After School Programs for Pre-Teens & Young Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • My daughter just started her junior year at Berkeley High and is looking for things to do after school (she is not at all interested sports). She is thinking about looking for a very part-time job, maybe in one of the used book stores downtown. Have any parents had teens do this and, if so, do you have any advice?  She would also be interested in finding out about meaningful volunteer opportunities nearby. She does a lot of art on her own but has never taken a formal class, so she'd love recommendations for that as well. She needs to go somewhere that is an easy bus ride (or walk) from BHS. Thanks in advance for your help!

    We had this issue too. No sports so what to do after school. My daughter took art classes at Liv and Chiu and also at the Walt Disney Museum in San Francisco (your child wouldn't make it to that one on time if she can't get a ride.) I wouldn't recommend a job in downtown, but only because you have a lot of mentally unstable folks to deal with (I know this from experience). Maybe she can find a job like somewhere on Solano Ave which she could take the bus to. Not sure they'll do it this year but employment through  the city program Youth Works is also great. My daughter worked at the Kala Art Institute for 8 weeks one year through that program. 

    The Berkeley Public Library has volunteer opportunities and sometimes paid jobs for teens--see

    Hi, I suggest your daughter apply to work in the afterschool programs at one of the elementary schools in Berkeley.  We need and value our young playground and activity supervisors.  

    What about working at Trader Joe's, just a few blocks from BHS? I just heard from a friend that her daughter, an Oakland high school student, got a part time job at the TJs in Oakland. Not sure if they are hiring at the one in Berkeley but it seems like it could be a positive, educational work experience. 

  • Hi,

    I will be moving to Walnut Creek in a month's time (in the Tice Creek/ Rossmoor area). My daughter is starting High School there (9th grade). While I can drop her to Las Lomas High School every morning, I don't have a way for her to return home on her own as I will be working in SF at least 2-3 days a week. She used to take a bus back from school, where I currently live. Is there an after school pickup/ drop off service that can drop her off home from Las Lomas High School? Any other solution that folks have used? 


    Does she/would she do a sport? Most Sports meet right after school for 2-3 hours. For Las Lomas the Sports are as follows (I copied and pasted from the Las Lomas Boosters page). Notably, Cross Country in the Fall, and Swimming and Track & Field, are no-cut which means she can just sign up and start with no prior experience. It's also an awesome way to meet kids, develop friendships, and integrate into high school. 

    FALL Boys Water Polo, Cheer, Cross Country, FootballGirls Golf, Girls Tennis, Girls Volleyball, Girls Water PoloWINTER Boys Basketball, Boys Soccer, Girls Basketball, Girls Soccer, WrestlingSPRINGBaseballBoys Lacrosse,, Boys Tennis, Boys Volleyball, Competitive Sport Cheer, Girls Lacrosse, Softball, Swimming + Diving, Track and Field

    We carpooled until my kids could drive. It’s tough to find a carpool when you just moved, but you could join the Facebook group (each class has their own) or try nextdoor to find other families that live near you.  Maybe reach out to the parent advisors for your class to see if they know anyone. 

  • We are new to the area.  I work full-time.  After school program at school has no openings, and I am told that the older kids tend not to like to go anymore.  My daughter is currently in 5th grade.  The after school programs that I have found, while they say they take kids up til 5th grade, really only have little kids and are run more like pre-schools.  Would like something music and sports based, not more academics.  What programs do you recommend?  Thank you

    No responses received.

  • My 12-yr-old started middle school, has lots of homework and stress, and is no longer very interested in the highly structured after school activities he has done for a few years (martial arts) and does not want to be on a competitive team. He says he just wants to play games and have fun, like tag, dodgeball, maybe occasional for-fun-only team sport. This would be twice a week or so. His middle school doesn't have this.

    Is there any venue for middle-school kids who want to "just play" after school, without commitment to a team and without strong competition? So many kids play club sports and are so specialized, anyone have suggestions for simply fun, physical after school play? 

    My son is 13 and has started to really enjoy playing with the neighborhood kids. He enjoys riding bikes and scooters, running around with walkie talkies, playing catch ( older kid type play) I'm enjoying seeing this because I think it takes a element of creativity to just get outside and play. If that's not well developed in your neighborhood, maybe things like Boy Scouts or church youth groups could help him get to know others who live nearby?

