We did it!
We made it to the end of this series and one big question remains. How do I know what extracurricular activity to sign my child up for? There are so many options. Here are six helpful questions you should ask yourself that will help you choose the right extracurricular activity for your child.
1. What are your long term goals for our child?
Thinking about what you hope your child will experience is a great place to start when it comes to selecting activities. If your hope is strictly for your child to make friends, then you likely want to pick something that allows for that bonding to happen. If you want your son or daughter to learn or improve a skill, maybe you should choose something to work on that skill. Maybe your kiddo likes to play video games so you think he or she needs to get outside more. This is certainly something you will want to consider when deciding what to do.
2. What is the cost involved?
Quality programs come with a cost. (Let's be real. Some not so quality programs do too.) Very few activities are free, but its not unheard of. Before you sign all the papers, make sure you ask what the costs are. Sometimes programs not only have enrollment or monthly fees, but they also require uniforms or additional expenses as time goes on. For example, dance schools require a fee for the lessons, but then there is also an expense for practice and performance costumes. If money is an issue for you, its perfectly acceptable to ask about financial aid or scholarships that your child may be eligible for.
A few years back, my daughter was in our local gymnastics program. Half way through the season, I lost my job and we had to cut expenses until I found something else. I contacted the gym manager and without question, she said, "don't worry about paying. Please just bring her. She's doing great and we love having her." After I scooped myself up off the floor, I thanked her and we continued with business as usual. It still touches my heart knowing that they allowed her to continue. Its always okay to ask.
3. Does this activity fit my child's personality?
In previous posts, we talked about how a team activity versus an individual activity might be better for specific children. That's exactly what we are talking about here. If your child is super shy, it probably not a great idea to sign him or her up for theater. Being in front of a crowd could be crippling. Put that same kiddo on a chess team and he or she might thrive. Think about your child and what activities would be a good fit.
4. What natural abilities does my child have that correspond with this activity?
Natural ability is something that every child has and every child is different. Basketball players often are good runners, are coordinated, and are usually tall. If you saw me, you would likely be able to figure out why I was never a basketball star. I am 5'3" on a good day (pumps are my friend) and I am capable of tripping over my own two feet on a dry, flat surface. While I attempted basketball as a kid, it didn't take long before I realized that my short legs and terrible shot weren't going to help me be successful. Put me in a choir or on stage and I can draw a crowd.
My youngest son is another great example. This kid loves to run and ever since he learned to stand on his own two feet, he has been. He also loves to kick things. By the time he was 18 months old, we got him a small soccer ball. He is now two and a half and can dribble a ball around other kids much older than him. He's quick and agile. Believe me, I know. Holding onto him when he doesn't want to be contained is like trying to wrangle a wet fish. He is going to play soccer and I think there is a very good chance he will thrive.
5. Does this fit in our family's schedule?
Whether you have one child or five children, running from place to place takes quite a bit of organization. Before you tell your child that all systems are a go, make sure it is indeed possible to make the schedule work with yours . While some activities may only require one to two days/nights per week, others have a much more intense schedule. If the first option doesn't work, check out the second. When you find the right one, you'll know it.
6. Is this something my child wants to do?
When all else fails, ask your child what he or she wants to do. Don't sign your kids up for things that they aren't interested in just because. Also, don't sign your child up for something to fulfill your dream. While your child may very well have some of your genes, that doesn't necessarily mean that your child will love all of the same things you do. Do you research and before you pull the trigger, ask your son or daughter what they think. You might be surprised and learn something about your child that you didn't even know.