As a parent, you may have realized that good grades aren’t everything when it comes to raising a well-rounded child. As human beings, we need to learn a wide variety of skills to do well in life.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t continue to encourage your child to excel academically, but it’s important to realize that after-school activities can also provide an excellent foundation for building a sharp mind and a proactive character. Think of an after-school activity as an extension of their education, a way to expose your child to opportunities that are not available in the school curriculum.
Beneficial After School Activities
Not all after school activities offer high value. Since your child is investing their time and energy after they have already spent the day at school, be selective about the after school activity. It should be something your child has a natural interest in learning or doing and something that provides a list of benefits.
Here are some examples of interesting, high-value activities:
- Joining the swim team can increase your child’s strength and endurance.
- Playing a ball game can teach your child team spirit and grit.
- Learning ballet can teach your child about balance, coordination, and grace.
- Taking piano lessons can develop your child’s intelligence and character.
- Participating in drama can help your child develop self-confidence.
Unfortunately, while after school activities are fun and beneficial, the price can add up when you pursue several at the same time.
Not only are there fees to be paid, but there are also incidental expenses like gas, eating out more often because there’s no time for a home cooked meal, and equipment facility expenses.
This increase in expenses can skewer your family budget.
Time and energy, too, have to be taken into consideration. Doing too many things, being busy from morning to night every day of the week can exhaust both you and your child.
In addition, if your child spreads themselves too thin, they will not be able to learn things in-depth, but will only develop a superficial grasp of each activity or skill.
So, on the one hand, it’s important to encourage your child to pursue after-school activities that aren’t related to their academic studies, yet you also have obstacles related to money, time, energy, and mastery.
3 Ways to Win
Here are some ideas on how to maximize the upside and minimize the downside.
- Opt for a meaningful variety.
Since each activity offers numerous benefits, an evaluation of which is better can be confusing. Is it better to be in superb health or to speak eloquently? An either-or answer is fairly meaningless. A better approach might be to choose one sport, one intelligence enhancing skill, and one social activity. This way your child is only involved in about three activities and these can be spread out through the course of the week to give them and you a break.
Simply settling on one activity may lead to mastery if that’s your intention. However, if the goal is to develop a well-rounded person, a single-minded approach can be boring for an active child who is eager to learn more about the world. Rather than mastery, think of after school activities as a way to explore possibilities.
- Develop a deep appreciation for the value of the chosen activity.
Your child will soon lose interest in an activity if they don’t understand the benefits each one provides. Conversely, if they have a good understanding of the benefits, it will keep motivation high even when the training or lessons become demanding.
For the sake of illustration, let’s imagine that you chose swimming, piano playing, and theater. What are the benefits of each one?
Swimming improves flexibility, strength, and endurance. It improves balance and coordination. It improves cardiovascular fitness. And it improves physique and posture.
Piano playing offers benefits that you might not expect. According to the Foundation of Music Literacy, “Case histories on file with the National Commission on Music Education uncover exciting correlations between the study of music and such critical work-place performance factors as self-esteem, self-discipline, the ability to work in groups and higher cognitive and analytical skills.”
Drama, too, like all the other performing arts, offers numerous benefits. These include improved grades, more self-confidence and self-presentation skills, better performance solving and perseverance, and deeper levels of empathy and compassion.
- Balance out paid and free activities.
Many activities are offered free at local parks and recreation departments, school district offerings, and community centers. In some cases, too, you can barter with a coach or tutor for a service if you have a specialized skill that can benefit them – for instance, you might be an experienced marketer and can promote a coach’s business in exchange for coaching practice. However, some things are worth paying for, especially if it is an activity that requires months or years of tutoring to become good at doing.
Long Term Benefits
It’s a mistake to think of after school activities as an interesting diversion from the stresses of school. Instead, understand that the benefits can be as long-term as their formal education. Building a healthy body and love for exercise, creating a lively and imaginative mind, or developing a strong, persistent personality are some of the far-reaching benefits of after school activities