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Overall Benefits of Extracurricular Activities
Children of all ages benefit from extra-curricular activities. They can help children to develop socially, emotionally, scholastically and physically. Activities increase a child's confidence levels and teach them responsibility and discipline. They can help children to hone in on their specific interests and fine-tune skills, which can help to develop hobbies. These hobbies, in turn, can pave the way for their future goals, dreams, activities and, in some cases, career.
Baby and Toddler Years
A child develops socially from being involved in extra-curricular activities as early as baby and toddler age. Parents can take a child to a toddler age gym class where they can meet other children, socialise and learn simply by interacting with other children. Activities should also be stimulating to the child especially at an early age as their senses heighten and they develop motor skills. Activities rich with sounds and bright colours can increase mobility are helpful.
Between Ages Three and Five
As children grow and near school age, there are activities which will teach them structure, yet cater to their physical abilities and attention spans. Activities including dance, story hour and soccer are good examples of starter activities which children between the ages of three and five can participate in. Children benefit from the scheduled time to begin learning responsibility and structure. Time with other children is socially beneficial and also physically if exercise is involved.
School Age Children
Children in school further benefit by being involved in activities. It helps them to increase their social skills and make and maintain friends with like interests. Juggling activities with schoolwork even at a young age typically helps students to learn skills which are important later in life with time management and balance of responsibilities. There are positive emotional and physical health benefits for children involved in sports activities. Confidence levels increase when children participate in activities they enjoy.
Participation in activities can help students scholastically. As children grow, the importance of maintaining good grades while participating in activities increases, and schools often have "no pass/no play" policies stressing acceptable grades to participate. Studies show students involved in extra-curricular activities tend to stay away from alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Dropout rates also decrease according to an Iowa State University study. Colleges look for students with diverse interests and contributions to add to their roster.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
A child who is over-scheduled in activities or involved in activities not suited for them may suffer. It is important for students to have a commitment to fewer activities rather than be non-participatory or uninterested in too many. If the activity is causing too much stress on a child, interfering with schoolwork or not allowing enough relaxation time, it may be time for a parent and/or the child to reassess the importance of the activity in their lives.
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