Helping your child grow involves no shortage of immersive experiences – which, undoubtedly includes a carefully curated selection of extracurricular activities. While some parents go all in, throwing their child into an array of classes beginning in infancy, some take a more calculated approach, evaluating the variety of options available as they progress into early childhood. In either approach, a time will come when it’s time to make some decisions and select which extracurriculars are right for your child in that time – and on an ongoing basis. So how do you decide?
Consider first your child’s needs and your own motivations. What your child needs may not be the same as his/her closest friend’s. Perhaps they need to grow social skills, or conversely, gross motor skills. Can they follow directions and function as part of a group? While most extracurriculars will grow social skills, not all will focus on gross motor or language or fine motor skills. Consider activities that target those specific areas.
What types of activities does your child naturally gravitate to? Knowing that will point you in the direction of their interests; choosing an activity aligned with those interests is likely to help them to ease into the activity while also building confidence through a skill they probably have something of a natural aptitude for.
These first two considerations may seem contradictory: How can you choose an activity that your child is interested in but also needs to develop? You choose something with variety – and also consider how an activity might offer opportunities beyond the immediately recognizable skills.
For example, tumbling is a popular choice for parents looking to grow their child’s gross motor skills while also looking to (frankly) wear them out. But what people don’t consider is that tumbling also offers opportunities to foster a sense of rhythm, patience, trust, confidence and ability to work independently and as a group. It’s also a great way to draw a shy child’s inner personality out, while simultaneously teaching “overly verbal” children to quiet down a bit by focusing that energy elsewhere. The opportunities for growth and development extend far beyond the gross motor skills required to do a walkover.
You might apply the same idea to dance or soccer or drama club – you name it. Each activity is unique in the principal skill it will offer, but all activities provide supplementary areas for development. Consider your child’s needs and talents, and then consider how to match those with the available activities. Finally, make sure it will work within your family’s schedule and availability; some are larger time commitments than others.
Not every activity you pick will be a fit, and sometimes finding the “right” activity for your child can be a journey. But it will happen – just evaluate, and commit to giving things a try!
CJ Pugh is the Owner of PCT Cheer & Tumble. He is a father of two young boys, a passionate coach and, a life-long learner.