Beyond the Classroom: The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular involvement can help your child acquire skills necessary for development. Co-curricular activities promote growth outside of the classroom and can be a fun, enriching way for your child to become involved in school and within the community at large. Encourage your child to try new things, even if it might seem daunting at first or even if they aren’t sure they will like it. Involvement can help your child acclimate to school and social settings, while helping them develop passions, hobbies and skills that will carry them throughout life. Listed below are activity ideas for your child and skills they can help develop.

Athletics

Skills: Team working, collaboration, dedication, perseverance and athletic ability

Activity ideas: Basketball, soccer, hockey, ice skating, competitive dance, tennis, volleyball, skiing, sailing, swimming, martial arts, spin classes, gymnastics, horse-back riding

Low-cost option: Be sure to check out the activities offered by your community recreation centre. Often they will have a list of free/low-cost drop-in classes offered weekly.

Art

Skills: Whether your child is interested in dance, theatre or the visual arts, art classes teach an abundance of skills. Beyond technical ability, art fosters creativity, curiosity, healthy expression and an open mind.

Activity ideas: Dance, theatre, visual arts, pottery, sculpting, singing, playing an instrument, joining a music band, creative writing, cooking, photography

Low-cost option: Check out the offerings at your local museum – they might offer free art classes for children. Symphonic orchestras sometimes run free music workshops for kids, where they can try new instruments or even receive musical feedback from professionals. Consider buying an instrument second hand or perhaps borrowing/renting one from your child’s school, if they have a music program.

Service

Skills: Selflessness, connection to the community, generosity, open mind

Activity ideas: Volunteering at a local food shelter, animal shelter, nursing home, local organization

Science/Math

Skills: Knowledge of science/math, ability to work in a team towards common goal, perseverance

Activity ideas: Robotics club, partaking in science fair, STEM clubs, Mathletes, computer classes

Language

Skills: Knowledge of a new language and culture, curiosity

Activity ideas: Any language club (French club, Spanish club, Italian club, etc.), language classes

Low-cost option: Consider hiring a student who is fluent in or studying the particular language your child is interested in. Often students will offer private lessons at lower rates. Some schools might even offer free tutoring programs led by student volunteers. You could also see if a friend, neighbour or community member might be willing to tutor your child for free/at a low cost. Additionally, finding a couple of friends to join your child might also lower the cost of lessons.

Nature Education

Skills: Independence, problem solving, leadership, appreciation of nature, responsibility, discovery

Activity ideas: Scouts, Girl Guides, summer camps, nature expeditions, gardening, environment club 

Low-cost option: Membership fees for civil groups like Girl Guides and the Scouts can be waived for families under a certain income, making it an affordable option.

Clubs that focus on a particular skill

Activity ideas: Chess club, Lego club, sewing club, trivia club, reading/writing club 

Low-cost option: Check out the activities offered at your local library – During the summer, a lot of libraries will organize book clubs, writing clubs as well as free events.

Additional Resources: 

Image source: https://toxicfreefuture.org/healthy-living/healthy-kids/choosing-safer-products-art-and-craft-supplies/

Reducing Stress for Your Child

  1. Staying Organized
  • Staying on top of assignments and other commitments is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Keeping an agenda or planner helps the student prioritize his/her work according to upcoming deadlines and can make workload feel less overwhelming. Laying out a plan for the week also helps students balance school, extracurricular activities and other time commitments. (Your child can also personalize his/her agenda with decorations, stickers, making it a fun way to stay organized!)

