As your child continues to grow and develop, you will find they often enjoy exploring more of their own personal interests. Sure, school offers opportunities for children to get involved with different types of educational and social activities, but most of the time these options are more general in nature. After- school programs are excellent because they tend to offer more specific classes that focus on a particular topic. These programs are often led or taught by experts in that particular field, which allows your student to dive deeper and to really improve upon their skills.
I am a firm believer in allowing children to explore a variety of sports and activities before selecting just one or two that will fill up their evenings. Not only does this open their eyes to many wonderful possibilities, but they might surprise themselves and discover they have a hidden talent. They might even realize they do like running around outside with a team or getting creative in the art studio.
By participating in an after-school activity, not only will they meet more people, they will be exposed to different environments, too (outside, inside, in a classroom, on a field, in the woods, etc.). They will learn new things like teamwork, survival skills, new terminology, new technology, and different skill sets. They will become more rounded and better educated within their community.
In order to reap the rewards, consider looking for programs that are two- to three-month commitments as opposed to programs that run the full length of the school year. This should give your child enough time to really dive into an activity and realize if they like it or not. And if they don’t like that activity, then at least they are not obligated to finish out the rest of the year.
Obviously, if your child wasn’t a fan of soccer, you will most likely sign them up for something very different the next time registration rolls around. But if they really enjoyed gymnastics, for example, consider signing them up for something similar, like cheerleading. And don’t just think about the common sports. There are dozens of other options - music classes, art courses, STEM sessions, archery, fishing, bird-watching, Scouts, knitting, crafting, cooking, horseback riding, photography, drama, and more!
Here are a few things to consider when deciding what after-school activity is right for you, your child, and your family:
Explore your options. While some schools offer separate after-school programs, there are also a lot of other options out there. Before you decide, take the time and do your research. Then, as a family, sit down and discuss all of the possibilities before deciding which one to commit to. Also, many programs offer a free trial class. When calling around, be sure to ask if that particular company offers a free trial class, too. It’s always a great idea to try before you buy!
Find out what classes/courses your local school, recreation centre, youth association, indoor sports complex, local club, etc. offer. Once you narrow that down, look at which facilities offer what it is that you and your child are looking for in an after-school activity.
Consider the timing of the class. What time/day is this program offered? Do you need to stay with your child at the class, or can you drop off your child? If you can drop off your child, will there always be someone available to provide transportation?
Cost. Keep in mind that some activities may require additional funds beyond the program itself. Do you need to purchase special equipment, a uniform, etc.?
Once you have taken all of this information into consideration, hopefully the right decision will be clearer for you and your family. And if you are only committing to a few weeks rather than a full year, that should hopefully take some of the pressure off of making the perfect choice and give you the flexibility to be more daring with your selection of after-school activities. After all, it’s fun to try new things. A little challenge can be good at times. And if it’s not working out as expected, the flexibility to move onto something else is wonderful.
Evaluate as you go
While after-school activities do have their benefits, they can also take away quality time that could be spent with family, on homework, etc. We all strive to find the perfect balance, but it can be tough to obtain. When trying new activities, or when trying to decide if you should register again and keep moving up/forward through the program, I encourage you to pause and ask yourself these questions:
If the answer is ‘Yes’ to all of these questions, then keep going and exploring! But if you see any stress or difficulty, consider taking a break. There is no harm in waiting another month, or year, before jumping back in. After-school programs are meant to be fun, but they are not required. What is most important is to give our children fun experiences - and that can happen anywhere - even at home!
Karissa is the co-owner of the parenting website, adorethem.com. Adore Them strives to share positive, practical advice and resources to help you find joy in your own parenting journey!
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