Photo by Jodi Wilson
Here at SmartMom we’ve talked a lot about education for your little ones. Between math for girls and STEM education, we thought that we should bring up activities outside of school. Here’s some information about the importance of extracurricular activities in school.
When kids get to be a certain age, the activities start. It may be gymnastics, ballet, t-ball or soccer. Kids begin to learn how to participate in a group with a central goal: mastering a move, completing a task, or winning. Whether preschool or school age, kids will benefit from extracurricular activities. The social and academic benefits reaped from extracurricular activities are fantastic. However, the degree of their success depends on the parent’s positive involvement.
The benefits of extracurricular activities begin at the social level. Extracurricular activities create strong relationships and bonds between members. Baseball teams, debate clubs, and mathletes are students with common goals. They are required to learn from each other, depend on each other, and fail or succeed together. This building of community creates a bond that cannot be replicated in a regular school environment, where kids may have different classes with different people. The community, when built correctly, will connect students and give them consistency. They will learn teamwork, responsibility, and build a work ethic. Often, team extracurricular activities also involve themselves in charity work. This is a priceless opportunity for your child to volunteer with their peers and feel like they are making a difference in their extracurricular activity and surrounding community. All these habits are beneficial in the “real world”. By involving themselves in a group activity, children will learn to be part of a team, preparing them for a community-centric marketplace in today’s job market.
Another benefit of extracurricular activities is increased school performance. Most extracurricular activities have practices multiple times a week in conjunction with the school day. These obligations increase a student’s desire to be in school, in turn lowering absence rates. In fact, when compared to their non-extracurricular classmates, students who were involved in extracurricular activities had a 15% higher attendance rate. By increasing their attendance rate, students are setting themselves up for better academic performance. If students are motivated by attending practices or rehearsals, they will be exposed to more curricula, increasing their knowledge. All of these factors could eventually be reflected on college applications, internship applications and other extracurricular opportunities.
So, how do you decide what activity to put your child in? As parents, we all wonder if we are raising the next Michael Jordan or Mia Hamm. It starts when they are young and throw the ball with amazing precision. You look at your partner and say, “Let’s sign them up for t-ball!” Only, when your child goes to t-ball, they strongly dislike it. They run around, don’t listen to the coach, or don’t really connect with their teammates. This is where parental controls come in to extracurricular activities. You can either wield your power for good or for, well, not so good. Examine your child in an activity, whether they are 4 or 14. If they are unhappy, strongly consider allowing them to choose a different activity. Weigh the pros and cons together, giving them the opportunity to express themselves. Forcing a child to continue in an activity they strongly dislike may lead to apathy toward trying other activities. The difference between quitting and calling it quits is this: quitting means you’re leaving someone out to dry, whereas calling it quits means you’ve done your best and you’re ready to let it rest. Enable them to do something they are passionate about so they can reap the optimal social and academic benefits.
Most importantly, support your child. Do what you can to attend any functions that they are involved in. Wear team colors, help them study, practice or rehearse. Knowing that you support them will make success, or defeat, something they will want to share with you.
Below are a few helpful links with more information about extracurricular activities: