Choosing Extracurricular Pursuits That Enrich Your Child’s Mind. Age-by-age guidance on managing extracurricular pursuits.
BY MALIA JACOBSON
Want to raise a kid who excels at school and beyond? Think outside the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, extracurricular activities boost kids’ community connections and are linked to better grades and school attendance. Finding the right fit for your child, however, isn’t always easy.
What’s the right age to begin after-school classes? How can families choose activities that will enrich their children’s lives without adding pressure, conflict or unrealistic expectations? How and when should parents encourage children to persist, or decide it’s time for a graceful exit? Here is age-by-age guidance on finding extracurricular pursuits that round out your child’s education without ramping up stress.
Parents shouldn’t rush tots into classes and clubs, says parent educator Tara Egan, founder of Charlotte Parent Coaching. Young children enrolled in high-quality preschools are likely already participating in subjects like art, physical education and music, so adding to their schedule might not yield additional benefits.
If you do want to give classes a go, Egan offers a few guidelines for caregivers. First, make sure your child can separate comfortably from you before you register him or her for child-only courses. Kids who aren’t quite ready can participate in parent-child gym or swim classes in the meantime.
Next, ensure that your child’s coach has experience working with very young children, and look for classes that don’t require your child to stay up late or miss naptimes or meals. Hungry and/or tired children don’t benefit much from any class, no matter how much they like the topic or teacher.