Could your child be the next Mozart? Are they a budding Olympian? Or are your ambitions for them much more modest, e.g. being able to speak 12 languages and protect your home from burglars? Perhaps you just want them out of your hair for a few hours a week.
Whatever the reasons, if you are looking to enrol your child into an extra-curricular activity, we bring you a pros and cons list of the various activities out there.
First, let’s start with some universal tips
When it comes to choosing an extra-curricular activity, you should consider the following:
- Where suitable, get your child involved in choosing their activity.
- Make sure the activity suits you too in terms of cost, convenience and other factors – no child wants a resentful, cranky and overtired parent.
- Check that the activity has kids of similar ages and skill levels to yours, so they don’t get bored or lose confidence.
- Ask if the activity offers free trial lessons – even if they don’t offer it off the bat, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Check out what is on offer at your child’s school, local community centre, church or library. You’d be surprised what cheap and easy options are right at your doorstep.
Right, let’s get into it!
Team sports include soccer, basketball and netball.
- Develops physical skills.
- Promotes teamwork.
- Relatively cheap, with only a small investment for uniforms and other gear.
- Quite a social scene for kids and parents – think fun sideline chatter, lifelong friendships, and shared future grandchildren.
- Quite a social scene for kids and parents – think stilted sideline chatter, actively avoiding overtures of friendships, and at least 20 years of awkward birthdays, christenings and school plays for shared future grandchildren.
- Wider pool of witnesses if your kid turns out to be a sporting dud.
- May include early morning sessions.
- May involve carpooling and lots of sticky orange slices.
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Little Athletics encourages track and field skills (e.g. running, walking, throwing) in kids aged between five and 15.
- Encourages fitness and health.
- Builds family bonding and community spirit as parents, grandparents and friends can be involved by helping with various events.
- It is social without being a team sport – so if your kid performs poorly, they are only bringing down themselves (and you, and your family honour, ancestors, etc.)
- Every child’s performance is on public display, which may create competitiveness.
- There is a fair bit of standing around for the kids as they await their turns. Most of the time this is fine though, as the kiddies are happy hanging out with their friends or doing cartwheels.
Swimming programs are widespread, so provided your town has at least one public pool, swimming lessons will likely be available.
- Suits athletic children who prefer solitary activities.
- Excellent way to get fit.
- Develops an essential skill that may save their lives.
- Free showers, so no need for baths when you get home.
- Sticky, wet clothing that reeks of chlorine.
- Yucky hair (and theirs too).
Tip: If you live near an ocean or major body of water, you can enrol your kids in a surf lifesaving course. It’s like an extreme version of swimming lessons.
Stuck On You offers a fantastic range of Iron On Labels that are perfect for swimming gear.
Including karate and tae kwon do, martial arts require intense mental and physical concentration. They give your child an opportunity to learn coordination skills and controlled movements, whilst having lots of fun and making friends.
- Being an indoor sport, you won’t have to battle the elements and uncomfortable (or lack of) seating.
- Friendly hours, so very early mornings are unlikely.
- Parental participation is generally minimal, so feel free to play with your phone or even pop out to the cafe or shops while the lessons are on.
- Can be costly.
- Your child may misuse their newfound skills – most commonly against siblings.
Tip: Some martial arts centres offer pick-ups after school, saving you one trip.
The idea behind scouting is to prepare young people for the adult world by developing their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and survival skills. All under the disguise of good fun, of course!
- Gets the kids outdoors.
- Teaches important life skills, including kindness, leadership and resourcefulness.
- Consistent peer interaction.
- Close adult supervision.
- The various fundraising activities, while worthwhile, can be a struggle for the shy and the lazy.
- You might have to fork out some money for proper uniforms and accessories.
Tip: Did you know that Stuck On You has a range of Scouts labels? Check them out here!
Learning a language
Whether you want them to develop a language they already speak at home, build on basic language classes that are already provided within the school curriculum, or learn a new language altogether, there are plenty of classes around offering an array of languages.
- Promotes cross-cultural understanding and tolerance.
- Promotes multi-tasking, problem-solving, creative and critical-thinking skills.
- Enhances literacy skills, including of your child’s primary language.
- Opens up future job opportunities.
- They will say rude things to you in a different language – and you won’t get it.
Tip: If money or logistics are issues, there are plenty of excellent online language tutorials that the whole family can do together.
Music and arts
These include creative pursuits such as piano, violin, singing, pottery, painting and much more.
- There’s no obligation to stick around while your child is having their lessons – in fact, it’s often discouraged – meaning that you can have a guilt-free hour or so to yourself.
- Your child will make nice things that you can’t wait to display around the house.
- Your child will treat you to mini-concertos while you make dinner.
- These activities tend not to be very social.
- Being not very social, you’re unlikely to meet other parents, which also means that carpooling. potential is limited – so you’ll almost definitely have to do all the transporting to and from lessons alone.
- Your child will make hideous things that you’re forced to display around the house.
- Your child will treat you to discordant, cat-strangling sounds while you make dinner.
Tip: You might be able to get the music teacher to come to your place instead of having to go to their place. This will save you travel time and you can all chill out at home.
After school care programs
After school care programs are not an after-school activity as such. However, these days, most occasional care centres incorporate a range of structured activities that are developmentally appropriate for your child’s level and based on best practice. So if you need to use an after school care service anyway, rest assured that your child is also doing some fun and educational activities.
- Combines several needs in one handy package – babysitting + physical and mental stimulation + socialising.
- Definitely not a cost-effective option if you don’t need out-of-school-hours care anyway.
- Children are not necessarily expanding their social circle as most of the kids will be the same ones as at their school.
The recent proliferation of cooking reality shows has inspired wide-spread enthusiasm for the culinary arts. If your kids have caught the cooking bug, it’s worth checking to see if any organisations in your local area hold cooking classes for kids.
- Children are taught very handy and very marketable skills.
- They can start cooking the family meals, or at least helping with them.
- You can rest assured that they might not spend their early adulthood eating two-minute noodles and Doritos.
- Once they know what’s out there, your kid may thumb their noses at your relatively simple (and/or bad) cooking skills.
- You may end up spending more time and money on the weekly grocery shop as your little chef demands rare and exotic ingredients so that they can ‘cook’ for you.
Model building, woodwork etc.
In our culture of convenience and quick results, there’s something satisfying about knowing how to make your own stuff.
- The kids will learn from enthusiastic professionals.
- The kids can enjoy the tangible fruits of their own labour.
- You will benefit from getting some pretty new things around the house (e.g. wind chimes).
- May be costly.
- May not always be easy to find such a program in your local area.
Last but most definitely not least, there’s volunteer work. This can vary widely, from helping sort incoming donations at the local op shop to planting trees. Note that there may be age requirements depending on the type of volunteer role.
- Spiritually fulfilling.
- Instils empathy and compassion.
- Hours may be flexible and negotiable.
- The whole family can get involved – in fact, this may be encouraged.
- Your child will be exposed to people outside their typical circles – e.g. older people, people in more difficult circumstances.
- Volunteering might be a hard sell for some kids, leading you to wonder if your child is a selfish and horrible person.
- Volunteering might be a hard sell for you, leading you to wonder if you are a selfish and horrible person.
At Stuck On You, we have a huge range of bags and backpacks, including those that would be perfect for swimming and other after-school activities.