Now that the school year is in full swing your child may be itching to get back to soccer practice or they may be looking for something new to try. With more and more academic demands placed on our children as they get older, you may be afraid of burnout. Even though you do not want to overload your child’s schedule, the benefits of extracurricular activities are hard to deny.
With so many options to choose from, it may take a little time to find the perfect fit.
With eight kids with varied interests, I have spent countless hours watching figure skating, soccer, football, fencing, and cheerleading practices. After school activities offer kids a great opportunity to develop hobbies, learn new skills, and socialize.
A few years ago, I was looking for an activity that was fun, healthy, and could help build my daughter’s self esteem. I brought my her for a trial lesson at our local gymnastics club. She started with a “mommy and me” class and progressed to recreational gymnastics, and then the competition team. I have found that a positive environment with a supportive coaching staff can do wonders for a child’s confidence. My daughter’s coaches celebrate her accomplishments with her as well as encourage her through rough patches. They take extra time to work with my daughter to figure out where her strengths and weaknesses are, and then they zero in and create a custom training program based on her needs.
If gymnastics doesn’t interest your child, there are a wealth of options available. Every child has natural abilities. It is important to open up a dialogue with your child to find out what would interest them before enrolling them in an activity. Discuss what things your child likes to do in their free time. Offer options that compliment their interests. An artistic child might be interested in a ceramics class or an active child might benefit from a dance class. Check out the phone book, local parenting resources, and the internet to see what is available in your area. Find out what activities your child’s classmates are involved in and get recommendations from their parents.
Make a list of the activities that your child has expressed an interest in. Take into consideration the time commitment needed, and respect your limitations. Help your child weigh the pros and cons. For the child who wants to be involved in multiple activities, ask them to prioritize. If you find that your child jumps into activities and then quits, allow them to experiment, but don’t invest in purchasing all the necessary equipment immediately. Research the availability of borrowing, renting, or buying used items until you see a real commitment to the sport or instrument.
While parents should have the final say, children are more likely to practice and actively participate in an activity they helped select. The activity should engage your child in a positive way, whether they are trying a new sport, instrument, or an art class geared towards helping them develop skills. If you child discovers a passion in the process, so much the better. Remember to keep your expectations realistic and age-appropriate. You may need to try a few different types of activities before you find one that really works for your child.
What after school activities do your children enjoy?