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Engaging children in extracurricular activities

As the new school year approaches, parents everywhere are considering extracurricular activities: 

  • Which activities should you pursue for your children? 
  • What’s the “perfect number” of activities for each child? 
  • If you pick too many, will he be exhausted?
  • If you pick too few, will he be bored? 
  • And with so many options – tennis, swimming, sports teams, music, art, gymnastics, cooking lessons, karate – how do you choose?

Extracurricular activities can provide many benefits, teaching valuable lessons about teamwork, commitment and problem-solving.  They can also help your children make new friends, learn new skills, get exercise and gain confidence.

Research shows that when children are involved in structured activities, they’re less likely to be depressed or to experiment with alcohol or drugs.

But how do you choose from all of the options?   Consider…

  • Your child’s interests.  If he doesn’t like sports, consider music or art classes.  If she’s climbing all over the furniture and the monkey bars at the park, she might love gymnastics.
  • The logistics.  Does your child need downtime after a full day of school?  Do you like to reserve weekends for quality family time?  Are you really going to want to drive all the way across town three times per week for sports/music/drama practice?  Will your child still have ample time to complete his homework? These activities should be fun – not stressful – for your family.
  • The costs involved.  A friend enrolled her young child in a dance class. She paid for the lessons, bought the (expensive) recital costume and then was shocked to learn that she also had to pay extra fees for tickets to the recital.  Ask about all expenses up front.

What extracurricular activities do your children enjoy?  And how did you choose their activities?

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