not have thought of otherwise. Idea of Tami Knight on ‘Classroom Displays and Bulletin Boards’ by Barbara Colvin


1. On one of the first days of school– take each child’s picture.
2. Make double prints and laminate each photograph.
3. Make a Memory Game out of the pictures of the kids. (The children would play the game of Memory just like the regular game)

After a few weeks, save one copy of photos for your program ‘Memory Book’ or if this is for a classroom–give to parents!
Cut the other set of photographs and make a personal puzzle for each child. Submitted by Ilene/California

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THE RECYCLED MATERIAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS THE CHILDREN MAKE? There are MORE than 23 instruments that you can make in the Homemade Musical Instruments Category.

DON’T JUST MAKE an instrument from recycled items. Take it further; how about starting a program Green Band?

  • Invite children to join the MUSICAL GROUP playing/singing/making noise!

Practice, practice, practice……….Too noisy–practice outside!!!
Then put on a show for a school assembly, a few of the classrooms and/or a Parents’ Night! You can also take the group “on the road” and entertain an assisted living facility or other community groups.

Celebrate an annual SAY SOMETHING NICE DAY! (All Ages)

On “Say Something Nice Day’ notice something you like about a person and tell them. Declare a day in your program that this is Say Something Nice Day. Each participant promises to approach one person that day and finish the sentence:
“One of the things I like about you is ________________.”
When you are back together at the end of the day, share your experiences.


The city of Metropolis, Ill., honors its most-famous resident, Superman, from June 12-15. The Superman character has been a part of pop culture for more than 60 years. Talk with the children in your program about Superman and other super heros. (This can be any time of the year! It doesn’t have to be in June.)

For a fun activity, have the children in your program come up with a superhero they can be.

  • What superpower or powers will they have?
  • How will they design their costumes?
  • What will be their superhero name?
  • Why are they fun to read about and watch?
  • How are they different from us?
  • Depending on the age of the children in your program, you can have the children write paragraphs about their creation, draw pictures, create comic strips or a combination.
  • For more fun, BE PREPARED TO SHARE with the children the superhero you’ve created for YOURSELF!  Source: school-age-note-of-the-day June 11, 2008


Help youth in your program appreciate diversity. Celebrate with an eclectic dinner featuring cuisine from different countries or geographical regions. Serve Puerto Rican rice-and-beans, Boston clam chowder, a Chinese stir-fry, and peach pie …The variations on this theme are endless, and the dinner doesn’t need to be time-consuming.

You can achieve almost the same effect by stopping for TAKEOUT from Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, and your local pizza parlor (Italian or Greek).

A very large program in Montclair, N.J. (38 staff and 225 childen attending daily) offers a PAJAMA CLUB!

  • On Friday nights, staff members operate a pajama club for all students and their siblings– 3 years of age and older. The pajama club offers parents a night out from 7:00 pm–10:00 pm — twice a month for a charge of $12 per child, paid in advance.
  • Children are encouraged to come dressed in their pajamas for stories, art, and music.
  • Every month, the club “travels” to a different country and explores it together.
  • Local restaurants have begun to offer discounts for families whose children participate in the club.


By participating in a Flat Stanley project, children can enhance their literacy skills, make new friends and learn more about the world. This project, inspired by Jeff Brown’s book Flat Stanley, involves children creating their own paper Flat Stanleys to be sent on a journey.

Children can take their new paper friend to their home, to the homes of friends and relatives and to local points of interest. Children can then write about the travels and experiences of their Flat Stanley in a journal.

The program can be extended by swapping Flat Stanleys with another program or having children mail their Flat Stanley and journal to visit a friend or relative in another city/state for a few days. Flat Stanley should be accompanied by a letter introducing the project. (You can also now connect digitally with a Flat Stanley App)

You can learn more about the Flat Stanley project and find a Flat Stanley template on The Official Flat Stanley Project website  

The following are three ideas by Christine Holtz – winner of the 2008 AfterSchoolPRO Quest for Excellence Award. Christine has worked in afterschool for more than 16 years and is a School Age Program Assistant – Target Level at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, AZ.

The children made BLUE-PRINTS ALLTHE WAY DOWN TO THE LANDSCAPING, and determining the kind and amount of materials needed. This required the children to come together to problem solve, debate, and compromise on different aspects of the plan. Then the construction phase started.
Children learned quickly that they needed to measure and calculate in order for their home to be accurate. Through this one project alone, children learned logical sequence, valuable communication skills, math, and teamwork.


