HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
May 14, 2007, Herald Journal

Extracurricular activities


With all of the technology gadgets that our young people are captivated (and captured) by, being involved in “hands-on” activities that exercise both their minds and their bodies is vitally important.

Of course, the issue is always balance. Balance between school, activities, down time, and family time.

But there certainly is merit for involvement in extracurricular activities - again, with balance in mind.

In today’s society, it seems there’s a plethora of choices, so which ones are the best?

That certainly depends on your individual child, but Joan Bergstrom, author of “School’s Out, Resources for Your Child’s Time,” on the website http://childrentoday.com, recommends making sure the activities are geared for your child’s age group.

Parents should also keep in mind what the purpose of the activity is.

“Activities widen a child’s world and allow him to go into something in-depth and gain self-confidence,” Bergstrom said. The activities chosen should do this.

Extracurricular activities teach our children skills and lessons beyond the walls, and they teach children to have an appreciation for sports and the arts, Bergstrom noted.

For children who need some encouragement and even for those who don’t, parents should look at what speaks to their child and talk to them about it. Do they like dinosaurs, weather, cars, painting, dancing, etc.?

Bergstrom says then, look at what’s available and give choices. And she also recommends, once involved, a child should stick with the activity for at least six weeks. She does not recommend allowing your child to drop in and out.

Sometimes, it takes a child awhile before they become warmed up to the activity; or sometimes, children may not want to go to the activity and complain about going, but once they actually are engaged in it, they enjoy it.

Of course, if your child wants to quit, look for physical signs of stress, such as headaches and stomachaches, Bergstrom noted.

Bergstrom also says that children shouldn’t be involved in extracurricular activities more than six to nine hours a week. Remember homework time, play time and family time.

We each know our own children, and on that note, the article on the above-mentioned website, “Extracurricular Activities, Get Your Child Involved” by Kimberly Austin, says: “take a step back, look at your child’s schedule and evaluate how he/she is doing in their activities. If they are managing to keep up with their homework and not seem tired, then the schedule most likely is fine.”

And remember, children should be involved in activities for the right reasons. The chosen activity should help build your child’s self-confidence and they should feel good about it.

Participation in the right activities for each child can be very worthwhile. We also want to remember to allow our children to be children, and allow them good ol’ play time to let their imaginations and creativity soar.

We all need that.