Archived Q&A and Reviews




Getting 12-year-old to afterschool activities

Dec 2012

Hi, Does anyone know where I can find a driver who can drive my 11 years old to her after school activities? I will need from 3 to 6 pm time period. Monday to Friday. Best, Susan

Have you posted to the BPN Childcare digest? I always see people advertising this type of service. Craigslist is another good place to look or place an ad. TC

Try the UC Berkeley job bulletin board. It is free to post a job offering. We did this a few years back (looking for an early morning driver), and it worked out well with a dependable college senior who also did some evening babysitting. Dan

6th grader: too old for day care?

Jan 2002

Looking for advice/ideas. My responsible and trustworthy 11-year-old has hit the "too old for day care but not old enough to be on her own" stage (3 hours from the time school gets out until parents get home). What are others out there doing? Thanks for all responses!

My 11 yr old fifth grader stays home alone for 3 hrs after school once a week and has done so since the end of 4th grade. He is very responsible and we have never had a problem. So my first question is are you sure your child's too young? Of course not all 11 yr olds are the same, but I just wanted to offer my experience. I would not want my son to stay home alone every day though, so here are some ideas. Does your child have a friend with a stay-at-home parent or sitter? Perhaps you could pay this person a small amount to care for your child as well? Or a trade, even once a week (you would do your hours on weekend). Does your school offer any after-school activities? If not, maybe you can get involved in organizing some. Finally, if transportation can be worked out and you know of a family daycare who would welcome a young helper, that might be a possibility. My friend paid her daughter's old daycare for after-school care at the same time the daycare provider paid the daughter a small amount for her help:) Or if you know of a family with young children who would want a mother's helper and could pick up your child? My son earned enough money for a Nintendo when he was 10 as a mother's helper and the parents LOVED it. Probably either of these last options would only be good for once a week though. Best of luck in finding a good solution. Deborah

regarding the 11-year-old in need of after school care: My kids attend Berkeley public schools which all have excellent after-school programs that run until 6:oo. The middle school ones are FREE as well! CampJN1

When my daughter made the same request to me a couple of years back, I looked into the afternoon classes offered at our community center and asked her to pick something for at least 4 aftenoons at week. Since the school is close enough to the community center, she and a friend could go there easily on their own and I would pick them up at the end of the class. The 5th day she would spend it at her friend's house. As they have grown older, I have relaxed somehow the number of days that she can be on her own, but I still like to have her participate in afternoon activities at least a couple of afternoons at week. Giulia

 I am so interested in other responses to this question. I have an 11 yr old too, who is constantly pushing the envelope for more independence. It kills her to know that when I was 7 and 8 years old, I was walking home from school alone (over a mile). She constantly asks, "If we lived in ____, would you let me walk alone with my friends?" She screams when she sees groups of kids walking around in Piedmont (this is the reason she wants to live in Piedmont!).

Are there other 6th graders at your daughter's school who are in "day care?" (ie, afterschool program) Maybe if she saw it as a homework club, it would feel differently. My 11 yr old doesn't mind staying at Afterschool because she gets to hang out with her friends, and it also allows her to get her homework out of the way.

She does have a friend (also 11) who is regularly left alone at home, even at night, for several hours. I'm not quite comfortable with that yet. We probably leave her on her own at home, if I am picking up her younger sister, or going food shopping, for up to an hour, but that's it. I heard somewhere (?) that the police consider any child UNDER 12 who is left alone, to be child neglect. But that's a slippery period, in middle school, making that transition. We have had 12 and 13 yr old babysitters! (in the past)

Is it possible for your 11 yr old to go home with another friend, at stay with them (doing homework or hanging out, with supervision) until you're done with work? Or what about other afterschool programs like sports, etc. (my daughter does swim team after school, and now we are negotiating about letting her take public bus from school to pool) Anonymous, please!

10 is the legal age for a kid to be home alone in California. The real question is how mature is your daughter, or rather how responsible. If she knowes not to answer the door or the phone unless given a pre-determined signal, not to have friends over, where to go to get help in case something does happen, that kind of stuff, I sthink it should be alright for her to stay home. If she is afraid to be home alone, that's a different story. My son has been staying home since he was ten, but we have a neighbor who is there in case he needs her so he's not totally alone. He's sixteen now and this arrangement has worked out well. My daughter is 8 and in a before/after school daycare situation. I would prefer to leave her there rather than make her brother bring her home as she has other kids her age to play with and can get homework help as well. It just works out better for her that way and it's only around the corner. My son knows if I'm not home by a certain time he has to bring her home. Marianne

When my boys were this age and younger I hired a nice college student from Cal to hang and help for the afternoon. The young women we had were energetic, smart, athletic and terrific to have around for homework help, music practice, snack making and other afterschool activities. The students felt less like babysitters and more like older, cool friends. I know this is kind of expensive and might not work for all. It was great for us. I ran ads in Daily Cal to hire them. Good Luck Debby

A friend of mine has hired a "tutor" for her 12 and 14 year old, and it seems to work well. He oversees homework and any afterschool activities. I'm pretty sure she's always used UCB students. The kids seem to love it. Good Luck, Susan

Suggestions for 14-year-old boy after school?

