Children's Learning Adventure
Feb 10, 2020
Tips for Helping Your Child Choose the Right Extracurricular Activity
How You Help Your Child Find the Sport, Hobby or Pursuit That Fits
Helping your child choose an extracurricular activity can be hard and occasionally frustrating. Part of you might want to discourage his interest in a 6 AM swim practice or every other weekend commitment of a traveling hockey team. However, you also want your child involved with something they love. And that is the challenge when it comes to extracurricular activities, figuring out exactly would make them happy and still fit with your family and lifestyle.
Extracurricular activities offer an excellent opportunity for children to play to their strengths but also overcome weaknesses. Studies have also shown that children involved in extracurricular activities tend to be happier and perform better academically. In addition to the talents that specific sports, music lessons and other extracurriculars deliver, they also provide valuable skills including:
- Goal Setting
There is a myriad of extracurricular choices available for children, from martial arts to tuba lessons to robotics and everything in between. It’s deciding between these options that is sometimes tough. Experts say that parents should help their children choose an extracurricular by discussing the possibilities with them. Here are a few things to keep in mind when helping your child pick an extracurricular activity.
Know Your Child
The variety of approaches that children take to extracurricular activities is as wide as the number of activities available. There are the joiners who want to be part of every club and every sport. They have severe FOMO and have a hard time saying no to any opportunity. Then they are the hesitaters who debate every aspect of an extracurricular and are never able to settle on one activity that they think might make them happy.
There are also the hanger-outers who eschew structured activities. They’d rather hang out with friends. Finally, there is the all or nothing gang. These children go all-in on a given activity before suddenly becoming bored and quitting. And, of course, there is everything in between.
The trick here is to understand your child well and try to steer them toward activities you know they will enjoy or excel in. An easily bored child may find the slow progression of learning positions in ballet too restraining. But saying no to a child simply because you don’t think they can do it is likely a mistake. Your child might surprise you. Regardless, extreme interest and excitement about an activity is a great motivator and is frequently a catalyst towards excellence.
Some organizations offer open houses or trial lessons, and these can be a good option if either you or your child isn’t sure the activity is the right one for them. With sports or arts, it might also be a good idea to borrow or buy used equipment. If your child develops a keen interest and asks for additional lessons or practices, then you can consider buying new gear.
Let Your Child Take the Lead
Although the conversations should happen with you, be sure to take your child’s interest into account and let them take the lead. The worst that can happen if your child makes the wrong choice is that she learns a new sport or a few notes on a new instrument. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure they are making an informed decision. Ask them why they are making the choice they are. Look at some videos together so you can be sure they fully understand what they are getting into. Ensure they fully understand the level of commitment. Figure skating might seem awesome until your child realizes she has to be at the rink four times a week.
Understand the Time Commitment
Be realistic about the time commitment you and your child are making. What does it mean for the rest of the family? Are there any conflicts? If regular practice is required, as is often expected with piano lessons, does your child have enough free time to get it done? In short, are you all willing to make the necessary sacrifices to family dinners and lazy weekends?
Don’t be afraid of the time commitment, either. Some of the best parent-child conversations can happen in the car on the way to or from practice. You can learn a lot when your child is confined to a small
space with you.
Understand the Financial Commitment
Some activities are more expensive than others. Do your research early to avoid disappointing your child. Call the organization to find out what equipment or special attire is required. Ask if rentals or used equipment are an option. Know in advance if there will be shows, competitions or games out of town that you will be required to attend. Finally, inquire about any additional fees or fundraising that will be required of you or your child.
If Your Child Wants to Quit
Experts suggest that its best to have your child finish what they started. It teaches valuable life lessons about commitment, but it also provides them with an opportunity to change their minds. Most of us do not master an instrument or sport the first time we try it. It can take years to achieve mastery. That said, if they are adamant about quitting or seem upset by the thought of attending a class, practice or lesson, try to find out why. There could be a more serious underlying problem, such as not feeling good enough or hearing hurtful comments made by adults or other children.
Many adults can remember being miserably forced to practice their musical instruments as children but are now happy their parents made them stick with it. Some still resent their lessons. Have an honest discussion with your child and consider a compromise. Suggest she finishes the season and then finds a new activity.
There are no hard and fast rules about choosing an extracurricular activity other than having open discussions with your child. Remember that it’s about having fun and socializing as well as learning new skills.
Children's Extracurricular Activities