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The benefits of extracurricular activities
by Amanda Nicolson Adams, Ph.D.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by his ability to climb a tree, it will
spend its whole life thinking that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
Whether your child was excited or reluctant to get back to school, the change of season no doubt brought a good deal of change to your family’s routine. As the new school year settles in, children will have more opportunities to become involved in extracurricular activities. The list of possible activities is endless, from sports, music, drama and student council to cheer, art clubs, dance and chess.
Being involved in extracurricular activities can offer enormous benefits to your child and family. Perhaps most obviously, they can provide children with important opportunities to explore different interests and talents. Extracurricular activities can also energize children who seem uninterested or demotivated by school by giving them new experiences that balance out their obligations to classroom learning and studying.
Families differ in how many activities they feel are appropriate for their children. While some families run from one activity to another every night, others may limit activities to one or two per week. There is no correct number of activities your family should take on as long as there is a balance.
Your family will likely have some semesters that are busy and others that are not. A natural ebb and flow is to be expected. Younger children may benefit from participating in several different kinds of activities. Older kids may need to limit activities and focus on one as their levels of participation increase. Balancing the demands of an active schedule can help youth learn to plan and prioritize effectively, a beneficial life skill. Also, having goals to strive for, such as making the team or getting a part in the school play, can promote a strong work ethic and sense of achievement.
Extracurricular activities can provide huge social benefits. Building friendships with others who share common interests may lead to the most rewarding friendships your child can have. Participating in sports, music, drama and clubs can build self-confidence as children explore areas of talent they didn’t even know they possessed.
Not all children excel academically, athletically or musically, but they do have specific interests and abilities that are just as special. Branching out into various areas can help a child find his or her unique strengths. Eminent psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (MI) suggests there are seven types of intelligence, an advancement over the idea of a single intelligence quotient. The intelligence types identified by Gardner include linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. MI theory encourages teachers and parents to watch for and encourage children’s innate areas of strength. Extracurricular activities can provide them with opportunities to do that. For more information on MI theory, visit ProfessorLamp.com.
Every child has potential to excel in a number of areas. Participating in a vast array of extracurricular activities allows children to explore their talents and abilities. It can also enhance their experience in the classroom and boost their self-confidence, ambition and happiness overall.
Encourage your child to try something new this year or take a current interest to a new level. It may help reveal his or her unique genius.