There are many extra-curricular activities offered to school-age children, which can cause headaches among kids and parents, stated Harry Kimball of Child Mind Institute, a non-profit dedicated to changing the lives of kids and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Extracurricular activities help develop your child’s skills and passion. These activities can also help them learn to push themselves amid hardships.
Parents want their child to look like well-rounded, accomplished individuals to college admissions committees. But parents must also ensure that their kids are not stressed out with the extracurriculars they are involved in.
Statistics On Kids’ Extracurricular Activities
73% of parents said their kids participated in sports or athletic activities in the past year, according to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank. 60% participated in religious instruction/youth group, 54% took lessons in music, dance, or art, and 53% had done volunteer work. 36% had a part-time job, 36% received regular tutoring or extra academic preparation, and 23% participated in an organization such as scouts.
Among income levels, 84% of those earning more than $75,000 let their kids participate in sports or athletic activities (versus 69% of those earning $30,000-$74,999 and 59% of those earning less than $30,000). 64% of high-income families allowed their children to do volunteer work (versus 39% and 37%) and participate in religious instruction/youth group (versus 58% and 55%).
62% of high-income households said their children took lessons in music, dance, or art (versus 53% and 41%), 45% said their kids worked at a part-time job (versus 34% and 25%), and 28% said they joined in an organization like the scouts (versus 22% and 14%). Interestingly, 31% of all parents said they have helped coach a sport or athletic activity their kids have been involved in.
More fathers (37%) than mothers (27%) have helped coach a sport or an athletic activity. Among parents of children below 13 years, 38% said they have helped with coaching unlike 26% of parents of teenagers. However, on a typical day, 90% said their kid watches TV/movies/videos on any device and 70% said they play games on an electronic device.
Most parents stated their children participate in extracurricular activities, but few of them say that their kids’ schedules are too hectic. 72% of parents of children between six and 17 years said things are just about right with regard to their kids’ day-to-day schedule. 11% mentioned that their kids have too much free time and 15% said their children’s schedule is too hectic.
White parents (18%) were more likely to find their kids’ schedule as hectic compared with 9% of Blacks and 5% of Hispanics. Households earning more than $75,000 said their children’s schedules are too hectic unlike 11% of those earning $30,000-$74,999 and 8% of parents earning below $30,000.
What Are the Benefits of Extracurricular Activities?
Rachel Cortese, a speech-language pathologist and former New York City schoolteacher, said, “Kids tend to do really well when they have structure, and part of that structure is having an afterschool schedule.” The benefits of physical extracurricular activities allow children to socialize with their peers and to expend their energy, helping them settle and go back to their work after school hours, said educational and learning specialist Ruth Lee.
Nurse-turned-freelance writer Jennifer Fink stated that extracurricular activities give "children a chance to develop their skills, learn more about their interests and connect with others who may share the same passions and interests that they do,” quoted Emily Starbuck Gerson of CHOC, a children’s hospital.
For older children, extracurricular activities safeguard them from dangerous activities, especially when their parents are busy at work or with other kids, noted clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Rooney.
Dr. Rooney considered the hour or two after school as a high-risk time for middle school and high school kids to do dangerous activities such as substance abuse. She said that this is the time when kids are the least monitored by adults.
Other extracurricular activities such as theater, sports, and science give children another field they could be competent in, which helps improve their self-esteem and foster identity development. Extracurriculars are also beneficial for children who might be struggling in school.
Are There Any Disadvantages In Letting Kids Attend Extracurriculars?
Overscheduling should not be taken lightly, reminded Dr. Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of “The Case for the Only Child.” In fact, overscheduling might stunt mastery. She said, “If you are spreading yourself too thin you’re not going to be able to focus and get really good at one thing.” Many people sign up for every activity without realizing that it is unrealistic due to their packed schedule, noted Lee. This not good for kids as they have so many things they have to let go, Dr. Newman stated.
Fink also said that it may be hard for parents if their kids attend multiple extracurricular activities. This is because parents need to be in more places more often than ever before. She advised, “I think parents need to be cognizant of their own tolerance and capability and energy, as well, because sometimes I think that’s where the negatives first show up.”
How to Strike A Balance
Dr. Harpreet Kaur, a licensed clinical psychologist for kids and teens at CHOC, recommended creating a visual schedule of everything that is going on—regardless if it’s a calendar or a list of activities. If you want to make a visual schedule, be sure to color code it by family member.
Since your child is too busy, it is also recommended to schedule downtime at least one hour each week. Downtimes help the whole family to relax and bond together. Activities can range from cooking to playing a game or watching a movie.
It’s tempting to have your little one participate in numerous extracurricular activities, but it is also important to take note of your child’s interests, Kaur explained. With that in mind, pick one or two activities that are meaningful for your child, she suggested. Remember to focus on quality than quantity. Schedule in moderation once you have chosen the activities your child shows the most interest in.
Extracurricular activities are fun as these enable kids to gain new knowledge and develop new skills. However, parents should be careful not to pack their children’s schedules to the point that they are stressed or burnt out.