5 Benefits of After-School Activities
By Christina Katz
Parents, do you ever wonder if you may be taking the whole over-scheduling taboo too seriously? For years, parents have been hearing that kids have too many activities, too much homework, too-heavy backpacks, too much screen time, too much sugar...and on and on.
Personally, I find most parents are intelligent, conscientious, and trying to find a healthy middle ground for everyone in the family. Most parents want their kids to have just the right amount of after-school activities. The vast majority seem committed to helping their kids become happier, healthier, more 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 half-dozen after-school activity pros, and here are some of the many benefits for kids that we discussed.
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 looking to you to tell them to run some wind sprints or do a series of gut crunches. This is where after-school activities come in, preferably with dedicated coaches and instructors leading the way. Physical activities increase coordination, inspire discipline, and provide energy outlets for restless kids. So let another trusted adult be in charge for a change, and enjoy your downtime while your kids get more fit.
Shining Lights 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 your child, look for outlets that challenge them while also providing gradual instruction and skill development.
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 that the space where your child spends time is safe, fun, and growth-centric. Often kids become as attached to a center, a studio, or a routine as they do to a group of peers. When 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 for your child, then you might want to check out other possibilities.
Memorably Connected If there is one thing all after-school activity professionals agree on, it’s the importance of making memories via meaningful connections. Engaged, smiling, busy children are typically happy children. Whether your child’s 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 herself better with regular participation in after-school activities. Why not let your kids have the continuity of years of ongoing participation? It’s hard to advance up the activity ranks if you dabble in one activity and then another. Give your child a few years in elementary school to try different activities. Then see if they want to commit to an activity or two during middle school. They can always switch to different activities once they get to high school, if they wish.
Aptitude-Rich Some students need extra help to keep up academically, so don’t panic if your child turns out to be one of them. Your child may need extra help that addresses specific needs such as standardized test preparation or responding to learning gaps. Other kids simply 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 good news: raising academic confidence in one subject can lead to increased academic confidence across the board. So if your child is struggling with critical reading, vocabulary, or math skills, why not try a local tutoring service?
Christina Katz is a mother, author, and journalist who has written hundreds of articles and columns for publication since 1999. Find her at christinakatz.com.