Sept 1999

Can anyone suggest afterschool activities that might appeal to my 14-year son, a BHS freshman? Most of his interests seem to be ones for which there are no organized activities - rock music, computers, skateboarding. He is not into team sports, and though he has a YMCA membership, he greatly prefers hanging out with his friends after school to walking over to the Y. Hanging out isn't a problem yet, but I'm worried it could become one as the year progresses, and I can't really leave work every day to meet him at school and make sure he's not getting into trouble. Anyone know the status of the skateboard park the mayor was talking about for a while? Or have other suggestions that have worked for their kids? Thanks - "A mom"

First, did he asked you for ideas? Don't assume he wants them, if he didn't ask... Also, most teens put the highest priority on "hanging out" and socializing with their friends. This is normal and ok! Our teen hangs out with his friends all the time. We regularly have one or more stay for dinner so they can continue to hang out if there's no big homework required, and that way we get to know his friends too. They also play computer games together at our house, or go to the arcade. If your son is into computer stuff, there are plenty of interactive games he could be playing with kids/people who are friends from here and from all over the world (using the internet). (9/99)

Have you heard about Berkeley Bear Swimming? Its a private swim club for school-age kids, with structured workouts and competition. My 15 year-old daughter loves it. The high-school kids work out at West Campus after school and there is a group that takes the bus from BHS, so transportation is easy. You can get more info from the head coach, Daryn Glasgow, 925-299-9411, or the office manager Janice Price, 510-724-0529. There is a website (which is partially under construction) (9/99)

I have an 11 year old daughter who needs something to do after school too. She doesn't really need a caretaker and, being a single parent, I cannot afford expensive programs, but she is a little too young to stay alone. I was hoping to find someone who cares for small children to let her be a helper.That way she would gain supervised babysitting experience (she loves younger children), I would have somewhere for her to go after school, and the caretaker would have some assistance. Does anyone know anyone who might be interested in a situation like this?


This is always a tough one. There's lots for grade school kids and then the high school teens have their own school stuff. There's a real void for middle school teens. Some thoughts though are:

1. Young Actors Workshop (YAW) with Drama Dept. at Contra Costa College. It's free. The fall program has already started but keep an eye for their auditions in November. There's always some kids from King Jr. High who are in it and carpools are set up.

2. Berkeley YMCA - teen membership for $19/month. There's other sports activities too.

3. Edible Schoolyard at King. I am not sure if this is a class project or after school.

4. There are baseball and basketball teams around.

5. Bear Swim Team. After school every day from 4-5:15 PM at King Pool. No try outs.

6. Jobs: Mowing lawns, yard work, around the house helper.

7. King Jr. High will have some afterschool classes when their GATE program starts. It is open to all students.

Good luck!


I suppose I should be completely hardened about this by now, but it still amazes me that communities worry and complain so much about teenage kids on the streets and yet continue to be unwilling to provide safe and fun afterschool activities for them. We were just discussing this at the office the other day--about how difficult afterschool care becomes during the middle school years. Two people in my office whose children just made the jump from elementary to middle school (thereby losing access to on-site afterschool programs) have reduced their time at work or otherwise arranged convoluted flex schedules in order to be at home with their kids because there are no accessible, affordable afterschool programs for 12-13-year-olds that don't involve a lot of chauffering on the part of the parents. Not everyone can exercise that type of option at their jobs. Enough griping--on to suggestions. The UC Village Community Center may have some afterschool activities for teens, if your son can get there easily. Is there any possibility of getting him involved in a volunteer capacity in a field that he likes (helping in a sports or arts program for young children, for example, or volunteering through the Senior Center to help elderly people with caring for their pets)? Best of luck!


The Albany Recreation Center, at Marin and Masonic, next to the Albany Library, has some after school activities.