Park and Recreation Out-of-School Time Programs Are Vital for Youth

(December 2, 2021)

Findings published in the 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report

Out-of-school time (OST) programs led by park and recreation professionals have a tremendous impact on children of all ages in communities across the United States, according to a newly released report from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The report shows that more than four in five park and recreation agencies offer OST programs — including before-school, after-school and summer programs — which provide millions of youth with mentoring, physical activity opportunities, educational support and social connections with peers.

The 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report, based on survey responses from 331 park and recreation agency directors and recreation leaders, also reveals the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to innovations in OST programming that will continue into the future. These innovations include more outdoor programming, virtual programming and partnerships with school districts to provide learning support.

The report finds that key benefits of OST programs include:

  • Childcare for working parents and/or caregivers
  • A safe space for children
  • Physical activity through play, exercise and sports
  • Socialization with peers

“Out-of-school time programs offered by park and recreation professionals are essential to the well-being of our youth, and to creating healthy, equitable communities,” said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “This report shows that these professionals are committed to providing high-quality care, and to continuing to expand on current offerings to ensure their programming remains relevant and accessible — especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In addition to the 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report, NRPA offers other OST-related resources for park and recreation professionals who provide these programs, such as the Best Practice Guide for Out-of-School Time Meal Program Models and Sustainabilityand NRPA’s Youth Mentoring Framework. For more information and additional resources, click here.

To read the 2021 NRPA Out-of-School Time Report, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit


About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit