Maya Angelou said that when you know better, you do better. In the age of information we know so much about the science of raising kids that parenting standards are the highest they’ve ever been. Parents today agree that they have it harder than their parents did when it comes to the societal pressure to raise successful children. We are told how we should discipline smarter, feed cleaner, and push harder to turn our children into their smartest and healthiest selves from increasingly early ages.
Modern parenting expectations present a lot of decisions for you to make for your child but one area of child-rearing that you shouldn’t skimp out on is picking the right activities for your child to get involved in. Studies show that extracurricular activities improve academic performance, decrease stress and anxiety, promote relationship skills, and more. Extracurricular activities have also been shown to help foster time management skills, improve self esteem, teach teamwork skills, and develop goal setting habits. And these great benefits just apply to extracurricular activities in general. Children can get even more value out of extracurricular activities depending specifically on which activities they choose. For example, athletic activities are obviously generally good for a child’s physical health whereas arts-based activities like music help children grow culturally.
While it should be an obvious choice to enroll your child in some sort of extracurricular activity (or just an activity in general if they are not yet school-aged), the activity you choose may not be so obvious. Here to help is our list of the 10 best activities to get your child involved in to help them develop into a well-rounded person. These activities are based on total value when it comes to the growth of your child socially, educationally, physically, and culturally. After the list if you still need ideas about where to start, consider looking into a JCC membership. Your local JCC is a great place to learn about activities available to your child in your area.
Music & Dance
Music is one of the top activities found to promote academic improvement. Music students are proven to experience advantages in language development and spatial-temporal skills. They also tend to have higher IQs and achieve better test scores. Dance adds physicality to music which means dance students are benefitting both their brains and their bodies. Dancers tend to be more flexible and have better posture than other children and, because dance and music are both performing arts, musicians and dancers tend to have improved self confidence.
65% of children worldwide are involved in sports activities.A quick glance at the long list of benefits that comes with playing sports explains why. Perhaps the most impressive scientifically proven fact about children and sports is that children who are involved in sports actually have a statistically higher chance of socio-economic success in adulthood. Researchers attribute this to the behavioral skills sports teach you such as teamwork, perseverance, and confidence. And, there are absolutely benefits to encouraging any child to be more active and take care of their physical health.
While swimming is also considered a sport, it earned its own category because of the additional advantages swimmers gain by getting in some pool time. Not only is swimming great exercise and a lot of fun, learning to swim is an essential safety skill. Drowning is the second leading cause of death between ages 5 and 24. Swimming is also great stress relief and is a good preventative of depression. It’s also a good option for an activity to start at an early age, as infant and toddler swim lessons have become increasingly popular.
Painting, sketching, sculpting, and crafts in general are great for a lot more than just expressing creativity- although self expression is an important part of childhood! Enrolling your child in an art class or program will also help with language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, and cultural awareness. And, of course, it is another activity on this list that will help boost your child’s grades in school- in fact it has been reported that students who participate in art regularly are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement!
Team sports, naturally, are great for establishing teamwork skills. Martial arts on the other hand, promote the practice of self discipline which can also be a valuable trait to instill in your child. Martial arts have been found to be particularly good for children who struggle with ADD or ADHD. This is because the martial arts are very focus based but offer the chance to move at a personal pace. Students work towards concrete goals and are given recognition each time they reach a new level. This helps encourage discipline and good self esteem.
Literacy is the cornerstone of good education, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that an activity that involves independent reading is included on this list. Not only does a book club encourage children to take an interest in reading by letting them choose their own material, it also helps them get engaged in their books by encouraging group discussion between friends. Sadly, few children choose to read outside of school on their own - in fact, only 46% of children between ages 6 & 8 report reading for fun. Studies have also found that the percentages of children who read outside of school are on the decline. One of the best ways to get your child reading more is to encourage them to do it as a part of a group, it’s more fun and it’ll help boost their comprehension too!
Among the most important skills for a student or young adult in general is public speaking, but it is also the one many of us fear most. Encouraging an interest in theatre from an early age is a great way to combat this fear and get your child out of their shell. Students involved in theatre have even been shown to outscore non-arts students on the SATs by an average of 65 points in the verbal section. This could be because acting requires heavy memorization. Acting also provides a positive outlet for stress since actors are able to channel their personal emotions through the embodiment of a character without the normal societal repercussions.
Kids today are spending way more time indoors with their televisions, cell phones, and tablets than they are playing outside. And because our children’s generation is growing up removed from nature by being more exposed to photos and videos than actually being out in it, their appreciation of nature is at an all time low. Children need to spend time outside to learn appreciation for their environment so they are less likely to abuse it. They need to learn to take risks and how to be less than comfortable and still be able to enjoy themselves. Outdoor activities can also demonstrate survival skills that could be useful in an emergency situation and spending time in the sun is so important for increasing those serotonin levels.
Second Language Groups
More high schools and colleges are requiring foreign language credits as a part of their programs. This is largely due to the fact that knowing a second language increases a person’s hire-ability significantly. Research shows that learning a second language is actually easier when you are still a child and developing your first language. This is contrary to the belief that learning a second language can cause confusion or delay in the child’s education of their first language. In fact, learning a second language can help a child with their grammar skills overall because it changes their understanding of the parts of speech in a practical way.
Scientific and Technical Clubs
Science, technology, engineering, and math clubs have been becoming much more popular in recent years. These sorts of activities make science and technology fun for children and spark an interest in related fields. Science and technology industries are some of only a few that are seeing rapid job growth but they are also the industries that tend to peak the least amount of interest from students. Encouraging an interest in these areas early could be the thing that makes your child’s entire career future!
And there you have it! While all of these options are great to consider remember that most all extracurricular activities are beneficial. The important thing is just getting your child involved! Make sure you get a feel for what interests your child so that together you can pick an activity they will want to stick with. After all, seeing your child get passionate about an activity they enjoy is the greatest benefit.