By: Dana Vatafu
School is not always enough to fully enrich your child and teach them the skills they need as an adult. Many times, children need additional activities or stimulation to help them develop their interests and interact with other children on another level. It also doesn’t hurt that extracurricular activities make it easier for you, as a parent, to find some time to get stuff done or relax while your child is out of the house doing something enriching and productive!
The Benefits of Extracurriculars
A healthy routine is good for children, and extracurricular activities help provide them with structure, encourage them to be active in their community, and help keep them away from negative behaviors. Additionally, children involved in at least one extracurricular activity are more likely to have higher grades in comparison to children that do not. Learning to balance their schoolwork load, multiple extracurriculars, and down time also helps in developing invaluable time management skills.
Aside from helping a child develop healthy habits, after school activities can also hold a variety of health benefits, both mentally and physically. There are many activities that encourage exercise and outdoor exploration, such as sports or scouting. Youth who engage in regular exercise or physical activity are at lower risk of developing various health conditions like high cholesterol or blood pressure, low bone density, metabolic syndrome, or obesity. Expanding beyond the physical health benefits, extracurricular activities can also have mental health benefits. Being involved can instill a sense of belonging and improve one’s self-esteem, along with a developed comradery among peers as they grow and develop together. Through time spent as part of a sports team, interest club, or other extracurricular group, adolescents learn about success and failure and feel a sense of achievement from the commitment. This is an important life lesson, and it is beneficial to their mental health. Afterschool activities are associated with higher levels of satisfaction with life and lower levels of screen time and signs of anxiety or depression.
Choosing the Right Extracurriculars
Many parents overload their children with multiple extracurricular activities from the start, possibly because they are unsure what would work best or they want their child to develop a host of different skills. However, this can lead to the child struggling to keep up with the demand of the multitude of activities or they may feel like they aren’t proficient at any of the activities they are involved in. This excessive cycle becomes a waste of time, money, and energy.
How can you choose the right activities for your child for them to gain the most from their experience while also enjoying themselves? This can seem difficult because there are so many different options to choose from. Firstly, it’s important that you really get to know your child. Talking to them regularly and asking them questions about what they like is a great start. This is how you start developing a sense of where your child’s natural talents or interests may lie and pairing them with activities they may be interested in.
Another great way to get to know your child is engaging with them in play. By spending this quality time with them you begin noticing them exhibit certain behaviors. For example, they might start scribbling drawings or banging their hands on the furniture like a drum which could mean they might enjoy art or music lessons. Try only one or two activities at a time and see if they still respond positively to them after a while instead of overloading your child and forcing them to do something they might resent just because it was your dream to see them as a famous musician or baseball player.
Additionally, ask yourself what goals and what skills you are looking for your child to gain through these activities. Do you just want them to engage in social interactions or physical activity on a more routine basis, or would you like them to advance to a higher level maybe someday in a certain skill set? It’s important to think about what the activity involves and what your child may potentially learn from it. Sometimes it’s beneficial to have one activity your child can simply do casually to help with stress relief such as a Drama class at a local community center and then an additional activity for performance or higher-level skill development such as a competitive sport.
Make Sure to Not Overdo It!
While every parent wishes that they could sign their child up for any activity they would like, they still need to consider other factors like price, time commitment, and location. Extracurriculars can be expensive, and it can become a hassle to drive your child back and forth between school, activities, and home while also having to work. Depending on where you live, it might also not be possible to do certain geographically limited activities such as surfing or skiing for example. Consider what options you may have in your area, and most schools may also provide some after school programs for students. Comparing prices and location along with the other factors can help narrow down the options and make life more convenient.
Regardless of what extracurricular activities you may decide to engage your child in, it’s a step towards making them a more well-rounded and passionate person, just make sure to not overdo it for your child or yourself! Remember, extracurricular activities are intended to be both positive and entertaining!