  • Here children apply for PROGRAM JOBS such as tour guides: Kids assist in orientation of incoming families.
  • Zoo Keeper: Children maintain program pets.
  • Community Leader: Children make calls to set up community projects and office assistant…
  • These are only a few. After  children apply, the oldest interview applicants and fill the positions.
    This is a great ongoing activity demonstrating REAL LIFE SKILLS they will soon encounter as young adults joining the workforce.

#3 Another innovative idea developed due to the extreme summer heat in Arizona and the limitation of the children to enjoy the great outdoors. This was no challenge to Christine. She brought the outside in with an overnight camping area in the Drama Center. The children’s imaginations soared when tents went up, sleeping bags went down, and a paper fireplace was created. Their imagination led to surrounding the camp with rocks and caves and a fishing hole.

We are an after-school program in a museum, so we probably differ from many programs, but we do offer a number of special programming activities, including having the kids share and display their own collections in the museum (Pokemon cards, rocks, dolls, t-shirts, etc…)

It’s a GREAT WAY for kids to understand the importance of capturing part of the legacy of their childhood and learning why museums collect and preserve objects.

We also have Sleep Overs in the museum based on  thematic subjects such as dinosaurs, whales, mammals, Adirondack mountains, immigration, Women’s history, etc… We run educational activities for kids and their chaperons until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. (Art & crafts, museum education programs with lots of objects & artifacts to examine & explore, free time in the museum and usually a music or story telling program to close the evening.) Then campers bed down in the exhibit gallery and when they awake, we provide breakfast and a scavenger hunt through the museum before they go home at 9:00 a.m.

Our kids often make their own MINI MOVIES about particular exhibits. We are a natural history museum that also features the social history of NY State. Kids often don’t see the relevance of history to their lives, so we charge the kids with making a movie about a particular period, as evidenced in a museum exhibit. Examples might include: Harlem in the 1920’s, Ellis Island, Native Peoples of NY State, whales or other animal-related exhibits, etc. The kids have to conduct some research to gain background knowledge before writing scripts, creating story boards, assembling costumes, rehearsing and practicing camera work, etc. They suddenly become “experts” on a particular subject and often ask to interview curators, scientists, historians or other experts so that they can “get it right” for their films! (Stephanie Miller, Director of Youth Services, New York State Museum)

 Take any ‘Kid Activities’ Theme-and turn it into a club!
Why Should You?

  • Community spirit grows as mixed-ages interact
  • Children interact with those they may not know
  • Social skills & creativity are nurtured
  • Older help the younger
  • Younger learn from the older
  • New skills are learned; learning is integrated
  •  Mixed-ages are supported

  (From Tasha Palmer, California)

I called this the STAR FISH CLUB; my theme for the year was Oceans of Fun!Basically,  I  created a poster with 84 questions the children needed to answer/research/do.The students could answer as many as they wanted to. None of the questions were theme based–but random. I used some of the questions from the website, but I also incorporated character education and various languages, math skills, etc. – Knowing how many of my students struggled with telling time or multiplication (from the previous year) I included that topic as well.

I would create worksheets and put on the board “Question 17—See Ms. Tasha for a worksheet on telling time.” … I had grade level sheets so I could make it harder for my upper grades than lower grades. During homework time if a child had no homework or finished their homework, they would have time to work on the questions.

Students were entered into the HALL OF FAME for answering one question. There were special prizes for MEETING MILESTONES such as 24 or 48 questions. At the end of the school year, I had a SPECIAL DINNER for the families of those students who completed the awards.

Throughout the year, I would have SPECIAL DAYS for “Hall of Famers” as an added incentive and to keep the kids motivated. It was so much fun!

The kids really got into it and so did their parents. My students learned so much and really enhanced some of the skills. Their teachers were excited and willingly stayed after school to help research some of it.
…what was even better was the kids didn’t see it as more homework but as FUN! From Tasha Palmer in California 
I adapted this idea from a school teacher in Oregon. (See website:


  • As for tracking the answers the children gave-I created a system in which the students wrote their answer on a sheet of lined paper to include their full name and what number they are answering.
  • I wouldn’t accept any papers without this information.
  • I also had a box next to the board that the students submitted their work. Each morning I would go through the questions, check them, write comments, and on a star chart next to the child’s name (which they can’t get their name on the chart until they answered the first question) I would write what number they have completed. They were then able to always see which ones they have completed and also how many they have completed.
  • I would then have one of my students pass they answers back in the PM with my comments.
  • The box was left out during the day so at anytime the students could turn them in. They knew I would not be returning them until the next day. It really only took about 10 minutes in the morning as not all of the students were doing it. I did this with 125 students ages 1st – 5th grade.


