After School Activities Offer Worthwhile Benefits
The comment from a young mom about middle school football tryouts prompted a lengthy conversation with her neighbor. “No, my son isn’t trying out. He prefers to watch TV, play video games, or sleep every day after school.” Her neighbor, the grandmotherly type, didn’t agree. She insisted the student should engage in sports tryouts. The mom wasn’t persuaded. She failed to recognize the benefits of after school activities.
Studies indicate that kids involved in after school programs have higher achievement and attendance, are not as prone to depression and burnout, and have less drop out rates. Activities keep children safe and protect them from risky and negative behavior. They’re the perfect solution to supervised fun, and time away from technology while parents are at work.
After school activities require parental coordination and resources to be successful. However, the benefits outweigh the costs. Here are a few examples of what kids can gain:
Opportunity to Explore New Interests
After school programs provide options kids don’t have inside a school building. Whether a child is interested in chess, bowling, piano, or cheerleading, there’s an after school program for them. Kids gain confidence as they learn new skills and interact with others from varying backgrounds, which carries over into academia.
Lack of exercise is a contributing factor to childhood obesity, that continues to climb at alarming rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years. We can help stop this cycle through after school programs.
When our kids develop a routine that includes exercise, it benefits them into adulthood. After school programs offer a fun and entertaining environment for all kinds of exercise and encourages healthy habits in the process.
Improved Social Skills
Children left alone after school often spend too much time on technology and have fewer face-to-face relationships. Interaction with caring adults and older teens, who volunteer at after school camps, offers time to mingle with others — improving social skills in the process. Leisure time in a casual environment opens the door for adults to influence good choices and positive behavior in a non-threatening environment. It teaches healthy relationship skills as kids watch adults model them.
Better Achievement with Challenging Subjects
When a child struggles in math, a foreign language, or another difficult subject, after school tutoring provides the answer for success. Our daughter’s grades in an upper level math class plummeted in high school. We began tutoring with an instructor twice a week. The after school sessions provided encouragement and better understanding of the subject and gave our daughter confidence for the weekly tests that had intimidated her. We located her tutor through a recommendation from another student, but tutors can also be found through the school, the local newspaper, or even social media.
Time Management Techniques
Learning to prioritize activities and manage time accordingly is a great skill for every child to obtain. When kids participate in after school programs, they’re forced to learn how to manage their activities, and allow adequate time for homework.
Balancing extracurricular demands with everyday school requirements teaches discipline and self-restraint, and carries long-term benefits.
Camaraderie and Leadership Skills
After school programs help kids feel that they belong, which improves self-confidence and self-esteem. When we re-located to a new state, our elementary-aged son found friends with similar sports interests who helped him adjust to the new town. As kids move through middle school and high school, they gain leadership skills from after school groups such as student council, the school yearbook staff, future business leaders, or speech and debate tournaments, just to name a few.
If given the opportunity to help choose after school programs, kids are more vested in the activities. Experiment with a variety of options to find a good fit and continue to seek out new opportunities as your child matures. The coordination of after school programs requires considerable effort, but the benefits provide far-reaching advantages.
Gayla Grace writes, speaks and coaches on parenting and step family issues. As a mom to five, she loves to find after school activities her children enjoy.