From sports to music to special interest clubs, there’s no shortage of activities for kids to choose from. While some parents may ask themselves, “Is participation in extracurricular activities important?” the reality is that afterschool programs do more than simply fill up time and give kids a place to socialize.
A 2003 study by the Journal of Adolescent Research shows the many benefits of extracurricular activities, including improved academic performance, relationship skills, and personal growth. These programs can decrease overall stress and anxiety as well as create an ideal opportunity for children to form friendships with others who share similar interests.
Here are five benefits of afterschool activities to pay attention to.
Being involved in activities outside of school has proven effective in teaching children time-management skills. Doris Granum, a retired school teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan, explains, “When you have a specific time that you have to do something, you learn that you need to plan and organize your time. This skill is crucial and helps kids as they grow into adults.”
Another benefit of extracurricular activities is that they provide an excellent way for children to discover new talents and try new things. They also create an opportunity for kids to see improvement as they continue to put time and energy into a specific skill.
“All of us want and need to feel rewarded for the things we do, especially those that are meaningful,” says Dr. Joseph Cardillo, author of “Body Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life.” He notes that personal rewards achieved through extracurricular activities help build confidence and self-esteem, making it more likely that students will have the confidence to try new things in the future.
Research from Deborah Lowe Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, found a direct correlation between academic achievement and participation in extracurricular activities and afterschool programs. This includes fewer absences, improved test scores and grade point averages, and better work habits when it comes to homework. “The more of your brain you’re using, the more of a knowledge base you’ll have,” Granum says.
Extracurricular activities set the stage for learning how to set goals and then working toward them through frequent practice. Those lessons carry over into other aspects of children’s lives as well, according to Cardillo. “Being able to integrate and coordinate information this way to achieve personal goals is what determines the quality of an individual’s daily experience — and life,” he says.
These habits are foundational and reinforce the value of structured participation even beyond high school. While it may not be clear just how many college students participate in extracurricular activities, higher education institutions are packed with clubs, sports, and groups to engage even the most niche interests. According to Brent Rasmussen, former COO and President of CareerBuilder, extracurricular activities and volunteer experience in college can go a long way in landing a first job after graduation.
Image courtesy of Gavin Whitner at musicoomph.com.
Learning to work with others is crucial, and Granum says whether it’s a choir or a sports team, the benefits of extracurricular activities are difficult to ignore. “People who can work well together with others definitely have a leg up on those who can’t,” she says. “The ability to work in a collective unit is such an important thing for kids to learn.”
Finding the Right Fit
With so many options for activities, it’s important to find the right fit. Cardillo reminds parents to resist the urge to force children into something that goes against their natural interests. Instead, let your child come up with ideas for what he or she would like to do, and then explore those ideas together.
Granum shares that although extracurricular activities are important, it’s equally crucial to not overschedule children with activities. “If you give them too much to do, they’re going to lose their enjoyment,” she says. “Too many activities will be detrimental. You have to allow them time to be a child.”
To avoid a schedule that overwhelms, help your kids optimize the time they have. One way to do this is by creating distinct spaces in your home that are designed to maximize focus on the task at hand, like studying, practicing an instrument, or working on a specific hobby or interest. CORT Furniture Rental offers quick and easy solutions for setting up any space — no matter what the activity may be.