A picture of gumby made out of clay with red eyes. My name is Erika Thiel, I am the 4-H Program Coordinator in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Over the

past four years I have been able to offer an Art & Technology program where we make claymation movies and also do image manipulation – the list goes on and on.

At any rate, I utilize Image blender and Video Blender programs from Tech4Learning (ages range from K-12). Tech4Learning provides the software and site licenses for multiple computers AND lesson plans; the software doesn’t come free but I feel it has paid for itself with the amount of resources they provide. In addition, the lesson plans address National Education standards. For more information click here.

DOES YOUR PROGRAM HAVE A SWAT TEAM? SWAT stands for students who assist teachers.

SWAT members help students, staff, and parents before and after school and during special events. Students receive training in matters such as courteous greetings, assisting others, and maintaining a safe environment. One school (Deer Park Elementary in Texas) believes this is instrumental in helping promote an atmosphere that is orderly and friendly in their school. This is different than the school safety team. SWAT is something your program could provide and then have members offer their services for school functions.


Council Bluffs Community School District


Students work with peers in small groups to create web pages, display boards, performances, and compositions related to historical events/people. Teams of students present their project at a local competition and have the opportunity to go on to regional and national competitions. They also explore careers related to the area of history. Research, literacy, team work, problem solving are skills that are honed in this club.

Teams of students create model solar cars, culminating in a race in May. The program focuses on math, science and technology. Grand prize winners receive a trophy, gift certificate to “Discover” and are featured in a local newspaper story.

Students receive training in website development, digital design, digital photography, interviewing skills and writing. Students create a CD and their own personal web site, and they interview information technology professionals in the community.

Students meet once per week and also on two Saturdays to focus on environmental issues and how they relate to students’ lives. Students hike, climb ropes, learns how to survive in the wild, and explore careers related to the environment, sports and physical education. Literacy, team work, health sciences, environmental sciences are all skills acquired in the club.

Students work in teams to create digital video documentaries. They learn how to create a story board and interview people, use a digital camcorder and create a CD. They tour TV stations and have speakers come in a talk about careers in communication and technology fields.

Parents and students attend weekly evening sessions to discuss selected books. Dinner and baby sitting are provided. Participants keep the books at the end of the program

A picture of a transition display board. Different cutouts pasted to the board. TRANSITION BOARD: Have a ______(Blank) of the Day–Each and Every Day!

It’s fun to have a daily program or classroom feature where there is a “_______ (blank) of the Day! ”
This could be a doodle, riddle, trick question, joke, definition of a word or quote.

Brains crave variety and incorporating activities such as this, will certainly go towards some cognitive variety!

Each month or week, change out “What the _____of the Day” will be!  As written above, it could be the puzzle, a word definition, riddle, trick question, or quote. Great for all school ages to high school! Just put the _______on a black board or white board near the room entrance. By the end of the day—discuss guesses and answers.

….if you’re taking the time to look at the sample board to the left–the answers are: Period in History, Reading between the lines, Long underwear, Eggs over easy, I understand, Down town, Paradise or Pair of dice!

It’s fun to see how many more ideas of your own that you and the kids can come up with! Board by BShelby-KidActivities

GUESS THE PERSON, ANIMAL OR THING! (This could be  a version of “Have a  ______ of the Day!”

1. Using a picture of an animal, children’s character or personality, cover the entire picture with puzzle pieces to hide identifying features.

2. Take one piece off at a time; children guess who/what is underneath.

3. This can be done as a group game, individual or team play. It could also be set up in a special daily spot–with guesses being made as removed pieces reveal who/what it is!

4. Depending on how you play this-points can be added or subtracted. The most points of course going to the individual or team who correctly guesses with the least amount of puzzle pieces removed!

Be sure to check out the Transition/Sponge activities and games…More than 75 ideas!!! Don’t make kids sit/stand and wait. Have fun whenever you  have some “down time”…