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/

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!