Believe it or not, it is that time of year again. As we get the backpacks and new crayons ready to go for school, we might also be thinking about extracurricular activities for our children.

These programs are a great way to expose children to activities or sports that aren’t necessarily covered in the regular school curriculum.  In a time of so many options and choices there are several factors that parents can consider when selecting after school activities for a child and making the most of the money spent on extra programs.

How to choose an extracurricular activity

Look for activities that complement your child’s specific interests. Parents today can look into a variety of programs: sports, activity-based programs like photography or jewelry making, and/or academic enrichment and heritage language classes. Find what best suits each individual child.

Why extracurricular activities are important

Extracurricular activities help children find their island of competency; a place where they can excel separate from their identity at school. This can be increasingly important for a student who is struggling socially or academically. An extracurricular activity tailored to their strength or talent can be a valuable way for a child to find others who share similar interests and help them discover success.

How much is too much when it comes to extracurricular activities?

It’s important to provide balance to prevent a child’s day from being over-scheduled. When there’s too much on the go, children quickly become tired, cranky and consequently, are less likely to actively engage in their homework or their chosen sport or activity. Try not to be involved in more than two or three programs outside of school. This leaves time to balance school sports and clubs. It also means a child can be involved in another activity in the community outside of school.

Think long and hard about competitive programs. I have a number of students who have excelled in various competitive sports but there is a huge time commitment that comes with that. Make sure it will work for your family.

How to spot activity overload

When children are showing signs of stress and fatigue we, as parents, need to question if they are in too many programs. If you feel like you are dragging your child to class or an activity, that is a sign that the activity may not be a good fit.

Remember, in all things balance. Children need time for school, time to explore their interests and most importantly, time, to just be kids.