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All about the Benefits of Extracurricular Activities for Children

Research shows that children benefit greatly from having a variety of different ways to learn, along with opportunities for exploration and play. Extracurricular activities are an essential part of a well-rounded and varied education. Offering extracurricular activities on a regular basis is positive for a child’s overall learning and development.

For older children, extracurricular activities also play an essential role in the college application process. They are a good way for a child to stand out from other college applicants, and they offer an opportunity to showcase their interests, skills and talents which goes beyond the usual academic route.

What are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are activities that children can participate in outside of the normal classroom learning environment. They are designed to enhance a child’s learning experience, and reinforce the lessons learned in the classroom. The activities enable children to practise and make use of their skills in a more practical way. They can sometimes be organised by the school or they can be pursued independently by students. When applying for college and university places, it is usually seen as a positive for students to be doing extracurricular activities, and this will often help them in the application process.

Extracurricular Activities for Children

How do extracurricular activities help students?

Although extracurricular activities can often take up a lot of time outside of school hours, they provide children with opportunities to gain important life skills that will be crucial for their future success and confidence. Engaging in extracurricular activities can be very beneficial for your child and are an important part of your child’s development. Research suggests that children even as young as preschool who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to succeed academically and socially. These benefits help prepare them for future success in school, and in everyday life.

Schools that prioritise extracurricular activities are often high achieving schools, and it demonstrates that the school understands the importance of valuing their students’ time and effort outside of the classroom. It also benefits the school itself, as it helps to improve student engagement and retention rates, as well as increase parents’ satisfaction with the education their child is receiving. It is often high on the agenda of parents when selecting their child’s school.

The benefits of extracurricular activities can include:

  • Expands your child’s social circle.
  • Develops their social, emotional and communication skills.
  • Helps children to learn about themselves and their interests.
  • Develops their interests and passions.
  • Develops their skills in an area of interest.
  • Helps them to develop important skills for their future careers.
  • Helps to build skills in teamwork.
  • Improves leadership skills.
  • Helps to nurture creativity.
  • Can help in learning to become self-sufficient.
  • Can help with achieving a strong work ethic.
  • Improves self-esteem.
  • Can improve mental health and well-being, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression in children.
  • Helps with personal growth.
  • Helps children to learn compassion and empathy.
  • Improves time management skills.
  • Teaches them how to maintain a commitment to something.
  • It showcases their ability to make important contributions.
  • Keeps children motivated to achieve.
  • Can improve their academic performance.
  • Can help with college and career prospects.
  • Can provide opportunities to experience and appreciate diversity.
  • Can be a good way to build their CV before they have entered the world of work.

It is also important to consider the possibility for children to be overscheduled. Having too many commitments is not always positive for a child as this can mean they have limited free time and a lack of free play time which is also important for their development. Being overscheduled could also impact on family time, and could actually have a negative impact on their academic performance. This could potentially lead to increased stress and anxiety for children. Getting the balance right based on a child’s individual needs is important when it comes to extracurricular activities.

Extracurricular activities are as much of a commitment for the parent as they are for the child themselves, as you will have to ensure that they attend every session and have all of the necessary equipment; however, it is highly beneficial for children and worthwhile making that commitment if you are able to do so.

Who has access to extracurricular activities?

If the extracurricular activities are organised by an educational institution, for example a school, college or university, then they are usually only available to the students that attend that institution, although this can vary depending on the policies and practices of each institution. Sometimes the activities are opened up to the wider community; however, in general, students enrolled in the institution are the primary individuals who can participate in extracurricular activities.

Some activities may have limited places or require auditions, or specific qualifications. Also, there may be certain restrictions or guidelines in place, such as academic performance requirements. Primary schools and high schools are usually more inclusive; however, it can become quite competitive in college and university.

Some children may not be able to access extracurricular activities through an educational institution, for example if they are being home-schooled. When considering extracurricular activities organised away from an educational institution, who has access to them and the requirements will depend upon the policies and practices of that particular organisation.

Examples of extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities help students to explore their interests and personalities and demonstrate their talents and skills. These activities also help to demonstrate their ability to contribute, work as a team, stick to their commitments, and manage their time and priorities.

Some examples of extracurricular activities include:

