Benefits of after-school activities

The bell rings and another day of grammar and arithmetic comes to a close. But just because the school day has wrapped-up, doesn’t necessarily mean your child should do the same. After-school activities benefit kids both mentally and physically in multiple ways.
Children who participate in after-school programs on a regular basis exhibit increased motivation and positive attitudes about learning.

Participants also typically excel academically and experience a heightened sense of self-esteem. In addition, getting involved in extra-curricular activities lowers a child’s risk of depression, drug/alcohol addiction and other possible behavioral problems. Sports related activities let kids get some much-needed exercise and helps them gain a sense of team-work as well as increased confidence.

After-school activities provide kids with a fun, stress-free outlet of expression away from the pressures of school. Children have the opportunity to explore undiscovered interests and make new friends. 

How can you help guide your child to choose the most beneficial activities? Start by looking at what’s out there. Talk to your child’s teacher or guidance counselor about options available to your child. It also helps to talk with other parents about kid-tested activities they recommend. Other places that can provide informative insight about extra-curricular activities in your area are:

• Community Centers
• Recreational Centers
• Libraries
• Museums
• 4-H Clubs
• Girls and Boys Clubs of America
• Local Athletic Leagues

Sometimes the choice for an appropriate outside activity comes from your own goals for your child. For example, if you want to use time after school to nurture a skill not addressed in school, you might consider music lessons. If your child is struggling in a particular subject, tutoring might be a good idea. If your child needs to be more physically active, you might want to look into an activity like tennis or soccer.

But the activities most favored by kids are ones that stem from their own interests. So listen to your child. Look, in particular, for persistent expressions of interest rather than something a child mentions once or twice. Figure out what sparked the interest. Was it a friend? Was it seeing the activity? Then ask yourself whether your child is physically old enough for the activity or what the benefits will be.

Whatever you choose, don’t overdo it. It’s better for kids to pick something they really enjoy doing and stick to it. Getting involved in too many activities can detract from your child’s academic performance and/or make your child feel overwhelmed.

Over-scheduling can affect your family life as well. So, consider the demands on your own time. Keep in mind what will be expected of you when your child begins a new activity. This will include time and transportation. But, it can also mean volunteering, fundraising and coaching.

For the most part, after-school activities should be fun and stress-free. Parents should not pressure a child to excel in extracurricular activities. This might hurt a child’s self-esteem or cause a child to resent the activity.

Although after-school activities offer children a wealth of enriching benefits, it is also important for kids to have some unstructured free time to themselves. Sometimes, kids just need time to be kids. That’s one activity which will never get old!

Mona Chabra is a freelance writer from Sewickley.