Slashed budgets for extra-curricular activities have greatly trimmed the opportunities for kids to participate in school sports, glee or drama clubs, and a variety of hands-on pursuits that satisfy curious minds and provide physical outlets for bodies brimming with excess energy. At the same time, parents have become increasingly reluctant to relegate their kids to endless hours of screen time, preferring to see them interacting with young peers in adult-supervised environments that provide creative enrichment or physical challenges. The greater Boston area is particularly blessed with a rich menu of choices for parents seeking to ensure that the learning doesn’t stop when their kids close their books or their laptops at the end of a school day. These are the best and most interesting after-school options the city has to offer.
Buddhaful Kids Yoga
Laughing Dog Yoga Studio
159 Linden St.
Wellesley, MA 02482
Price: $150 for each eight-week session
Mary Kaye Chryssicas, who describes herself as a “kid at heart,” teaches yoga classes for kids ages 7 to 12 and teens ages 13 to 17 every Tuesday throughout the school year, except for school vacation weeks. Her judgment-free classes are particularly popular with teens, who learn breathing and meditation techniques that relieve stress and enhance self-esteem. Mary Kaye also hosts yoga-themed birthday parties and will even come to slumber parties to lead gentle yoga before kids turn in for bed.
Create A Cook
53 Winchester St.
Newton Highlands, MA 02461
Price: $229 for each five-week session
Create A Cook offers cooking classes for kids as young as 3-years-old (with their parents), who learn the basics of measuring and recognizing symbols and also crack eggs, mix ingredients and experience a variety of textures and tastes. Kids ages 6 to 9 learn the basic science of cooking as they create their own pizza dough and watch how it rises. Older kids spend two hours each week exploring culinary cultures, creating recipes and even planning menus. It also offers one-week summer sessions for kids ages 7 to 10 and 11 to 15, in which young chefs prepare dinner for a family of five as well.
Related: Boston’s Best Kids Cooking Classes
Brookline Arts Center
86 Monmouth St.
Brookline, MA 02446
Prices: $228 to $269 for each nine-week session
Kids enter a whimsical world in which they can create their hearts’ desires at the Brookline Arts Center, which offers a cornucopia of after-school classes for kids of all ages to explore a variety of media. Budding artists as young as 4 years old may learn the basics of painting and drawing, play with clay or papier mache, or fashion moveable monsters out of recycled materials. Older kids experiment with clay sculpture or wheel throwing, create kiln-baked pottery, or design their own story or comic books. Teens may discover how to fashion original copper and brass jewelry.
Boston Children’s Museum
308 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02210
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays until 9 p.m.
There are at least 100 activities for kids at the Children’s Museum, limited only by their imagination and inclination. They’ll learn to make shadow puppets, watch a KidStage play, visit with hermit crabs, build a sandcastle, play steel drums, play pinball, pilot an airplane, ride on a glass elevator, use a jackhammer and even decorate a cake. Interacting with the other onsite kids makes each visit new and different and a great way for parents to find like-minded families. The museum advises parents remember less is more here, so allow kids to spend inordinate amounts of time fixated on one exhibit to get the most out of each visit.
Guard Up! Afterschool Program
103 Terrace Hall Ave.
Burlington, MA 01803
Hours: 12 to 8 weekends 10-6, 12-4 sun
Call for prices. Scholarships available.
Guard Up! Offers kids and teens the opportunity to escape from the real world and engage in fantasy adventures each day after school, using foam swords and Nerf blasters to fight make-believe monsters. The program’s van will pick kids up from schools in Bedford, Billerica, Burlington and Lexington. At the 7,200-square-foot facility in Burlington, they’ll first have a snack and do their homework, and then change into costumes to enter magical and mystical realms to stretch their imaginations and test their inner resources, all in a safe, supervised environment. Taking a neurological approach to development through play, Guard Up! focuses on development through creative thinking.
Related: Tutoring Resources in Boston
Maureen Harmonay wears many hats. She is a real estate agent who specializes in country estates, antique homes, and horse properties in the metrowest suburbs of Boston. With certifications in Feng Shui and as an Eco-Broker, she is keenly attuned to how energy affects the health of a home and its occupants, both humans and pets. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.