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Choosing extracurricular activities for the coming year

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Students Painting

Happy New Year everyone! We've all just turned to the first month of a fresh, new calendar, and a whole New Year lies ahead of us just waiting to be explored. What a great time to think about all the exciting learning opportunities that await our children in the upcoming year.

Extracurricular activities can be a big part of those learning opportunities. And there are so many to choose from! Kids today have more opportunities than ever to expand their learning horizons outside of school. They can participate in sporting events, try their hands at crafts and hobbies, learn to play a variety of musical instruments, work as volunteers, or learn a new language. Each of these activities offers its own unique learning experiences. Some of them aid in the development of the brain, enhancing our children's ability to learn. Others can help them become more outgoing. Still others can instill our children with a sense of altruism.

Are you trying to decide which outside activities would be best for your child this year? Here are a few points to keep in mind.

Play to your child's strengths - Often, the things that we do best are the very things that hold our interests and inspire us. Your child's strengths hold the key to his future passions. Follow those strengths when choosing extracurricular activities. Does your child love to make one-of-a-kind snacks for friends and family? Cooking clubs or classes might interest him. Is he the one everyone in the family turns to when their computers freeze up? Sign him up for a programming or digital art class.

Play to your child's weaknesses - Part of growing up is continually striving to improve ourselves. Look into activities that might help strengthen an area in which your child might be struggling. A child who spends his weekends glued to the computer, for instance, might benefit from joining a group that will get him outside and moving: a soccer club or a swimming team, for instance. A child who needs extra reading practice could join a library book club and earn rewards for every book he reads. Stay sensitive to your child's needs and feelings when choosing activities, however. An extremely shy child, for instance, may simply not be ready to take a class that requires public speaking. A child who is self-conscious about his weight may not be comfortable changing into a swimming suit at a public pool.

Variety is the spice of life - When choosing after-school activities for your child, try to choose from a broad range of activities. If you choose one that's classroom centered -- a computer class, for instance -- balance that with something more physical: a dance class or gymnastics. If your child already has one or more physically strenuous activities, choose another that's more cerebral: an art or writing class, for instance. Balance activities that require team work with those that are more solitary, as well.

Don't overlook free play - Kids need time each week to explore and create on their own. It develops their imagination, their creativity and even their sense of self-reliance. Don't over fill your child's day with structured activities so that there is no free time for him to do what kids do best: Be a kid!

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