“I’m bored,” my 11-year-old daughter grumbled as she collapsed on to 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 three, 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 NCES 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 is correlated with 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, they will also experience more than one coach or teacher who will have different rules and expectations. They will have the opportunity to meet kids with a range of personalities and interests. These interactions will teach a child how to be adaptable to multiple people and situations.
Maddi and Deborah Khoshaba’s training guide, Resilience at Work, discussed the importance of being adaptable and how when adaptable people lose their jobs they thrive due to their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Being adaptable is a skill that can be beneficial both in the school or work setting.
Better Social Skills
Children will gain social skills both from the person in charge of the activity or sport and by interacting with their peers. They also have the opportunity to learn about teamwork by either playing a sport together or doing a group class such as a musical for drama.
In my daughter’s book club at the end of their discussion of the book, they have social time. During one meeting, she didn’t read the book, but she still wanted to go to the club since she loved the social interaction with her peers.
Less Screen Time
Common Sense Media research states that, 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 be absorbed by screens.
Decreased Risk of Obesity
According to the CDC, obesity affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents for the past decade.
If a child participates in a sport they will be more active which leads to better health benefits from being physically fit. Even if a child joins a club or an after school activity, rather than a sport, they will be more active than if they watched TV or played 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. If she needs to skip an activity once in a while, I let her. Or when I noticed 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.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Washington Post, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications.