Choosing After School Activities

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The time for choosing after school and extracurricular activities is upon us.  I don’t know about you, but this task can feel more daunting than picking my child’s school!  I’m lucky that my community has many options to choose from.  But like anything else, sometimes too many options can be too much of a good thing.  So how does one narrow down the possible choices to just one or two?

Cost:  I have found that high cost does not necessarily equal high quality.  Some sports tend to be cheaper (like soccer) because they do not use as many supplies as say football. It doesn’t mean the activity is better because it costs more.

Interest: This may be a no-brainer, but sometimes we parents forget to assess our children’s interest in the activity in question.  Sure piano lessons might be good for them, but if they have absolutely no interest, it will be a painful year of forced practicing for everyone involved.

Family Fit: I’m a big proponent of making sure after school activities fit with the messages we are trying to teach our children at home.  Is sustainability and environmental health something you strongly believe in?  Then perhaps an after school science club would be a good fit.  Believe in the power of musical theater?  Choir might be a good bet.

Schedule: As much as we’d like to be, none of us can be two places at once.  Before signing up for extracurriculars, check out the schedules for all your children and balance against your own activity and work calendar.  No one will have fun doing anything if it means arriving late, leaving early, and going without dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Be realistic about your family’s timeline and limits.

Usefulness:  If you’ve narrowed down the options and are stuck between two sports (or other activities) that are equal in every way, you may want to consider the activity’s usefulness.  For example, football is great, but perhaps learning to golf might prove to be more do-able over the course of your child’s life.  Similarly, drum lessons might be cool, but if it’s all the same to your child, learning to play the guitar might have wider applicability down the road.  It’s kind of like this:  French may be a beautiful language, but if you live in the Southwest, Spanish wins out in terms of practicality.

I don’t have a rule about how many activities kids should participate in, because each child (and each family) is different.  Some do best with an activity everyday, others do best with more minimal commitments.   Check in with your kids about how they’re feeling about their workload.  Ask them now, and ask them again throughout the semester.  Are they enjoying school and clubs like they used to?  Are they getting enough sleep and down time?  Use this fall’s observations to inform your decisions about the spring semester.

How do you pick activities for your child?