Encouraging your child to become a well-rounded individual has many benefits. Most of us have heard the idiom, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but is there more to the issue of introducing our children to extra-curricular activities than just ensuring they are not solely focused on their academic workload?
The answer, of course, is yes. It is all about developing a multi-faceted person. It is about exposing our children to physical exercise; creative pursuits such as music, art, dance, drama; life skills such as public speaking and debating; and the concept of volunteering and community participation.
How do you choose what activity is right for your child? It is worth considering your child’s gifts. Are they creative, dreamers, investigative or empathetic? Are they socially oriented or reflective thinkers? Of course, allowing your child some freedom of choice is vital as they are unlikely to feel joyful about any activity that has been forced upon them. Consider, too, whether the activity is to be purely recreational or whether it is to equip your child with a particular skill set that they will use in the future.
Every school offers a range of sporting options for your child and the benefits of introducing your children to sporting activities in order to achieve and maintain good health are obvious. But did you know more and more studies are showing the ill-effects of being desk-bound for hours on end? As student study levels rise in secondary school and to develop good habits for their later working lives, developing an interest in some kind of physical activity from an early age is important. That is not to say every child has to go on to play for Australia in cricket, football or netball. Some children may not show any talent at all in the sporting arena, nor have any interest in competitive sport. But by introducing them to a wide range of sports and physical activities, hopefully they will find one that they enjoy enough to participate in at some level for most of their life.
There are also activities of a more creative nature. Many schools and private teachers offer dance, drama, theatre sports, art and photography classes. Such interests not only provide an opportunity to nurture the artistic side of your child, they will also provide a broader peer group and the opportunity to develop friendships with those who share similar interests, not to mention looking good on a future resume, should their career choice be in a related field or demand skills honed by these pursuits.
If your child shows an aptitude for music, the activities available are boundless. From the traditional piano, guitar or violin lessons to more obscure instruments such as mandolin, bouzouki or bongo drums, the options are there to enjoy. Of course, for your own sanity and that of your neighbours, you may want to consider your home environment, proximity to neighbours and the volume of the instrument when guiding your child to their chosen instrument. Music lessons can be purely recreational for your child, or a vocational choice.
Other options such as public speaking and debating groups, toastmasters and the like offer opportunities for building a set of skills that will benefit your child for life. Building self-esteem and confidence as well as improving social skills are just some of the benefits. Long term, these skills will definitely be an advantage in job interviews, meeting presentations and in the general workplace environment as they are highly prized by employers.
Volunteering for a charity or community group is also a worthwhile option. As well as the obvious benefits to society, such activities place your child in an environment where they will learn new skills, better understand the community in which they live and meet new people. It also presents the chance for them to give back to their community and experience the joy of doing that. In the process, they will learn empathy and compassion and develop a sense of social responsibility.
Getting your children involved in an activity they are passionate about can have other hidden benefits. Studies show that children who are engaged and occupied in regular, organised activities are less likely to take up bad and even addictive habits such as smoking, drinking and drug taking. These activities also demonstrate to employers that your child has commitment, time-management skills, is a team player, shows leadership qualities and much more.
Whatever activity your child chooses to become involved in, remember that such pursuits are meant to be fun and recreational. They are about building social development, confidence and self esteem and not necessarily about being “the best” or achieving awards. Don’t get too caught up in the competitiveness. And above all, try not to put your child under any pressure to excel at their chosen activity. Childhood passes quickly enough — let them just enjoy.
Image: Arden Anglican School