As we move into October I still feel in that “back-to-school” state-of-mind as my daughter proceeds through her third week of school. She just started kindergarten, so this is still a very new experience for me. Maybe for you it’s old hat, but isn’t it nice to have something distract us until we are forced to think about Hallowe’en and (gulp!) Christmas?
I thought I’d talk about after school activities since, as children age, school days tend to focus more on academics and little on extracurricular activities. Those precious hours between after school and bed time are prime real estate to have your child involved in social groups, sports or other activities that interest them.
However, we all know the saying: “Too much of a good thing.” Finding balance between homework and family life is important as well.
Here is some useful information as to how to choose an after school activity, why they are important and how to prevent extracurricular burnout.
What makes an effective after school activity?
You definitely want to place your child in an activity that they enjoy that also provides them with the opportunity to increase their level of understanding of complex concepts. Simply put, an effective after school activity will help your little one to develop their skills.
If an activity is complacent and non-engaging, your child will likely feel bored and unchallenged. Development of academic, personal and social skills should be the prime aims of an after school activity in order to engage your child’s interest and increase their self confidence and self-esteem.
After school activities should focus on boosting a child’s sense of competence while encouraging them to grow stronger mentally, emotionally and physically.
Why are after school activities important?
After school activities are important apart from the aforementioned reasons such as building self confidence and self-esteem. In a practical sense, it prevents children from spending too much time home alone.
If a child is of legal age it may seem like this shouldn’t be an issue. However, children who contend with too much free time may turn to unacceptable, or lethargic, activities to engage their attention and pass the time. After school programs keep children occupied in a safe and productive manner.
That’s not to say that all of age children left home alone after school are going to become criminals and drug addicts. However, lethargic children are at risk of health issues such as obesity. After school programs are important in helping children maintain a healthy activity level and focus their minds on acceptable and beneficial activities.
Avoiding the Burnout
As beneficial as an after school program or activity may be to your child, there can be too much of a good thing. Yes, children need to be occupied in healthy ways in order to grow and develop but they also need some down time and a chance to decompress. As adults, we know how stressful and frustrating it is to be constantly on the go with no reprieve – the same is true for children.
You know your child well enough to recognize the signs of burnout or disinterest. A moan and groan here and there about going to dance class or basketball practice is typical, but a constant struggle to have your child attend may indicate that they are tired or no longer interested in that activity. While it’s important to give your child a little nudge in order to develop a sense of commitment, you also have to know when to quit.
When it comes to how much is too much, here is a quick guide to how many activities your child should be involved in:
- Kindergarten – Grade 1: During these years, your little one is still getting into the groove of going to school. One or two activities a week is appropriate, with lots of free time have fun and be carefree.
- Grades 2 – 5: Your child has definitely developed the skill of having an opinion by this age and can tell you what he or she is interested in. Socialization is also becoming important, so team activities are a good choice.
- Middle School: Your little one is not so little any more and is experiencing roller-coaster shifts not only physically but in their confidence as well. At this stage it is easy for a middle schooler to fall into the “Screen Trap” of television and online gaming. Now more than ever it is important to encourage after school activities, especially ones that are challenging.