The Benefits of After-SchoolActivities
Children grow up in a society that demands expertise in everything. You can’t sit back and decide that learning from textbooks is enough for the overall development of your child. It’s the age of specialization, and your child cannot afford to miss out on this window of opportunity. So, scour your community for the most advantageous programs and enroll them for the ones you think are the best.
After-school programs are basically designed to develop a talent or a skill that is ignored by regular schools. These programs could be educational or recreational in nature. Whatever type they are, they aim to keep the child active and interested.
The most important advantage of a good after-school program is that it widens your child’s area of interests. He or she is introduced to new things, sometimes interesting, sometimes challenging. Mastering a new art form or a new skill increases the child’s self-esteem. It also allows you to introduce your child to new career options. A child attending a music class may decide that she likes it so much that she wants to make a career out of it in the long run.
Education-oriented after-school programs offer the opportunity for kids to not only work on their homework but to get help when needed. Your child may feel more comfortable working on school assignments in a slightly less formal environment where they can ask questions at any time. Some programs, like the Boys and Girls Club, also have tutoring services or college prep courses.
There are other programs that introduce kids to mathematics and the sciences, getting them excited about these subjects. This can lead to better efforts in school courses and less absent days due to skipping because the child may be more interested.
Socialization is another great advantage of after-school programs. Children get to meet others who share their interests and make new friendships. An acting, karate, or ballet class can be lots of fun. Many of these programs coach children for performances or matches. Performing onstage or playing a match can be a great experience for a young child.
Your child can benefit from after-school programs both emotionally and behaviorally if she or he feels a positive connection to other people. The relationships that are nurtured between staff and children in an after-school program help by focusing on good character traits. Your children will learn lessons like open-mindedness or how to be respectful of others because that’s what is expected of them.
Developing leadership skills is another important result of children participating in after-school programs. A Boys and Girls Club study revealed that 82% of teens in the program took part in leadership roles such as student council, being in charge of activities, or assisting in the office. There are also opportunities for volunteering and attending conferences in areas your child is interested in. Joining in activities like these will set your child up for success in the future because he or she will learn good work habits needed for college and the professional world.
After-school programs keep your child busy and out of trouble. This offers some amount of protection from destructive habits like drugs and alcohol. Surveys indicate that children who are kept busy through diverse and absorbing activities are less prone to abuse, depression, and burnout. A significant increase in achievement and attendance and a reduction in drop-out rates are other advantages of good after-school programs.
Most after-school programs have children interacting with one or more adult. This allows them to benefit from positive relationships with adults. Children often find it difficult to confide in parents and teachers, but may open up with other adults.
Many children are put into recreational after-school programs so that they reduce weight and remain healthy. A newly emerging trend shows that about 15% children below the age of 16 are obese. Parents who cannot put their children on a strict diet resort to sports and games to burn fat. With cases of child diabetes on the increase, this has become a prime focus of many after-school programs.
School-age children are faced with many choices for extracurricular activities, and finding the right balance between school and after-school activities can be a challenge. Scouts, music programs, academic clubs, sports, and 4-H are just a few options that can be beneficial or detrimental depending on the number of hours taken away from family and homework time.
The pressure to be overly involved is due to many factors:
Some parents live vicariously through their children. Step back, and take a look at what the motivation is for having your child participate in an activity. Ask yourself questions like, “‘Is my child skilled?” “Does my child show an interest in this activity?” “Does this program supplement and aid in the academic progress of my child or take away from it?”
Many kids follow their friends into activities that aren’t always a good fit. Make sure their choice is based on their desire and aptitude. Don’t base it on anxiety over not doing what their friends are doing. It’s okay to participate in extracurricular activities with friends, but the goal is for your child to be successful and grow through the experience. It’s okay to not participate.
The pressure to get into a good college begins early in high school. Being admitted is not only based on grades—extracurricular involvement and volunteering are also factors. This can weigh heavily on students and create anxiety and stress if teachers and parents don’t help them find a balance.
Sit down and openly discuss the options and help point your child in a direction that will help them find a healthy balance with school, homework, after-school programs, and rest. Fatigue, frustration, and declining grades are good indicators that changes need to be made. The goal of every parent should be to support and encourage the child toward becoming a happy and well-balanced adult.
Want to make the most of your child’s time and manage it efficiently when it comes to homework and educational advancement? Well, you might want to kill two birds with one stone and hire a tutor.
Mind you, some private schools offer free academic help to their students (like St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Macon), but many do not. Those who attend public school can’t always find help as they are competing with many other students for special free programs, especially if they want tutoring not for remedial purposes, but rather to stay ahead of the curve.
Tutors may be privately hired and paid by the student, the student’s family; or an agency, such as that allowed in the No Child Left Behind, or for special education remediation. Some tutors are used for remedial students or others needing special attention; some provide more advanced material for exceptionally capable and highly motivated students, or in the context of homeschooling.
There are certain perils that parents should consider before engaging a potential tutor. Specifically, you don’t want someone who just gives answers and just spoon-feeds the correct answers. You want someone to encourage ‘productive struggle. If students don’t have the experience of struggling and working through a barrier, then when it comes to taking a test, they won’t know what to do.
Be leery of people who have difficulty explaining concepts in multiple ways; one way doesn’t work for all students. The value of a good tutor is immeasurable and certainly worth the money—good being the operative word.
Whether your child ends up choosing an academic-oriented enrichment, a fine arts program, or a physically engaging after-school activity, all have the potential to enrich your child’s life so long as you don’t go overboard with the sign-ups. It keeps your child entertained as well as busy, and thus prevents children from becoming addicted to TVs, tablets, and phones. By giving them ways to burn up their excess energy and explore their creativity, after school programs help to shape the overall personality of the child for the better.
Free Out-of-the-Box After-school Activity Ideas
If you’re short on cash and need some free ways to bring some pizazz to your child’s after-school life, or you just want some one-on-one, try these ideas:
- Go geocaching, which promotes teamwork and time in nature.
- Pick different cultures from around the world to learn about—maybe focus on one each week, and try foods from that culture, learn about their holidays, traditions etc.
- Make dinner together—teach your kids about measuring ingredients and choosing foods that go together to make a meal. It’s like a science lesson!
- Print out a blank map of the U.S., and see if you can name all of the states correctly—for older children, add state capitals, too!
- Improve vocabulary and bond by playing a game of Scrabble.
- Play charades.
- Play a trivia game.
- Play chess.
- Learn a language.
- Perform random acts of kindness. Leave it up to your kids to decide what this means to them: maybe it’s dropping off a home-made goody at an elderly neighbor’s home, spending time at a homeless shelter, leaving a sweet note on a stranger’s doorstep. Your child’s imagination can doubtlessly come up with loads of ideas.
- Research tasty and healthy after-school snacks that both you and your child like—then schedule when you’re going to make them.
- Take out the your childhood photos and theirs, share with your kids and tell them stories about when they were babies and toddlers and tell them what you remember about your childhood.
- Do kid-friendly yoga, Zumba, and free-style dance at home. Play fun music, and do exercise-dance moves. Let your kids teach you some of their own moves.
- Offer help to neighbors and friends, including car-washing, leaf-raking, weeding, and lawn-mowing. Encourage your kids to provide these services for free.
Courtesy of Nemours