Finding the 'right' extracurricular activity for kids can be a bit difficult for parents. With all that goes into parenting, surely parents want to make sure they are getting it right. The benefits of extracurriculars for children are numerous, including building social skills, increasing self-esteem, and developing a self-identity.
When parents take a special interest in assisting their children in choosing an afterschool activity, it increases the odds that the child finds the right activity and continues to pursue it. Here are a few tips from experts in child development to steer parents in the right direction.
10 Don't Make It Harder On The Parent
As we mentioned, parenting is a big job, especially when it comes to making sure that your little one gets the best, most well-rounded opportunities. So when it comes to choosing an extra-curricular activity, don't make it any harder on yourself as the parent by piling up the list of things you have to do.
Already shuffling and balancing between snack time and playdates? You may want to see just how the options for your little one's after school program will affect not only his or her schedule but yours as well. Just like kids can be overscheduled, the same can happen to parents.
9 Evaluate Strengths And Weaknesses
Is your child really strong at color coordinating but not so much at kicking a ball? These things parents may wish to consider when helping their little one decide on an extracurricular. The experts over at Highlights suggest that extracurriculars are a great time for children to play up to their strengths but overcome weaknesses as well.
Consider the different styles of learning a skill, visual, physical, and aural, collect information about the options for extracurriculars that can help you make a decision.
8 What Interests Your Child?
"I really recommend doing it very collaboratively," said Dr. Shimi Kang - a psychiatrist who also wrote The Dolphin parent: A guide to raising healthy, happy, and self-motivated kids - of choosing an extracurricular with your child. Ask teachers and your children's friend's parents what he or she seems to like if you're drawing a blank.
This can aid you to determine what really interests him or her and can help point you in the right direction about a type of activity. There may be a school club or team that directly supports his or her main interests. Just ask around.
7 Keep The 'Extra' In Extracurricular
Try not to let your personal commitment to your child's extracurricular affect how you act about his or her commitment level. The entire point of an extra-curricular is the "extra" bit. When you do an activity that you aren't fully required to do there is usually an advantage to why one is doing it.
Follow that same model with your child's activities. Parenting experts and scientists say that making sure your child gets enough sleep is of the utmost importance, therefore that should be taken into account when choosing an activity to ensure they do not overdo it.
6 Monitor Time (Don't Over Do It)
Does your little one seem maxed out? You should make sure that your little one doesn't go over at least 20hrs per week in scheduled activities. Too many hours on the go can leave him/her wiped out. It's important to also consider how much time he or she will have for her studies, activities can be beneficial but should not stand in the way of schoolwork.
The tip here is to monitor how much time your child is putting into what he or she is doing. Monitoring your child's schedule, even if it's just downtime, just shows another level of concern.
5 Do A Trial Run
Sometimes, there are options to “try out” a class, club, or sport for free. This can be a great way to gauge your child’s interest. Another option is to visit the location where the activity takes place while it's in session.
This can give both parents and children a good idea about what the activity will be like once it gets going. This can also really help parents see for sure whether their child is interested in the activity or not. If you notice your little one light up, you may as well just sign him or her up.
4 Remember The Gains
Why exactly is your child pursuing this extracurricular activity? What can he or she gain from getting involved in this? Is the activity just a way to hope to prevent your little one from practicing undesirable behavior? Or will he/she develops new skills, make new friends, and learn more about him or herself through the activity?
Consider this tip when helping your child select an extracurricular, after all, the gains are just as important as the activity itself.
3 Be Supportive
Sometimes things just aren't what they are cracked up to be. And that's okay. It's important to support your kid if he/she loses interest in an activity. Children, in general, lose interest fairly quickly says Martin Camiré, health sciences professor with the University of Ottawa, if it happens just be supportive and allow your child to continue to explore other activities and other extra-curricular options.
Sometimes things can lose their luster. Try not to worry though, even if you've invested in an activity, it can take a while until your little one finds their niche. It's all a part of the process.
2 Remember Free Play
While a structured environment is important for children, having nonstructured play is just as valuable, says Dr. Debmita Dutta of What Parents Ask. Having some free time can be a really great way to challenge your little one and allow them to find out more about themselves, what they like doing, how to be creative, or how to release some energy.
If you notice that your child has no downtime, consider not scheduling any extracurriculars at all.
1 Know When To Walk Away
Is your child changing in unfavorable ways that are linked to his/her interest in an extracurricular activity? Perhaps not eating because other kids in the same club aren't, or getting overly competitive or aggressive because he or she feels the need to be that way in her after school program?
If any of these things sound familiar it may be time to encourage your little one to walk away. While it can be beneficial to explore these activities for self-improvement, if you as a parent see that things aren't going in a positive direction, it may be time to put a stop to it.