What After-School Activities Are Right for My Child?
How to Keep Kids Busy After School
After-school activities can be a great thing for kids. They help kids learn to work together, do something social with their friends, and create life-long skills and memories. It can seem daunting to find just the right activity for your child, but by keeping in mind their personality and disposition, the cost of what you’re looking to participate in, and how much time you have to do an activity, you’ll be well on your way to finding something fun to keep your child busy after school.
There are a lot of benefits of a child learning to play a group sport. When a child is a part of a team they learn to work together toward a common goal. They know they shouldn’t miss practice because they will be letting their teammates down if they don’t attend, and subsequently their teammates may not have enough members to play the game. If you have a kid like mine, he may just be happy to be there for the snacks after the game. You can always find the positives even if your child doesn’t love the sport they’ve chosen.
Individualized Sports and Activities
Sometimes individualized sports may be more your child’s speed. Especially if you have an introverted or shy child, something like piano or guitar lessons might be less intimidating for them. Or even an activity that is more cerebral and less physical like chess club, debate club or another after-school club.
Talk with your child and offer a few options and see which seems the most appealing to him or her. If your child is still young, you can discuss it with your spouse to see what would be good to try based on your child's personality and disposition.
Things to Consider When Choosing an Activity
- Your child's personality
- The amount of time the activity will take—especially with sports that have both weekly practice and weekend games
- Overall cost
- Your child's interest and enjoyment level
Giving It a Try
Have your child try a sport, even if they aren’t 100% enthusiastic about the one you have chosen. Often you can do a basketball clinic or other short-term activity that is only for a season so your child has a chance to try it and see if it’s a good fit. If it isn’t a good fit, they an always try another sport during another season. Especially when they're still little, they may not know what sport they like so going with what sounds good to them is a good place to start.
Playing Sports With a Friend
We all know that doing something new is easier if you have a friend to help you along. Perhaps your son or daughter has a buddy that also wants to try out soccer for the first time. Or maybe they have a sport that they love that your son or daughter wants to try out. This works especially well if you have a shy or introverted child who may need the support of having a friend on the team to feel comfortable enough to get out there and try something new and outside of their comfort zone.
How Many Activities Does Your Child Do Each Week?
When Should You Call it Quits?
So you’ve signed up to have your child play a new sport and after several sessions, it’s clear they don’t like it. When is it okay to quit? While it’s great to teach your child about finishing something you’ve started, it’s okay to quit if there are other factors involved. Are there circumstances that are upsetting your child? Are they afraid or crying before/during/after their activity? I try to keep in mind that this is supposed to be a FUN learning experience for our kids and if they are miserable or overly stressed, it might be time to call it quits.
You know your child best so use your judgment to see if it’s worth pushing through and finishing out the session or if you need to stop early. If your child is just nervous or apprehensive the first few times he or she plays, that’s pretty normal when trying something new. Praise your child for their effort while playing the sport and see if you can help them to open up and have fun so they can continue to learn and improve their skills.
How Many Activities Is Too Many?
I have struggled to find a good answer for this one because I want to give my kids all the opportunities possible but there isn’t always enough money to do this or enough time in a week to do everything my kids would dream of doing. You need to gauge a few factors when it comes to deciding what works for your family.
- Number of children: If you have several kids that want to play several different sports you may have conflicting practice and game times. Can you and your spouse divide and conquer to get all the kids to their subsequent practice and game times? If you can make it work, go for it! I always try to remember, these are supposed to be fun for the whole family. If you or your kids are miserable because you’re running from one thing to the next, that is a pretty good indicator that you’re doing too much.
- Financial Factor: Let’s face it - very little is free in life these days. Each sport will have its costs for registration, equipment and what not. So take that into consideration when you talk about what activities your child would like to do. If it’s a sport like basketball, the equipment cost will be less than if you did martial arts or another sport that required a uniform, practice equipment or other requirements.
- Time: There is only so much time in a day and it’s important to provide kids with enough downtime each day so that they can accomplish other tasks like homework and some time to play or relax. My son complained last year that he just wanted to come home and play after school and that he didn’t want to run around so much. So I tried to come up with a compromise and make sure we had several days after school where we just came home to hang out, finish homework and play until bedtime while still doing activities just a few nights a week.
Whether your child does one activity or five each week, the goal is not only for your child to learn something new, but to have fun and enjoy themselves! Even if the activity your child is doing right now isn't a perfect fit, it's great to try several things to see what your child likes best and to go from there. So long as your child is enjoying themselves, sit back and relax for an activity well chosen!
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