I'm an extra-curricular addict! Madness took hold over the summer and in order to 'get my kids busy' I signed them up for every club going. As I embark on my weekly negotiation with my son about why he absolutely should do tennis (because I've jolly well paid for it) I started to think about what the benefits of extra-curricular clubs are? How do you know if you're doing too many? Or the wrong ones? And how do we decide what to start and when to stop?
So much choice!
Participating in activities outside of school can broaden your child’s social world, their confidence, independence, skills and interests. And there really does seem to be something for everyone, whether you’re musical, studious, curious, creative or athletic. Whilst we shouldn’t complain about the breadth of opportunities available to our children, it can be difficult to choose between them. As lovely as it would be to indulge in them all, we must be realistic about what our children can reasonably manage and what we can afford. Let’s face it, extra-curricular activities don’t always come cheap. A bit of careful planning and foresight might mean your child can reap the benefits and you won’t need to remortgage your house.
The first, arguably most important, thing to remember is that this is not the only chance your child will have to do this activity. Most activities can be taken-up at any age. With that in mind, be realistic about what you can fit into your day or week and remind yourself that you don’t have to fill every hour. I once taught a boy who had to eat his evening meal in the car journey between extra-curricular activities. If you’re compromising mealtimes, for example, you’re probably doing too much. Don’t forget that time playing at home, or spent in your company, is no less valuable to a child.
We don’t know whether our children are going to enjoy certain activities so signing them up for things is always going to be a gamble. Talk to your child about what they think they might enjoy and explain to them what’s likely to happen during the class or session. Informed choices are less risky.
If you want your child to succeed, avoid setting them up to fail. It’s not a great idea to sign them up for an activity that takes place at a time of day when they are tired or hungry. In these circumstances, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to focus or achieve their best. Children inherently want to do well so when they’re not, we need to consider the reasons why. It may be that the activity your child would really love to do just doesn’t fit into their schedule right now, but that doesn’t mean that’s always going to be the case. It’s good to have things to look forward to!
The right amount?
This will ultimately depend on your child, their age and their needs. Don’t be dictated by what other children are doing. Extra-curricular activities are not compulsory so you should do what best suits your family. And don’t forget yourself – you can’t be everywhere at once, so don’t run yourself into the ground trying!
If you’re struggling to find out about activities in your area, why not visit your local library? Search engines are great but the library may well have a list of some smaller, independent classes in your area. It may even host some of them, and for free. And whilst you’re there, pick up a book; reading is the ultimate extra-curricular activity!