School Aged Childcare - Programme of Activities & STEM

Hi everyone…. Welcome back to our series of blog posts on the National Quality Guidelines for School Age Childcare.

This is our first post of 2022, but if you want to catch up on last year’s posts – see: 

Environment in School Aged Settings

School aged childcare: Nurturing relationships and supportive interactions


If you haven’t already got a copy of the Guidelines – you can download them from here:



In this blog we will take a closer look at Guideline 6 – Programme of Activities, which looks at play, recreation, rest and supporting homework. We are also going to look into how STEM (Science, Technology. Engineering and Maths) can be introduced to children and young people.


6.1 Planning for Play

Planning for Play and recreation within an SAC service is so important in order to support children’s well-being and development. In the guidelines the importance is placed on collaboration and the active involvement of the children in the development of the routine and programme of activities. There are many meaningful ways that children can be encouraged to share their ideas, opinions and likes/ dislikes including – writing or drawing their ideas, group storming sessions, creating vision boards of activities they like using papers, magazines and drawings and discussions. Asking children and families how they feel about their routine and what they like / dislike can give a good insight on how to support the transition from school to School Age Service, for example – children may be hungry when they arrive and like a snack before they begin their homework, or the younger children may prefer to have a rest and a story when they arrive.

6.2 – Programme of Activities

Every programme of activities should incorporate lots of opportunity for play with a wide range of toys, materials and resources as well as planned activities that the children can choose to join in if they wish. For children and young people, the activities on offer should be age and stage appropriate and be relevant to their likes and dislikes.

6.3 - Play

The importance of play can never be underestimated and the more we offer children and young people, the more opportunities they have to develop skills and hobbies, gain independence and learn to take initiative and develop a range of learning dispositions. Outdoor play is very important to children and young people and particular attention should be paid to giving them the time and space to play games and sports.

Types of Play: Art (painting, drawing and sketching, clay modelling, playdough) creative arts including dancing, singing, song writing, performing, drama reading stories) group games and games with rules (board games, ball games) construction play (creating, building, planning and development) technology and science (STEM activities, coding kits, robotics etc) physical play (to develop physical skills and abilities and to encourage interest in new sports and outdoor activities)


4 – Rest and Relaxation

After a long day in school and the transition to the service, children and young people often need to rest and relax. Rest and Relaxation is critical for children and young people and School Age Childcare should try to provide areas where children can relax and rest, either independently, or engage with activities such as yoga, storytelling etc that give children that downtime that they need. Children can be encouraged to avail of mindfulness activities to relax and sooth when they need it and also engage with structured mindfulness activities.


6.5 – Resources and Equipment

The resources and equipment of a School Age Childcare service should firstly be age and stage appropriate – furniture should be suitable for example tables and chairs that are the correct size for when they are doing homework and other seated activities. There should be a wide range of resources to cover all types of play and enquiry. Consulting with children is a great way to get an insight into the activities and games that they are interested in and would like to see in their service – perhaps they would like some more open-ended materials that can be used for construction or they would like mor real life materials for their home corner. Not all resources and materials have to be brand new or expensive and including children in the discussion of sourcing and purchasing new materials is a great way to encourage appreciation of and care for their environment and materials.


6.6 – Supporting Children and Young people’s Homework

Supporting children and young people in completing their homework is not a regulatory requirement however many School Age Childcare services do offer this. If your service does support homework it is important to have a homework policy that is agreed by all parties and that parents take full responsibility for checking and signing off on homework each day. Some simple ways to support homework is to have some resources in the homework area that children can use and engage with, for example – numeracy materials for counting, sorting, matching etc, books. It is also worthwhile to think about the balance between homework and play.

So, what is STEM, why is it relevant to my service and how can I implement it??

Firstly, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – these are 4 areas, experts believe, are critical to engage with as a modern world, for economic prosperity and advancement.

But let’s think about the children in our services – what is the benefit to them? Providing children and young people with the opportunity to engage with STEM resources and activities gives them the opportunity to develop interest and skills in these areas, helps them to develop research and inquiry skills as well as a variety of other learning dispositions from a young age. STEM learning allows children to learn in a hands-on way, to ask questions, to test theories and hypothesis, to challenge thinking and to develop their own ideas and theories.


How do I set up STEM, what should it look like and do I need the latest technology?

The very nature of STEM is that it is hands on and allows for engagement with materials and resources. Services could set up a STEM “Lab” – a room, a corner, a shelving unit or really any area that can be facilitated within the service. This area would be where children and young people could work and explore STEM materials and resources. It also doesn’t have to be expensive – most materials can be recyclable materials and unwanted household items donated by staff and parents – as the saying goes “One Man’s Trash is another Man’s Treasure”.

What can I put into a STEM Lab: Open ended / recyclable materials, tools and materials for creating and making (glue, cello tape, staplers, paper clips, scissors) tools for measurement (rulers, measuring tapes, containers of various shape and size, kitchen utensils, funnels, scales, cubes and counters). Tools / Technology to assist exploration (torches, compass, calculators, camera, magnifying glass, bug catchers) Loose part materials and resources (nuts and bolts, magnets, Resources for recording – notebooks, white boards and markers, chart paper, stickers, labels, markers, pencils, highlighters) Ingredients for baking to allow children to see chemical changes


The key is to start small and develop the STEM provision on an ongoing basis – start with a selection of materials and add to them over time and as you being to observe children’s interests. As you observe children engaging with STEM you will being to see their interest, likes and dislikes etc. You may want to offer children activities based on what you have observed or children may want to further investigate something they have learned in school or at home. There are so many wonderful opportunities to introduce STEM learning activities and the routine can be created to be flexible enough to allow further or continued exploration depending on the child or young person’s interests and abilities. There are also many online resources that offer fantastic ideas and inspiration some of which are linked below.


How does STEM fit into the new SAC guidelines.

STEM provision has the potential to fit in seamlessly with the SAC guidelines. The guidelines promote a child centred approach and highlight the importance of collaborating with children and young people – listening to their voices and allowing them to be part of the planning of activities. When children engage with STEM materials, they are autonomous as they are choosing for themselves, from a wide variety of materials, what they would like to engage with. STEM does not replace outdoor play or creative arts - it can be run alongside these to offer children and young people a rounded and balance programme of activities. STEM allows for individual and group exploration, for children to enquire and explore at their own pace and in relation to their own interests. STEM also allows children to engage with age appropriate and interesting materials and resources, some of which can be used to help support homework. Finally, STEM activities can also be therapeutic and relaxing for children and a great way to wind down after a busy day.


Here are some resources and good websites to help you get started, or, to enhance your STEM provision:


STEM in the classroom – practical tips on implementation


STEM activity ideas / tasks


Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)


Environmentalism in School Age Childcare (Barnardo’s)


Kildare Libraries Science Events Information:,take%20particular%20attention%20to%20aesthetics.