Many children are eager to try new things – they’re naturally curious! And most parents have heard the pleas from their kids to sign up for this activity or that. Although children are likely to choose programs that sound like the most fun, parents may be pleasantly surprised to learn that enrichment activities can offer their kids a whole lot more than just a good time.
Sports, dance and gymnastics are high on the list of afterschool kid favorites and these types of programs have one thing in common – physical activity. It’s no secret that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, no matter your age.
According to the website Kids Health, children who are physically active will:
- Have stronger muscles and bones
- Have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
- Sleep better
Sarah Urbassik is a Cincinnati mom of four children ranging in age from 3 to 11. Her older kids are involved in baseball and dance, as well as other community programs. “I love the physical activity aspect – it helps them sleep at night! And it’s great to see them succeed as well as struggle to work through [challenges],” she says.
Social and emotional benefits
Physical activity isn’t the only benefit of afterschool programs; many studies agree that participating in various enrichment activities can help kids thrive socially and emotionally.
SPARK, a program dedicated to improving the overall health of students, states in their article The Benefits of Participation in After School Activities that “the more children explore their abilities in new environments, the more they can build a sense of their own character.” Kids involved in afterschool activities can gain leadership skills, learn to set and achieve goals and become more confident in themselves or in establishing new friendships.
Rick Beard, acting president of the Cincinnati Taekwondo Center, feels very strongly about the benefits of afterschool programs. He says that activities such as youth martial arts “offer an opportunity for children to develop self-discipline and perseverance, and work with other children in a structured environment that emphasizes personal growth and achievement.”
Not only can afterschool activities encourage healthier lifestyles and personal growth, they often have an impact on a student’s academic performance as well. Enrichment activities that incorporate STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math) are a good example. STEM specific activities are becoming increasingly popular, and aim to foster critical thinking and teamwork. According to The Afterschool Alliance, a leading advocate for promoting quality programs to all children, “afterschool programs play a major role in providing meaningful science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences.”
Afterschool activities that promote the arts can also positively influence a child’s academic success. Amy Immerman, co-owner of the Cincinnati Music Academy (CMA) which offers voice and music lessons, acting instruction and music technology classes, say the benefits of these programs include:
- Practice in problem solving
- Opportunities for creativeness and discovery
- Increased attention span and focus
- Improved language skills
With so many possible benefits available from various enrichment activities, it may be hard to choose just one! Start with a program that interests your child and you might just see them advance their social skills, improve their health and even become better students. And from your kids’ point of view, they’re just having a whole lot of fun.