Do you ever wonder if you may be taking the whole over-scheduling taboo too seriously? Personally, I find most parents are intelligent, conscientious, and trying to find a healthy middle ground for everyone in their family. Most parents want their kids to have the right amount of after-school activities. The vast majority seem committed to helping their kids become happier, healthier, well-rounded citizens without pushing them into activity overload.
So why not remember a few things kids stand to gain from after-school activities instead? Kids can benefit artistically, physically, socially, mentally, and personally from after-school activities. I contacted a few after-school activity pros, and here are some of the many benefits for kids that we discussed:
1. Fit, confident kids. As Elle Woods reminds us in the film, Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” But motivating kids to get off the couch is not always easy. Your kids are not typically looking to you to motivate them to run some wind-sprints or do a series of gut crunches. They need someone else to step in and motivate them to get moving. This is where after-school activities come in, preferably with dedicated, motivating coaches and instructors leading the way. Physical activity increases coordination, inspires discipline, and provides an energy outlet for restless kids. Let another trusted adult be in charge for a change and enjoy some downtime while your kids get more fit.
2. Lights who shine. As much as we would like our kids to carry on our values and ideals, it’s really up to them to communicate to us who they are and what they believe. And while we may like to think that our children are born whole and complete the truth is, kids often discover what they are made of after they become immersed in activities that stretch and challenge them. Engaging kids in activities where they feel fully immersed in the experience and are responsible for their own mastery helps kids discover what makes them tick. When it comes to finding an activity for a child, look for outlets that challenge them while providing gradual instruction and skill development.
3. Part of something greater. After-school activities offer kids outlets for expressing their energy within a safe learning context. Feeling part of a group with a purpose is a beautiful thing, so make sure the space where a child spends their time at an after-school activity is safe, fun, and growth-centric. Often, kids become as attached to a centre, a studio, or a routine as much as they do to a group of peers. When your kids go off to their activities, they should feel like they are going to one of their favorite places, to their home away from home. If this is not the case, check out other possibilities.
4. Memorably connected. If there is one thing all after-school activity professionals agree on is the importance of making memories via meaningful connections. Engaged, smiling, busy children are typically happy children. Whether a child’s after-school activity happens in a place rife with variety or in a more specialized space, your child is sure to grow over time, make memories, and understand themselves better with regular participation in an after-school activity. Let your kids have the continuity of years of ongoing participation. It’s hard to advance up the activity ranks if they dabble in one activity and then another. Give each child a few years in elementary school to try different activities. Then, see if they want to commit to an activity or two during junior high. They can always switch to different activities once they get to high school, if they wish.
5. Aptitude-rich. Some students need extra help to keep up academically, so don’t panic if a child turns out to be one of them. A child may need extra help that addresses a specific need, like responding to learning gaps. Other kids may need help becoming more satisfied students. Tutoring can definitely increase not just aptitude but also enthusiasm. And just as parents don’t always make the best coaches, we also don’t always make the best tutors, either. Besides, kids often progress faster and more willingly when they work with mentors they don’t already know. And the good news, raising academic confidence by teaching learning skills in one subject can pay off in increased academic confidence across the board. If your child is struggling with critical reading, vocabulary, or math skills, why not try a local tutoring service? Your child has nothing to lose and much to gain.
Kids need to feel successful today to become successful tomorrow, and activities can help them experience positive growth gradually. If you don’t channel your child’s energy, video games, TV-watching, sedentary activities will always be a temptation. If you want engaged, involved, smiling kids, find them some activities they enjoy; you will be so glad you did.
Christina is a journalist and author who is grateful for the opportunities she had to contribute to the school literary journal and newspaper. She also worked off some of her teenage angst on the soccer field, on the softball diamond, and in the school pool.
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