Why Massachusetts Children Should Participate in Extracurricular Activities

by | Jun 26, 2024 | Children |

The old adage “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” still holds true even today. Playtime and extracurricular activities help contribute to a Massachusetts child’s overall development.

If we want to raise successful children, it’s important to acknowledge that learning isn’t something that only takes place within the four walls of a classroom. A tremendous amount of learning also happens outside of a classroom setting.

According to Jeanne Huybrechts, Stratford School’s Chief Academic Officer, the most tangible benefits of getting your child involved in extracurricular activities include teamwork, a sense of belonging and early skill development that results in cognitive imprinting and muscle memory.

Undertaking extracurricular activities has far-ranging benefits that touch on many aspects of a child’s development. Here are five advantages of extracurricular activities, demonstrating why you should encourage your child to take on something away from the classroom.

Learn new skills: One of the fundamental benefits of extracurricular activities is that they allow your child to learn something that could stay with them for a lifetime. Directly, that skill could be the basis of a hobby or passion that enriches their life for many years. Everything from playing sports to learning an instrument could lead to hours spent doing something they truly enjoy.

Understand a routine: Extracurricular activity involve structure and a predictable series of events that help children get on a schedule. The more they get comfortable sticking to a routine, the easier it gets for them to adhere to a schedule of activities both at home and school. And because their expectations are set, anxieties and stress in children are reduced.

Boost academic performance: Education requires solid problem-solving skills, memory, creativity and critical thinking. To varying degrees, you can find an extracurricular activity that has an impact on these areas. Research has been carried out that develops a link between extracurricular participation and better academic performance. In one such study, important academic outcomes like reading, math achievement and course grades were all found to be positively influenced by children who engage in extracurricular activities.

Broader social skills: The very nature of many extracurricular activities means that your child will be engaging with other children in a social setting. Away from the classroom, it’s a good opportunity for them to mix with likeminded children in something they all enjoy. This is another key benefit of extracurricular activities: they give children a chance to develop their social skills, meet new friends and become more confident communicating in groups.

Well-rounded individual: Well-rounded children are known to thrive better in life. These are the ones who grow up with more confidence, sense of independence, creativity and ability to collaborate with others with fewer conflicts and behavioral issues. They are also the children who tend to adapt to change easily and handle life’s challenges more effectively.

To help children receive the most benefits from extracurricular activity involvement physically, emotionally and socially, Huybrechts recommends they participate in the right amount of activity for their age level and abilities.

“Exposure is key as it is impossible to predict what children will enjoy and be able to do well so allow kids to try several activities,” Huybrechts says. “Insist on completing whatever the original agreement was – a season, a semester, etc. – and then allow them to step away if it’s not what they like. At the same time, I think it’s fair to expect children to eventually commit to one or more extracurricular activities for an extended period. Extracurricular activities can develop into life-long pursuits, even passions, yet that won’t happen until a person has developed a certain level of proficiency. Adults who regularly play golf, tennis or chess well, or participate in a community orchestra, probably developed their passion – not to mention muscle memory – in a related activity as a child. We give our children a gift when we encourage them to stick with an activity that they clearly like for as long as it takes to get good at it – with foundational skill development that makes it easy for them to return to the activity at any time in their lives.”

In addition, there are parents who may be concerned about their child participating in too many activities outside of school. Diversity in extracurricular activities promotes development as long as the child balances activities with the demands of school and family life. As Huybrechts notes, “Kids have different capacities, and activities can be seasonal and consume different amounts of time, so there is no single number. I would aim for a couple, and perhaps activities that tap into different capabilities and teach different skills: a soccer team and an after-school coding club; violin lessons, a school or community orchestra, or a swim team. The combinations I mention would not be taxing to children (or the parents who drive them to practice and rehearsals) and both include physical activity and a genuine team or ensemble experience.”

When you give your child the chance to participate in school activities, they learn a lot more than just the things that are covered in class. The skills and knowledge they acquire shape their well-being and help round out their holistic development.

Schools and local communities are full of exciting activities that could spark your child’s imagination and capture their attention. Gauge your child’s general interests and consider what they may be interested in taking part in. Then look to their school or the wider community to find an appropriate program for your child. As Huybrechts concludes, “When your child enjoys the activity on a regular basis, looks forward to continued participation and sees the activity as part of their identity, you can be reasonably assured that the activity is a success.”

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