The number of after-school opportunities for your kids can feel overwhelming at times. You’re likely being bombarded with marketing to enroll your child in endless types of programs. While they may be something else to add to your already full plate, many enrichments add significant value to a child’s development. The key is to choose the right fit for your child based on her needs.
When students are bilingual, they learn more quickly and with fewer difficulties. They are better problem solvers, and they know how to be creative. Once your child is older, these language skills will give her more job opportunities. Language-based extracurricular activities might include after school clubs for a specific language or lessons with a tutor. One study focused on the effects of language on memory conducted by Julia Morales of Spain’s Granada University showed that children who learn a second language had a clear advantage in working memory. Their brains worked faster in retrieving information and problem-solving. For language lessons you can facilitate at home, check out Little Pim and Rosetta Stone Kids.
Because there are so many different types of dance, your child can use it as an opportunity to discover where her own interests lie. Aside from being a great way for kids to exercise and release some of their pent-up energy, dance also provides children with joy and peace. It’s a great way to relieve stress, and it can even improve mental function. Though having healthy self-esteem is important for all students, girls can often use an additional boost of confidence, and dance can help with that. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on why dance is just as important as math in school offers a research-based perspective that provides insights into how dance and movement can be an important part of every child’s learning journey.
Academic extracurricular activities are perfect if your child is already interested in a particular subject. Be sure to continue encouraging this by helping her join extracurricular activities that are geared toward her interests, like a math club or the spelling team. She might have the opportunity to work at a higher level, which can challenge her and teach her how to work hard and persevere, which will thus help her gain confidence and learn how to handle possible failures. For example, math is one subject that benefits from consistent practice. Programs like Kumon, Eyelevel and Mathnasium offer opportunities for paced math practice that will help your child master grade-level concepts and beyond.
One of the major benefits of having your child in a music-based extracurricular activity is that music has been proven to be therapeutic. If your child is worried about school or perhaps something else, playing an instrument can help her cope. It can also encourage creativity and help her want to try more new things. Recently, researchers followed 147 Dutch schoolchildren—half of whom took supplemental music-education classes, along with their regular curriculum—for two-plus years, beginning at age six. Their findings suggest that the cognitive skills developed during music lessons can influence children’s cognitive abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to overall improved academic performance.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) enrichments give your child so many wonderful opportunities to grow and develop as problem solvers. If your child shows interest in STEM, find a STEM club or class that engages that interest. This is especially important for young girls who may feel disconnected from STEM Careers. For girls, involvement in STEM clubs or activities outside of school has a significant impact. A study commissioned by Microsoft showed that girls who participate in STEM enrichments are two times less likely to be embarrassed to ask questions in a STEM class and three times more likely to say they will continue to study a STEM subject.
The practice of karate can teach your child respect and self-discipline. It allows her to get active and engage with other children. Your child will also have to learn teamwork and how to resolve possible conflicts. In karate, children often have to use good listening skills and set goals for themselves to continue their growth. By doing all of this, kids can increase their confidence and self-esteem. Although there are many types of martial arts options available to your kids, studies show that karate and taekwondo are the best, as they do not show negative side effects like aggressive behaviors.
Children who play individual sports learn how to depend on themselves for their success. For this reason, children have to learn how to motivate themselves, which can require a lot of self-discipline. In this way, individual sports help build self-esteem and independence.
In most communities, team sport opportunities are easy to find. Your child might even participate as part of their school’s team. Sports help to get kids active on a regular basis. Children learn how to be a part of a team and how to lead, in addition to building relationships. Recently, researchers have been able to link team sports to reduced depression in kids, particularly boys. Adult depression has been linked to a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that affects memory and prepares the body’s stress responses. Their study showed that students involved in team sports have a higher volume of the hippocampus.
Regardless of whether your child plays individual sports or team sports, the general consensus is that sports have a positive effect on kids. A University of Kansas study looking at the performance of students in grades 9 to 12 showed that more than 97 percent of student-athletes graduated high school ranked 10 percent higher than those students who had never participated in sports.
Playing chess requires so many aptitudes that in June 1999, the international Olympic committee officially recognized chess as a sport. Your kids will greatly benefit from the strategic skills they develop as they navigate the game board and problem solve each move against their opponent. Your child’s school might offer a chess club. If your child is interested, there are many benefits to learning how to play chess. It raises their IQ, exercises both sides of her brain, and allows her to problem-solve and be creative.
Of course your daughter can do art at home, but she may want to take an art class to help develop her skills. Art helps to promote confidence by teaching patience and determination. Most importantly, the expressive quality of art helps kids understand themselves and their world. “When we encourage our children to explore art, we encourage them to master themselves, their bodies, and a variety of tools and techniques. We give them many ways to express themselves. As parents and teachers, we can offer an environment where it is safe to experiment and create, where questions are encouraged, and children have free access to the materials they need and enjoy.”
Explorer clubs include clubs like the Boys and Girls Scouts. These clubs help children to develop important life skills. When children learn these skills, they gain confidence and learn how to rely on themselves. They also learn how to work with others by communicating and building relationships. Children learn how to respect their group’s leader and follow directions.
Seventy-eight percent of girl scouts have had leadership experiences in out-of-school time activities, compared to fifty-five percent of a national sample of girls and sixty-one percent of boys.
In conclusion, although you might be inundated with after-school opportunities for your child, do take some time to explore those options. One of them might be the gateway to improved self-confidence and thus endless growth!