As someone raising kids in the 21st century, the majority of your concerns as a parent likely boil down to one thing: how your kids spend their free time. That’s because if they don’t have something constructive or productive to do, chances are they’re posting on Facebook, scrolling through TikTok, or playing violent video games.
Parents worried about how much time their kids spend on their devices have two options: prohibit access or get them involved in extracurricular activities. Given the hostile response you’ll get from banning them from tech – and the likelihood they’ll eventually find a way around your efforts – we suggest the latter option.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at seven extracurricular activities for helping kids learn useful skills:
Coding & Computer Programming
Computer programming skills will prove critical to securing the top-paying jobs of tomorrow. Think of it like the ability to read and write at the turn of the 20th century; those who could do so had a significant advantage over those who could not. Fast forward more than a century later, and it’s the comprehension of computer language that provides an equivalent advantage. With this in mind, look for coding classes for kids in your area. Most major cities have several programs parents can choose from, ranging from remote learning environments to actual classrooms. 3D printing is another great way to get kids involved in being creative and designing things using a computer. It is also a great way for kids to develop troubleshooting skills, and figuring out how to make designs and prints work properly. For instance, researching different kinds of filament, or perhaps reading and utilizing a tutorial on how to get filament not to stick to a nozzle (see here: https://howtouse3dprint.com/what-to-do-when-petg-sticks-to-nozzle/)
While controversy surrounds youth football due to the risk of injury, most other sports are perfectly suited for youngsters. The list includes baseball, basketball, soccer, and softball. What’s more, youth sports are an effective way to teach kids the value of teamwork as well as help them perform critical thinking under pressure. Combined with the obvious ways in which sports help kids to hone their fine motor skills and improve hand-eye coordination, enrolling your kid in an afterschool sports league could be the right move.
There’s ample evidence pointing to the cognitive benefits of kids learning to play musical instruments. With this in mind, we suggest asking your child if they have any interest in giving it a try. However, parents should caution their children over the initial difficulties of mastering a musical instrument. It will likely take many hours of practice before they start to develop actual ability. With the right instructor, kids can have fun learning to play even before they actually know how to make music.
Chances are your child is already familiar with art courtesy of their time spent in school. If you find them frequently coloring, doodling, and sketching in between their screen time, consider enrolling them in an afterschool art class. While their school-assigned art teacher is no doubt capable of introducing them to basic artistic concepts, a dedicated instructor can help take their natural abilities to the next level. Even if your kid doesn’t appear to be a reincarnation of Rembrandt, art lessons provide a healthy outlet for their creative expression while also teaching them the fundamentals of colors, shades, and shapes.
Scouting programs such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are designed to teach kids a variety of useful skills. At the same time, they provide plenty of built-in fun and excitement, from arts and crafts projects to camping expeditions. As a result, scouting programs remain one of the best extracurricular activities for kids across the United States and around the world.
Beneficial extracurriculars aren’t confined to organized and structured activities. Certain hobbies and interests count as much as anything else. For instance, if your child enjoys putting together model kits in their spare time, let them devote time after school to doing so at their leisure.
We admit volunteer work is unlikely to pique your child’s interest at first glance. But we’re equally confident there exists a form of volunteering that appeals to them in terms of excitement and potential. Whether it’s at an animal shelter, retirement home, or wellness facility, volunteer work can be a fun and beneficial activity for kids of all ages.
Are you worried about how much time your child spends using devices and playing games? If so, consider seeing if they’re willing to give extracurricular activities a try. It could be just the thing to keep them occupied as well as help them develop useful skills.
Vivien Bell is a freelance writer from Maryland. She enjoys writing about education, family, home living, and pet care.