Types Of Extracurricular Activities
You might be surprised to learn how many different types of extracurricular activities there are to choose from in schools and communities.
With options ranging from hobby-based clubs to year-round competitive programs, you can find a program for almost any type of child. Here is just a sampling of what you may offer organised activities near you.
Sports are the most common extracurricular activity for kids in the United States. Swimming lessons, ice skating lessons, and soccer clinics are typically offered to children as early as toddlers and preschool.
In addition, many town recreation departments offer baseball, softball, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, tennis, and volleyball to elementary-school-age kids. As they age out of youth leagues, many kids can join middle school or high school sports teams or try out for a competitive travel sports team.
Rest assured, if your child doesn't seem to enjoy or thrive in mainstream sports like these, there are a growing number of alternative physical activity programs to keep them active. Ask your child's P.E. teacher or local recreation department if they know of any martial arts, golf, skiing, BMX biking, or rock climbing clinics or clubs in your area.
Youth sports participation is linked to a greater sense of belonging in the school and community and closer social ties among students and their parents.
Kids are naturally energetic and love to move their bodies. So although parents mostly enrol girls in dance classes, there's no reason boys can't be part of dance class. (In fact, it will give them the confidence and skills to interact with girls and teach them to treat girls in respectful ways.)
For both boys and girls, dance teaches balance and grace. Many dance styles range from ballet to hip-hop to tap dancing.
Scouting groups are a great choice for kids who enjoy nature and try various activities. Scouts learn basic outdoor survival skills, but they are also expected to earn badges in other skills like cooking, cleaning, arts, finances, goal setting, and personal care.
Historically, there have been Boy Scout troops and Girl Scout troops, but those distinctions are no longer based on traditional gender norms. The organisation formerly known as Boy Scouts is now Scouts BSA, and it welcomes girls and boys.
Girl Scouts still only accepts girls into its ranks, but in consideration of transgender youth, specifies that: "If a child is recognised by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organisation that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.
Theatre and dance are popular extracurricular activities found in almost every community. Many schools put on plays and other performances to sign up or try out. Other students who enjoy stagecraft but not performing may help build sets or make costumes.
Some kids who excel in performing arts may grow up to be professional actors, comedians, or other performers. Still, many more will build self-confidence, develop friendships, and participate in community theatre or similar groups as they become adults.
The younger you can get kids started learning a second (or third) language, the more natural it will be for them. It is a skill that has obvious practical advantages throughout life. Beyond the practical applications of knowing more than one language, kids will also learn to embrace and appreciate different cultures.
A side benefit that is seldom considered is that knowing more than one language improves a person's skill and understanding of their native language. It is because, with no reference point to compare against, studying grammar rules is an exercise in pure memorisation. Having another language as a basis for comparison makes learning both languages much easier.
A wonderful side benefit is that circus classes will push kids to face situations that most likely frighten them at first. So they gain confidence as they face their fears and learn the skill of risk assessment.
Learning how to cook is a skill that will serve kids well throughout their lives. Beyond the obvious practical aspect of feeding oneself, these classes teach about nutrition and will help cultivate an appreciation for a wide range of healthy food options.
What child wouldn't love to build their robot? So getting your kids interested in joining a robotics club shouldn't take much convincing. Clubs like this also teach a wide range of scientific, technical, maths, planning, and other skills.
Martial arts are great for instilling a sense of focus and self-discipline. They help kids burn off excess energy while also staying fit. A nice side benefit is that kids may learn to defend themselves better if they are ever in danger.
Whether it's hockey, figure skating, or roller dancing, these activities teach balance and coordination. They are also fast-paced and fun for kids.
Gymnastics can be both a group or an individual activity. While staying fit, kids learn balance and cooperation. In addition, they will build muscle and flexibility while increasing focus and concentration.
With many schools shortening or limiting their special subject classes, five kids who like to draw, paint, or create might benefit from joining an art program to learn techniques and see their creativity flourish.
Check with your child's art teacher or a local art supplies store for classes and camps; some cater to specific artistic interests, like pottery or graphic design. Many art museums host workshops for children, too.
Band and choir are popular elective courses in many schools. Children can also get private lessons or join a community youth orchestra or other music groups. Educational research suggests that kids who play musical instruments do better in academic school subjects.6 However, learning to play and appreciate music alone is a fantastic reward in itself.
Service organisations are great for teaching children about social and humanitarian issues. In addition, older kids and teens often gain leadership skills and make important personal connections.
Middle school and high school honour societies often require students to perform a certain number of hours of community service, which demonstrates the important role that schools feel this pursuit plays in individual character development.
Churches, synagogues, temples, and junior versions of groups like Kiwanis and Lions offer community service opportunities for kids. In addition, individual schools often have community service clubs that provide local outreach, whether making no-sew blankets or collecting food pantry items.
Studies show that students who participate in service-learning experiences that allow them to engage with the community and provide time for reflection are more likely to score better on exams and be more motivated to do well in school.
Clubs or competitive teams often form around academic subjects. Intellectually curious kids might enjoy exploring topics they first learn about in the classroom more deeply. Some academic clubs that schools tend to offer include:
- Maths clubs: These include Maths Counts or Mathletes.
- Chess: Clubs might play just for fun, like during lunchtime, or guide kids toward the local competition circuit.
- Debate: Debate clubs commonly compete against nearby schools.
Student government normally is available from upper elementary grades through college. Kids elected to the student council are empowered to decide important events for the student body and occasionally weigh in on school policy decisions. If your child has shown interest in leadership or politics, they should consider exploring student government groups at their school.