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  • Prepare (or have your child prepare) his/her school bag and lunch beforehand. This can help avoid stress in the mornings.
  • Having downtime. Allowing for downtime in your child’s schedule is important. This time is flexible – a time where your child can engage in whatever activity he/she wants, whether that is playing sports, reading, painting, dance, writing…
  1. Maintaining a good sleep schedule. Set a bedtime for your child and keep with that, even on weekends. Ensure that your child is getting enough sleep (For 7-11 year olds, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-11 hours).
  2. Listening to your child. If your child is experiencing anxiety in a certain situation, open up the conversation. Validate his/her fears and anxieties and work towards a solution together. (Here is a website outlining more suggestions on how to help your child cope with anxiety https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/stress-coping.html)

Resources:

1)      https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children#1

2)      https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/dont-worry-mom/201302/12-tips-reduce-your-childs-stress-and-anxiety

Encouraging Your Young Reader

Summer is an opportunity for kids to grow, play and enjoy their free time. This is also a good time to encourage your child to explore new books. Reading at home can help children sustain and improve their reading skills during the summer months. Make reading part of your everyday routine –before bed, in the car, at the park and during vacation. Check out these suggestions on getting your child excited about books.

Tips on Raising a Young Reader1

  1. Read together. Read aloud to your child and encourage your child to read aloud to you. This gives your child a chance to practice pronunciation and work on difficult words together.

    Tip: Try switching who reads aloud each page – you read a page, then your child. This can be a good tactic if the book is challenging for your child. Help the story come alive by using different voices for each character.

  2. Let your child pick. Give your child the freedom to choose the type of book they want. When they pick a subject they are interested in (animals, sports, non-fiction, comics, fantasy) it will help them engage in the story.

    CarTip: Sign up for a Montreal Library card and create weekly outings to the library (find your nearest library). This gives your child access to a range of books, reduces cost of buying new books and may become something you both look forward to each week. Librarians are also great places to get book recommendations.

  3. Discuss what you read. As you are reading, stop and ask your child questions about the story. This interactive style of reading can improve your child’s language skills and will give you an idea of their level of understanding. Older children may prefer to read on their own. You can still engage them by asking them questions about the books they are reading.

Questions to start your discussion:English - what would happen if
• What do you think will happen next?
• How do you think the character is feeling now?
• What did the character learn?
• What would happen if…?
• How would you feel…?

  1. Be a role model. Let your child see that you are reading, too. Kids are copy cats! If you show your child that you value reading, they may grow to love reading, too.

1Tips adapted from:

  1. 5 Top Tips to Encouraging Reading, Reading is Fundamental.
    http://www.rif.org/literacy-resources/tips-resources/5-top-tips-to-encouraging-reading/
  2. Promoting reading in school-aged children, Caring for Kids – Canada’s Paediatric Society http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/promoting_reading_in_school_aged_children
  3. Reading and Writing with your Child, Kindergarten to Grade 6: A Parent Guide, Ontario Ministry of Education http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/parentGuideLitEn.pdf

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Childhood screen-time: What do professionals think?

Between social media, television, cell phones, and tablets, electronic media have become powerful forces in our children’s lives today. According to a national study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2009, 8-10 year olds spend on average just under 8 hours per day exposed to media – a number which increases to almost 12 hours daily in the 11-14 year old age group. Despite this staggering statistic, this same study found that up to two thirds of children and teenagers have no rules regarding their media use.

It is therefore unsurprising that one of the most common questions our team hears from parents is: “how much time should my child spend in front of a screen?” To answer this question, we have summarized the recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  1. Try to keep total screen time under 2 hours per day
  2. Avoid screen exposure for children under the age of 2 years
  3. Do not allow TV and internet-connected devices in your child’s room
  4. Keep an eye on what media your child is using (social media, websites, etc)
  5. Watch movies and shows with your child (this can be a good opportunity to talk about lessons and values we can learn from the media!)
  6. Establish and enforce a reasonable plan for media use including curfews for mealtimes and bedtimes

Although modern media has been criticized for its sexually explicit imagery, negative portrayal of body image, and the ubiquity of violence, it is important to remember that the media can have positive effects, too. The media is a powerful tool both educationally and socially, and has helped spread prosocial messages and increase access to information- keep this in mind when coming up with reasonable restrictions on screen time!

How do I choose a summer camp for my child?

Choosing a summer camp for a child can often be difficult, but it becomes especially demanding when your child has mental health challenges or special needs. Here are some recommendations from Jane Bourke, our program’s coordinator and family therapy specialist.

Continue reading “How do I choose a summer camp for my child?”