In many neighborhoods, the variety of planned and supervised activities available after school is both exhilarating and dizzying.
At the same time, the benefits of down time are now also being studied, discussed and published.
Add to that family budgetary, time and chauffeuring constraints and activity planning can quickly turn into a net of aggravation.
So let’s do this smart.
Whose decision is this?
Only give your child as much information and that from which he or she is allowed to choose.
Don’t set yourselves up for an argument by including options to which you are disinclined to agree.
What are your goals and priorities?
You may have more than one goal to achieve through activity participation, so prioritize: Widen horizons? Provide social interaction? Physical activity? Opportunity for competition?
What looks fun?
Most activities are for at least a season, if not the entire school year. That’s an eternity doing something one doesn’t enjoy. Don’t set yourself up for a weekly power struggle.
Where should you be looking?
While some areas are very organized with information about locally-available informal education, others require more research on the parents’ part.
Once you’ve mapped out your needs and goals, you’ll have some direction on where to look.
- Social interaction – With the school group of friends, or does your child need a different opportunity? Most school districts have some offerings, but if your child needs a break from that social circle, maybe look to a community center, religious organization, scouts, or to special interest group such as environmental organizations, culture- or language- based clubs, to name only a few options.
- Physical activity – After-school sports, Little League, community center, gymnastics center? As with all these options, Google as at the ready to help in your search.
- Widening horizons – Local libraries and museums may have options in this department. Teachers can also be resources. If your child just loves science, math or art, ask that teacher what the options might be. Many colleges and universities have classes especially for kids and teens.
Don’t over-program your child. While parents are certainly well-intentioned, the draw to give your child “the best” and “every opportunity” should not mean also providing pressure and the anxiety created by too much going on.
Kids need to learn to manage some of their own time, plan their own social life and have the time to be spontaneous.
Take into account that time is limited, especially the number of daylight hours after school hours over the winter months. Write out the “musts”: school time, tutoring, therapy, other obligations such as a weekly visit with Grandma and only THEN take a look at what time is REALISTICALLY available for activities.
More Useful Resources
- How to choose the right extracurricular activity for your child
- Finding the Balance With After-School Activities