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    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Importance of Extracurricular Activities in Kids

    Extracurricular activities are commonly recommended for children as beneficial endeavors, but few parents realize just how important they are for child development. Whereas academics nurture their intellect, extracurricular involvement nurtures their critical thinking skills, social skills, mental health and physical health. Having a supervised, stress-free environment allows children to explore healthy interests and hobbies, which can help them decide on careers or habits that last them a lifetime. Here are five reasons why your kids should get started on an extracurricular activity:

    1. Physical Health

    After school sports are a great way to help your child stay healthy and in shape. With rising rates of obesity, acquainting your child to a routine of regular fitness can protect them from this risk early on and well into their adult years. Studies show that physical fitness also helps alleviate mental stress and improve moods, contributing to overall health and wellbeing. Participation in various clubs and organizations can incorporate day trips and local outings, which can also allow kids to stay active.

    2. Academic Achievement

    Research has found notable correlations between improved performance on math and reading tests and involvement in extracurricular activities. The less academic and regimented atmosphere combined with moderately challenging physical activities gives children’s minds a chance to rest and recuperate. This allows for better memory retention and higher performances in academics. The confidence and self-esteem children receive from extracurricular activities helps promote a better learning environment with teachers and peers when they’re in the classroom as well. Be sure to allow your kids ample time to complete schoolwork so they are not overwhelmed.

    3. Social Skills

    Despite school as a prime setting in which children interact with peers, socializing in the classroom is often discouraged, as it can be disruptive to lessons. Extracurricular activities give them the chance to interact with one another and practice social skills in a safe and supervised environment without restrictive class obligations. Afterschool activities allow them more creative play and interaction with other children, improving their social and emotional health. Joining sports or contests can improve self-image and teaches children a healthy sense of competition and how to work in teams. Losing games and failing to meet goals can also help your child learn how to deal with disappointments and find ways to improve.

    4. Discover Healthy Interest Skills

    Joining sports, clubs, and organizations outside of school can help children explore and discover their interests and skill sets. Allow your kids to try several things to see what they enjoy. As they become more acquainted with their preferences, encourage them to commit to one or two activities. Hobbies and interests are great coping tools for children to have; studies show that they are effective ways to combat anxiety and depression and provide a healthy venue to process difficult emotions. Participating in varying activities at a young age can also help your child figure out what they may be interested or skilled in as careers.

    5. Abstinence from Risky Behavior

    Being actively involved in extracurricular activities helps children abstain from drugs, alcohol, and risky behavior. Engagement in these activities typically occurs when youth are idle and without proper adult supervision. Having a safe, fun, and stimulating environment to spend after school hours helps keep children out of trouble. The persistent engagement in a hobby they enjoy provides ample distraction, potentially making children unlikely to find interest in dangerous activities, even if presented with the opportunity.

    Most importantly, keep your child's interest in mind when choosing an activity. Allow them to pick their own preferences when they are old enough to do so. In addition, it’s vital to remember your child’s age and skill level, as some sports may be too complex or risky for young children.

    About Author

    Brett Callan is an instructor at Murray Callan Swim Schools, where their Vista swim lessons offer customized support for children throughout San Diego. He loves to enjoy the San Diego weather whenever he can, whether from the beach or at a pool.

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