Many schools have student newspapers, literary magazines, yearbooks, video or audio school newscasts, film clubs, student-created websites, and more. Digging into these subjects will help familiarise kids with new technology and create a portfolio for future jobs and college applications.
Affinity groups allow kids to gather and connect with other kids who share a similar—often marginalised—identity.
High schools and even some elementary and middle schools offer clubs or groups for kids who identify as LGBTQ, persons of colour, Latinx, and more.
These groups can create a safe space for your child, a collective voice for their concerns, and service-related opportunities that might help them connect with the broader community.
Programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) are a natural fit for children who like to tinker or play on computers or tablets. Some schools offer science, computer, or engineering clubs, and more and more programs are cropping up to cater to kids' STEM interests. LEGO-based robotics, coding, and video game development are just a few examples of programs offered in certain locales across the country.
STEM programs are a smart choice to keep kids busy when transportation is tricky since an increasing number are available online. In addition, companies like Outschool allow parents to sign up for fun virtual kids' classes that focus on science and technology.
How To Choose An Extracurricular
How much you guide your child toward a certain activity will depend on your child's age. If you have a younger child, you may need to provide a lot of direction to find the right activity. For a high schooler, you may want to suggest a few different possibilities and let them find an activity that sounds interesting or fun.
If your school-age student's school doesn't offer a particular extracurricular activity, find out what is needed to start a club from their school's administration. With enough student interest and at least one adult who can volunteer their time to help supervise, your child could be a trailblazer for other kids who share their passion.
You can also look for activities sponsored by organisations in the local community. For example, local newspapers, bulletin boards, and social or online media often include advertisements for school-age children and teens programs. In addition, look to your town's recreation department or public library for low-cost or free extracurricular activity options.
Just be careful not to overschedule your child with extracurricular activities. Many child health experts encourage parents to make sure children have at least one day a week without an organised extracurricular activity, so they can have free time to relax and recharge.
How To Choose After-School Or Extracurricular Activities For Your Child
There are many options for after-school activities for kids. First, talk to your child about her interests and see what she may like. For example, high energy children may prefer sports or dance, while children who are low key tend to prefer calmer activities like book clubs, cooking classes or perhaps pottery.
When you have a general idea of what your child wants, you can do some research to see who provides these classes in your area and then take the time to visit the place with your child while a class is in session and see if she finds it to be a stimulating and comfortable environment.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Proper facilities like proper ventilation if there is a painting class going on, as the fumes from the turpentine can be harmful, or enough sewing machines in a sewing class.
- The staff should be friendly and enthusiastic. It is always best to send to someone who is properly certified.
- See if the children in the class are happy and look like they are having fun and learning something.
While education is important, all work and no play is no way for a child to stay.
Children's extracurricular activities allow them to drain some energy while also being educational and beneficial to their development. The place you choose to send your child to is very important, as you should never send them anywhere they may be exposed to anything that may damage their creativity instead of nurturing it.
By expanding your child's skillset and social circle, extracurricular activities can be an investment in your child's future. Along with helping your child establish a growth mindset through teamwork and problem-solving challenges, pursuing interests outside of the academic curriculum may help teach your child how to establish a better work-life balance when they become adults.
The trick is figuring out which classes and programs are a good fit, so talking to your child's teachers, fellow parents, and community organisers about local options is key. Above all, keep an open mind, and don't be afraid to let your kids try new things. A child or teen who may lack or lose interest in one activity might find their true calling in another.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no set limit to after-school activities that suit all kids, as some children thrive with a busier schedule and others need more downtime. However, it's a good rule of thumb to cut back on extracurriculars if your child has trouble getting homework done, can't get at least eight hours of sleep per night, or struggles to maintain connections with family and friends.
Extracurricular activity options run the gamut for today's kids and teens. Popular activities include sports, scouts, art, theatre, music, and community service. Many children also join school-affiliated organisations (like student council), competitive academic clubs (like Model U.N. or maths club), and affinity groups that help connect kids with shared identities.
By doing extracurricular activities, a child can expand their social circle, develop new skills, and become better problem solvers. In addition, research shows that kids who do extracurricular activities tend to do better in the classroom.
Extracurricular activities that promote intellectual curiosity, creativity, compassion, and a strong work ethic impress college admissions officers. Look into a debate or chess clubs, visual or performing art workshops, community outreach or volunteering opportunities, or even after-school jobs.
Practice kicking a ball in the backyard, paint, dance, play catch, or head out to a swimming pool together. Not only are these activities inexpensive, but they are also more likely to create a lifelong love of the pastime as it's more child-centred and about your relationship with your child.
Between school and downtime, most kids try one or more extracurricular activities. These classes and programs allow children and teens to pursue a special interest outside of the typical educational curriculum, including sports, the arts, special-interest clubs, and technology.
If you already have a busy family schedule, you may wonder whether extracurricular activities are worth the time and money. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that enrichment programs outside the classroom boost children's social and academic skills. Luckily, there are more choices than ever for kids to find a pursuit that may ignite a true passion.
Whether you're a working parent or a stay-at-home parent, finding the right extracurricular activity for your child can be a challenge. There are so many options available it can be hard to know which one is the best fit for your child. This blog post will help make the decision easier by outlining three of the best extracurricular activities for kids. Read on to learn more!
Benefits Of Extracurricular Activities
Depending on whether the program you're considering for your child is physical, intellectual, or creative, specific extracurricular activities can build skills in different developmental areas. However, research has shown that extracurricular activities in general can:
- Offer kids the opportunity to develop closer friends than they might make in school due to shared interests
- Build teamwork and problem-solving skills
- Help children develop emotional regulation that carries over to the classroom
- Encourage superior academic performance
- Enhance a high schooler's college application portfolio