The back to school photos flooded social media recently, and this got me thinking about when I used to love lunchtime football sessions with my friends, as this was obviously the most important part of being at school!
I didn’t really do after school clubs unless it was for my football team, but looking back, I do kind of wish I’d done some of the other activities on offer and not pigeonholed myself so much. I guess you’re too busy trying to fit in to think of that when you’re at school. Either way, it’s not done me too much harm (I don’t think)!
This leads me on to the subject I want to talk about in this article; how many after-school clubs should your child do? I want to hone in on this to be sport-specific as this is The Sport Fort, after all. I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve come up with…
After-school activities give the chance to enrich young minds and bodies, even more so than they would during in regular school hours.
A recent study from the Children’s Alliance showed that that, typically, younger children want after-school services to be more like home; a place where they can get warm meals, play with their toys and change out of their uniforms. Conversely, eight to 12-year-olds stated that they want to get involved with more activities like football and karate.
Parents’ motivations for signing their little ones up for extra-curricular activities vary from a need to delay their home-coming due to parental work commitments, to a desire to see them excel at something, and having the desire to see them discover a hobby they can get into and really like.
So, what is it that parents should be looking for when signing their children up for activities outside of school? Below is a general rule of thumb, and just something to bear in mind. It’s not a blanket rule for every child, as each child is an individual and should be treated as such. You might find this helpful though.
If you’re a parent of an infant then you should probably give the extracurricular activities a miss for now. The main reason is because that, at that age (4-5), they have plenty to deal with as far as adjusting to school life is concerned, and they will need a reasonable amount of downtime and unstructured play after their classes.
If you or your child is really keen to get a sport on the go after school then that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be too intense. For example, with a physical activity like swimming, the younger they are the more they get used to water. However, the sessions should be well-structured, which most local clubs can provide.
What activity should you choose?
Give your child the option, is what I would say. Ask them first and see what they say. I remember being a nervous child, so I was pushed into going to my first football training session, but once I was there I loved it! So, if they’re not too excited about trying something, just take them and see how they get on, they could absolutely love it and never look back, but if not, then you can just move on to the next activity and try again.
Think about what excites them, because by encouraging them to become involved in an activity they’re interested in, they’re obviously going to be more likely to want to go every week and enjoy it.
How much should they do?
This can be a tricky one to get right, as children are all different, but my advice would be to step back and take a look at your child’s weekly schedule; if they’re not over-scheduled with sports galore each night, then you don’t need to change anything. It’s also important to consider yourself here too; if you’re driving to a club every night and waiting until they finish then you don’t get any time to do important things either, so it really is about balance, trial and error.
Key things to remember:
- Is my child getting enough sleep?
- Are after-school clubs interfering with family meal times?
- Are after-school clubs depriving you all of unstructured time to reconnect and enjoy being together?
When should I give after-school clubs a miss?
On the whole, children getting involved in after-school clubs and activities is a really good thing, but, and there is a but, if a child feels as though they are pressured to continue with an activity they aren’t getting on with, it can be counterproductive. You wouldn’t keep taking yourself to something you hate, would you? (work doesn’t count!).
It’s not a failure if your little one leaves a club, it just opens up a door to something else and means they have learned something from the experience.
While I don’t think kids should just leave for no reason, you know your child better than anyone, so if they’re just putting it on because they want to play X-Box and take Snapchats, then that’s a different matter. I think the best thing to use here is your parent-child trust and the relationship you have with them.
When it comes to after-school clubs, children are learning and growing in so many ways, but at a young age, a lot of it revolves around enjoyment, so that should be a top priority. But, in terms of the number of activities they participate in, just go by the points raised above and go from there.