“I’m bored,” my 11-year-old daughter grumbled as she collapsed onto the couch. It was a rare unscheduled moment in her life. I cringed as I recalled what can occur when she has a spontaneous second. At the age of 3, I assumed she was quietly playing with her toys only to discover the entire wall was covered with a new crayon-drawn mural. We are both happier now that she is enrolled in art classes.
She prefers being busy, which is why she partook in six different extracurricular activities this past spring. Her interests ranged from sign language class to swim team. Besides avoiding boredom (and messes), there are many benefits to having scheduled activities for your child. Research by the National Center for Education Statistics states that students who participated in after-school activities had better attendance, higher levels of achievement and aspirations to higher levels of education.
Better Academic Performance
Even though my daughter was in six different clubs or sports, she received all A’s in her academic classes. By participating in extracurricular activities, a child is able to learn new skills which can be applied to the school setting. For example, my daughter was in the garden club and she used the information she learned about plants in her science class. Sports such as basketball, baseball and football use statistics, addition/subtraction, probability and geometry, which can be applied to math class.
A number of research studies found students who participate in extracurricular activities perform better in school. Douglas Reeves studied data at Woodstock High School and found students who were in three or four extracurricular activities during the year had dramatically better grades than those who participated in no extracurricular activities. There was a study done by the College Board which found high school extracurricular participation was correlated to higher SAT scores: SAT math by 45 points and SAT verbal scores by 53 points.
If a child is participating in more than one activity, she will also experience more than one coach or teacher, each having different rules and expectations. She also will have the opportunity to meet kids with a range of personalities and interests, interactions that will teach a child how to be adaptable to multiple people and situations.
Maddi and Deborah Khoshaba’s training guide, “Resilience at Work,” discusses the importance of being adaptable, and illustrates how adaptable people who lose their jobs thrive because they are able to adapt to changing circumstances. Being adaptable is a skill which can be beneficial both in the school and work settings.
Better Social Skills
Children will gain social skills from interacting with the person in charge of the activity or sport, as well as with their peers. They also have the opportunity to learn about team work by either playing a sport or doing class activities, such as a musical or drama.
My daughter’s book club has social time at the end of their discussion. She didn’t read the book for one meeting, but still wanted to go to the club since she loved the social interaction with her peers.
Less Screen Time
Common Sense Media research states, on average, teens spend over nine hours per day playing video games or watching TV. If children are participating in after-school activities, they will have less opportunity to either watch TV or play video games, and will hopefully learn new skills.
Decreased Risk of Obesity
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has affected about 12.7 million children and adolescents over the past decade. A child participating in a sport will be more active and have better health benefits because of being physically fit. Even if a child does a club or an after-school activity, she will be more active than if watching TV or playing video games.
How to Balance Your Child’s Schedule
Sometimes, even for my daughter, you can have too many activities. I’m always cognizant of her energy level, and if she needs to skip an activity once in a while, I let her. Or when I notice she wasn’t enthusiastic about going to gymnastics anymore, we both decided it would be best not to sign up for the next session. Most importantly, you want to make sure your child is happy and definitely not bored.