  • Performing arts – this includes taking part in theatre groups, dance classes, choir, orchestra, or any other form of performing arts. These clubs are perfect for students who are passionate about the arts and they are also an excellent complement to the arts education they receive in the school curriculum.
  • Sports – this can include football, basketball, tennis, swimming, and any other sport a child may be involved in.
  • Clubs and organisations – this may include things like drama club, chess club, debate club, student council, science club, art club, music band, or any other group of interest.
  • Volunteer work within the community – this could include engaging in volunteer work or community service projects, for example food banks, animal shelters, helping local charities, organising charity events, or participating in environmental clean-up initiatives. Voluntary work is an excellent way to demonstrate a commitment to something and demonstrate a passion for helping others. This type of activity not only shows dedication to making a positive difference in the community, but it can also provide experience in teamwork, communication and leadership.
  • Employment – this can include after-school work, weekend work and work during half-term holidays. Gaining work experience or interning can strengthen college applications and is a good way to prepare for a career. Having a job demonstrates that students are dependable, reliable, have good time management skills, and can work well with others.
  • Engaging with academic competitions – this could include academic competitions like spelling bees, poetry or writing competitions, art competitions, maths competitions, science fairs or robotics competitions.
  • Publications – this could include contributing to the school newspaper, literary magazine, yearbook, or any other publication as a writer, editor or even photographer.
  • Joining a photography club or work experience in a studio.
  • Cultural and language clubs – this includes participating in clubs that celebrate different cultures, languages or traditions. This could include a language club, international student association or multicultural club. This could also include learning another language.
  • Culinary club or baking club – for a child who is interested in food or training as a chef, this could be a good option in order to improve their skills or gain valuable experience in this area.
  • Medicine or healthcare – volunteering at a local hospital is a good option for this area of interest.
  • Boy/Girl Scouts, Navy Sea Cadets and Young Marines – these might be good options if you think your child would enjoy some regimented military-like training that involves discipline, physical activity, uniforms and developing skills. If your child has an interest in the military, being active in any of these will help students stand out to recruiters and prepare them for a military career. The Army Cadets can offer a lot of exciting opportunities to young people from 12 and 17 years old. The Army Cadets are a national voluntary youth organisation sponsored and supported by the Army, but not part of it. There is no requirement for cadets to join the Army when they leave. It is a safe place for young people regardless of background to learn new skills, develop themselves and try activities they might not get the chance to do elsewhere.
  • Engaging with outdoor activities – this could include adventure clubs, rock climbing, hiking, canoeing, abseiling, windsurfing, or camping clubs.
  • Engaging in technology, coding or gaming – this could include coding, programming, robotics, participating in computer science clubs or competitions, or gaming competitions.
Extracurricular Activities

How to choose an extracurricular activity

As there are so many different options to choose from, choosing an extracurricular activity may feel overwhelming for you or your child.

There are things you can consider before choosing an extracurricular activity, including:

  • Think about what your child is interested in – think about their passions, hobbies or areas of curiosity. What activities do they enjoy doing in their free time? Think about what subjects or topics fascinate them. Identifying their interests will help guide you towards the activities they are most likely to enjoy and achieve in.
  • Think about what they are good at – they may have a talent in a certain area, for example sport, dancing or academically. If a child is naturally good at something, it is more likely that they will want to commit to doing the activity regularly.
  • Research available options – this includes exploring the extracurricular activities offered in your child’s school or local community. This could include sports teams, drama clubs, art classes, volunteer opportunities, or academic groups. You could ask your child’s teacher, access the school website, do some of your own research on the internet or speak to other parents.
  • Think about what your child wants to achieve through their extracurricular activity – this may be just a hobby for them; however, for some children it could be to help them achieve their future career goals. Having clear goals in mind will assist you in selecting an activity that can help your child achieve them.
  • Think about what your child’s long-term goals are – think about the potential long-term benefits of the extracurricular activity you are considering for your child. This may be as simple as for them to make new friends or be more active. Whatever your reason for considering a new extracurricular activity, it is valid and worth giving it a go.
  • Think about quality rather than quantity – think about what your child will gain from the activity rather than trying to engage them in lots of things that they cannot fully commit to. By focusing on a few quality activities, they will be able to dedicate more time and energy to the activity, which can lead to more significant achievements and personal growth. If they are engaging in multiple activities, they might not have the time or energy to truly commit to any of them. This can result in a lack of meaningful experiences, and if your child’s goal is to impress university admissions, for example, it will be better to focus on one or two things rather than multiple things that they cannot truly commit to.
  • Think about which skills your child wants to develop – for example, if your child wants to develop their social skills, they may want to consider joining a team.
  • Understand the commitment needed for the particular activity you are selecting – once you have chosen an activity to commit to, think about how much time it will take up in your and your child’s schedule. Some extracurricular activities will require more time and commitment than others. Be realistic about whether your child can achieve this. It will be useful to think about your child’s existing commitments, for example schoolwork, family responsibilities, and any other obligations they may have. Choose an activity that fits well with their schedule and is unlikely to overwhelm them. If their schedule is too busy, they are unlikely to enjoy it and therefore less likely to commit to it in the long term.
  • Don’t be afraid for your child to try something new – if your child shows an interest then allow them to try something completely new and step out of their comfort zone. They may find a new passion or area of interest, or something they are good at that they were not aware of. It is important to allow them to explore different things freely, if they are interested in doing so.
  • Trust your instincts and remember it is ok for your child to explore what they like before committing to something – taking the pressure off and having fun when selecting an activity will make it more likely that your child will enjoy the process of choosing an extracurricular activity.

It is also important to note that any club, organisation or association that offers an activity to children or young people has a legal responsibility to safeguard them. The law states that people who work with children and young people have a duty of care to keep them safe. The people who are working within the organisation and therefore coming into contact with children should also have the necessary checks which enable them to work with children. This means that you should be confident that your child will be safeguarded whilst attending their extracurricular activity.

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About the author

Claire Vain

Claire Vain

Claire graduated with a degree in Social Work in 2010. She is currently enjoying her career moving in a different direction, working as a professional writer and editor. Outside of work Claire loves to travel, spend time with her family and two dogs and she practices yoga at every opportunity!



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