Think your kid is ready for after school activities? Consider these Rules.

Little Kids after school soccer

School is back in session and you may be wondering if your big kid is ready for some after school activities.  There are several things to keep in mind before you sign your mini up.

Consider the interests of your child

Kids have constantly changing interests.  In fact, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with them!!  Is there something your kiddo has been talking about for a while now?  A certain sport or activity that they always seem to want to do?  If so, you’re in luck!  Do some digging around and see what options there are for that particular activity.

Some kids may not have an understanding of what’s out there for them to try or may be totally overwhelmed by the possibilities.  If that’s the case, figure out what’s available in your community and start looking around.  Bring them to a dance class, or watch a little league game.

Or maybe your growing child is more of the artistic sort and would rather explore something like art, music, or theatre.  What kind of artistic opportunities are available in your community?  If they want to learn a musical instrument, are you willing and able to practice with them regularly?  Will your drama student be able to stay up for late running plays?

Research the schedule

We all have different lives and different needs.  Before committing to an after school activity, make sure this activity isn’t going to wreak havoc on your entire household.  Are you willing to give up every Saturday and several nights each week for sports games and practices?  If you’ve got artistic kiddos, are you going to be able to work out the end of semester rehearsal and recital schedule?

Set ground rules for your kids

Participating in extracurricular activities is a committment of time and money.  So before you sign the papers and pass over the check, make sure your kid understands that this is a committment.  At least for the season.  What this means for your kids is that they show up at practices or lessons and give their best effort.  That they agree to practice if taking music.  That they learn their lines if participating in a play.  If they decide after the season that their chosen after school activity isn’t for them, not a problem.  But helping them to finish the season even though they don’t love what they are doing is a great lesson.

Make sure you’ve left time for free play

Although participation in extracurricular activities certainly has its benefits, children often benefit the most from free play.  Time to themselves each day for their mind to wander and their creativity to break free.  Time to explore bugs and birds in the garden and learn to ride their bikes.  Unstructured and for the most part, only loosely supervised.  Where they can solve their own problems.

I’m not talking about TV, electronics, and video games here.  I’m talking outside play, artistic crafts, reading, and make-believe.  Make sure your kid has ample time to get comfortable with being “bored.”

Encourage variation

It’s always exciting when our children find something that they want to do that they happen to be really good at.  But it’s ok to encourage them to stretch outside of their comfort zone and try new things.  After all, they may find something that they like even more!  And childhood is the time to try new things.  So get out there and explore all the possibilities… you never know what they’ll end up loving.

Author: Dr. Jenny Seawell

Dr. Jennifer Seawell is a board certified pediatrician currently practicing in Tennessee. She is married with 2 daughters aged 7 and 13.

One thought on “Think your kid is ready for after school activities? Consider these Rules.”

  1. I fell into the trap of over scheduling with one of my kids. I was strong in resisting it with my first. We made him choose between two sports because I didn’t want him doing too much. Then with my 2nd, my resistance fell. She loved dance and there were so many classes offered. Regular classes plus performance and competition groups added up. She begged and promised to keep up with homework. It initially seemed to help her get her homework done, since she didn’t have time to do it after dance class so it had to be done first. She was motivated to get right to it so she could get to dance, rather than procrastinating and complaining. In hindsight it was very stressful for her and she wasn’t alone. The kids at the studio were for the most part sleep deprived and crabby. Her entire mood changed when she moved to a studio that didn’t encourage so many hours and she cut back on dance hours considerably. Remember it’s not the number of activities, but the hours spent each week. Many experts recommend no more hours per week than their age, so an 8 year old should do no more than 8 hours of extracurriculars. That “rule” can make it easy to set limits!

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