Participating in an after school activity can help children learn a new skill or fuel an interest. Extra-curricular activities play a big part in developing a child’s identity and serve to build self-confidence. The variety of activities and organizations in which kids can participate are plentiful. Students have more options than ever before, from band and choir to sports, dance and mathematics.
With that in mind, deciding on the right activity might be challenging for both parents and children.
According to an article by Dr. Jason Rafferty published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Our expectations of what girls do’ and ‘what boys do’ have changed.”
“Over time, society has recognized that stereotypes of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ activities and behaviors are inaccurate and limiting to a child’s development,” he states.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACAP) 2014 article “Afterschool Activities: Striking the Right Balance” suggests recognizing that all children are different. Consider each child’s needs, skills, and interests when choosing activities.
“Organized activities can help build a child’s skills, self-esteem, and ability to get along with others,” it states. “Studies show that they can also enhance brain development and physical well-being.”
One option is to help kids choose ways to play based on an existing interest.
“Encourage children to explore a variety of activities to find what they enjoy,” AACAP says. “Be open-minded. Your child may choose activities that are unfamiliar to you. Be careful about imposing your own wishes on your child. Just because you played piano or soccer does not mean it is right for your son or daughter.”
We talked to some kids in the region who are having fun in their after school activities.
Tyler, 16, dancer
Tyler enjoys dance because “it’s a great workout, and it’s a great way to express myself,” says the student at Fine Arts Association. Tyler has made great friends through dance, whom he knows he would not have met otherwise. Even though Tyler does not plan to study dance in college, he knows it will continue to be a part of his life in one form or another, whether it is taking classes occasionally, volunteering or teaching others.
Victor, 11, harpist
Victor uncovered his interest in playing the harp by learning about its ancient history. Fascinated by how long the harp, once called the lyre, has existed in different forms, Victor jumped at the opportunity to learn to play at the Fine Arts Association. Victor enjoys the harp so much, he hopes to play in an orchestra as well as “teach other young children or teenagers how to play.”
Keegan, 7, gymnast
Just a year ago, Keegan wanted to become a gymnast because it looks cool. He has a lot of fun in the gym, so much that he wants to work in gymnastics when he’s older.
Steven, 9, gymnast
Steven began participating in gymnastic by following in his sister’s footsteps. As a member of a boys’ team at West Side Gymnastics in Copley, he enjoys the fun games and looks forward to getting “super strong” as he continues into the future.
Mae, 9, hockey player
Mae’s uncle introduced her to ice hockey when she was 3 years old. Now Mae plays on both a co-ed and all-girls team. She feels lucky to get more time on the ice because it gives her a chance to hone her hockey skills and forge strong bonds and friendships. Mae says, “The girls’ team also gives me a chance to meet close friends who like to play hockey, too. There are three of us girls on my co-ed team and we call ourselves ‘the package’ because we do everything together.”
Kendra, 9, hockey player
Kendra is an enthusiastic ice hockey player and points out, “[It] doesn’t matter what gender you are, you can play. You just have to try hard and have fun — and boy, do I have fun!” Kendra noticed not as many girls play ice hockey, but “this just made me want to try harder.” She realizes even though you may see more boys than girls playing a sport, this doesn’t mean girls cannot play, and vice versa. Kendra knows from experience, “There are no boy sports. There are no girl sports. Anyone can play whatever sport they want.”