The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

My daily schedule growing up was pretty jammed packed. I participated in Dance Classes, Girl Scouts, Equestrian Riding, Swimming, and not to mention I was always invited to birthday parties and sleepovers for family and friends. In addition, I excelled as a student – making Honor Roll every marking period through high school (except for a few times – you know teenage angst). Now, as an adult, I can frame that to say “my childhood was very fulfilling.”

I was raised by a single Mother, working and putting herself through college. Yes, we had a [small] village to assist, but the brunt of the labor really came down on her. A lot of the admirable qualities I demonstrate in adulthood were developed through my Mother’s teaching, and my participation in extracurricular activities throughout childhood.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken to adults who say their childhood was spent going to school, going home, and nothing in between. They balk at the idea of doing activities outside the home on a school night. They have no idea what Saturday mornings look like aside from cleaning and listening to R&B or Gospel music (depending on the type of household they grew up in). And they most certainly wouldn’t have ever requested to attend a birthday party or sleepover.

I see those same patterns in a lot of Parents and Guardians today. To no fault of their own, they focus solely on the educational aspects of their child’s life and neglect the social responsibilities that come from being citizens of this world. As we’ve seen from the current state of society, education received in school settings (whether traditional or not), is not the end all be all for a fulfilled life. To be honest, is it really even the start?

Don’t get me wrong, a comprehensive educational experience is extremely important to the livelihood of us all, but remember learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom. If we want our children to be truly successful in the world, we have to be willing to provide opportunities and experiences that mold and shape them to be just that.

So, what are the benefits of children participating in extracurricular activities? Let’s take a look.

1. Children learn and develop Time Management skills

When children are given multiple responsibilities (i.e. school, extracurricular activities, social experiences, etc.), they learn how to manage their time and make choices regarding priorities. Children will almost always have homework to complete, school projects to get done, and Parent/Teacher conferences to attend. Those are not legitimate reasons for children to skip out on extracurricular activities. Point. Blank. Period. End of Discussion.

The truth is, children learn most of their transferrable skills from the people they spend the most time with. If you (Mom/Dad/Parent/Guardian) are constantly running late, not meeting deadlines, forgetting due dates, etc. then your child (or children) will most likely pick up those same habits.

My Mother was notorious for always being 15-20 minutes late. I, on the other hand, (since Kindergarten, when her lateness caused me to receive a Lunch Detention), cringe at the thought of being late. All the clocks in my house and car are set at least 10-15 minutes fast and I will leave my house as early as need be to ensure I make it to a destination 15 minutes before the scheduled time. It’s just that serious to me.

Mismanaging time in adulthood is a trait we tend to sneer at. Don’t you just hate when you schedule a Doctor’s appointment for a specific time and when you arrive, your scheduled appointment time creeps by and you’re still waiting? I know I do! Start assisting your child with building time management now and watch the mastery continue throughout life. Or not, and they will either take matters into their own hands (like I did) or always use excuses to justify something not getting done.

2. Children learn Discipline (outside of their immediate authority figures)

The goal of positive discipline is for children to learn and implement self-control, manage their emotions, and make wise choices regarding their personal behaviors. Extracurricular activities provide the opportunity for children to gain discipline from other authority figures and peers that will teach them how to adapt to situations as they come.

Have you ever heard a Parent say “Little Bobby doesn’t act this way at home!” And in the back of your mind, you’re thinking “Oh yes, he absolutely does – you’ve just become accustomed to it and choose to ignore it!” Children, including Little Bobby, need experiences outside their homes, to learn how to manage themselves when not in the presence of their Parents.

Childhood is all about exploration and you will often see children testing the waters (i.e. the patience of any adult or peer; physical and emotional limits) to see just how far they can go. When children are only learning from their immediate authority figures, they miss out on the opportunity to absorb/witness/experience other authoritative and temperament styles. Side Note: Skills learned outside the home are also transferrable once back in the home! Win-win for Mom/Dad and Little Bobby.

3. Children need Breaks from School

CHILDREN NEED BREAKS FROM SCHOOL! CHILDREN NEED BREAKS FROM SCHOOL! Let me repeat that again for the people in the back - CHILDREN NEED BREAKS FROM SCHOOL! Got it now? Great!

As adults, we have been conditioned to work, work, work, work, work (I was definitely singing Rihanna as I typed that lol) and only take “breaks” several times a year (i.e. your well-planned family or solo vacation), if we can afford it. Don’t create the same patterns in your child that they will have to disrupt in adulthood. Children need consistent time away from the structure of school. Activities outside the home provide just that, plain and simple!

4. Children will enhance skills learned in the classroom

Extracurricular activities are great for developing general academic and soft skills like communication, self-motivation, leadership, adaptability, responsibility, teamwork, problem-solving, decisiveness, conflict resolution, and the ability to work under time and pressure constraints.

When children are taking a dance class or learning a new language, the synapses in their brains are growing and forming new patterns of thought and behavior that will cross realms throughout their lives. Children, just like adults, are not one-dimensional. We as humans learn patterns from a plethora of experiences. Extracurricular activities allow for those patterns to be defined, refined, worked, and worked again.

5. Extracurricular Activities expand interests and perspectives

Extracurricular Activities provide a great opportunity for children to broaden their perspective of the world, especially volunteering and community service programs. Activities outside the home allow children to be introduced to varying cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, people with disabilities, etc. Children will gain new understandings and interests based on the conversations and experiences they have with others who don’t necessarily look like them. They will develop a culturally competent perspective of their world, that will in turn allow them to have a more inclusive, not exclusive worldview.

6. Extracurricular Activities lead to advantages on a Resume

Extracurricular Activities, interests, and skills are great to include on a resume for both higher education and employment purposes. Without much previous work experience, school officials and hiring managers can assess your child’s ability and work ethic just from the experiences they’ve had in Dance Class, Swimming, Girl Scouts, Chess Club, Basketball, Track, etc., etc.

Oftentimes, the skills universities and employers look for are not GPA or Academic based, but rather things like character, social and emotional skills, growth mindset, self-discipline, persistence, and grit. Those skills might be introduced at home or in the classroom but they are really honed when children participate in productive and structured extracurricular activities.

As you can see, I truly believe in extracurricular activities and the long-ranging benefits they have for us all (I know some Parents who could definitely use the break), but especially children. So you ask, should each second of every day be occupied? No (unless that type of intervention is warranted). But, a good, solid, schedule that proactively blends school learning with extracurricular activities can do a world of good!

SN: I completely understand the current climate and the need to be cautious about participating in activities outside the home. I am true believer that health and safety trump anything, so if your child needs an extracurricular outlet that’s not in person, check out YouTube (with caution)! And if they’ve participated in extracurricular activities that require consistent practice, I would suggest using this time to work on skills previously learned and perhaps reach out to their former Instructor, Coach, Mentor, etc. for assistance.

On another note, we’ve entered the 4th Quarter of this year and before we know it 2021 will have arrived. Use this time to discuss with your child the extracurricular activities he/she would like to engage in next year and make sure Limitless Performing Arts is at the top of your list 😊

*Written by Donielle I. Turner, MS (Licensed Behavior Specialist) *

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