Our kids’ lives are busy! I remember as a kid coming home from school and hanging with the kids in the street – riding bikes and skateboards, throwing frisbees or playing games together. We laughed, cried, dealt with bullies and then our parents would call us in for dinner. Very rarely was there organised training – we just turned up to our team sport on the weekend and played the game. Life was very simple.
Being a kid in 2017 is a lot different. The number of extra-curricular activities outside school is massive. There really is something for everyone – any sport you can imagine, tutoring, dancing, self-defense, performing arts, personal development workshops, cooking classes, art classes, technology classes, chess club, etiquette classes – the list goes on.
Knowing your child’s needs and interests are vital to choosing the right activity and, of course, as they grow up, those needs and interests change too. It can become very hectic with scheduling in the extra activities, the commitment to training, homework, competitions, expense and travelling to all play a huge part in the decision-making process. Whilst we are spoilt for choices, the importance of finding time to chill out and just be kids is also vital. When do we start all these extracurricular activities? Are we overcomplicating childhood?
Katie, mumma of three kids aged 5, 7 and 9 only has her eldest involved in activities outside school. “My daughter loves art and she wanted to learn more about using colour. I am nurturing her interests but if she came home next week and told me she didn’t want to go to classes anymore it wouldn’t bother me. She is just a kid. I think she gets enough stimulation at school so we don’t do any other activities.”
John, dad to two kids aged 6 and 4 has Mr 6 at soccer. “He loves the sport, the coach, the team. It’s expensive and he trains once a week and plays Saturdays so there is the time commitment too. He is making friends outside school, which I like. Sport is a good place to meet new mates. As long as he likes it – I will take him.”
My two boys are vastly different – one is in performing arts and the other has a passion for basketball. Both have made good friends in their chosen extra- curricular activities. They are learning new skills, being exposed to an activity they love, and helping younger kids by assisting teachers/coaches. I love the fact that they’ve chosen non-technology based activities – giving them a break from devices and social media too.
Before choosing extracurricular activities for your kids, do your research. Compare costs, consider travel time, talk to other parents about their experiences but most of all choose something that your child is interested in and that will develop the skills they need the most right now for this phase of their childhood.