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Our Favourite Advice on Choosing After School Activities for Children

Knowing how many after school activities your child can manage is difficult, but we've got some pointers to help you determine what's right for you and your child

 

Every year there is a debate that goes on in most houses...

How many after school clubs should children get involved with?

With the ever growing list of after school activities children can participate in it's hard to decide if ballet and piano are a bit old school and maybe Karate and Science Club are more up your child's street.

Too many activities and your child may become quiet and withdrawn as they are exhausted or stressed. On the other hand not enough activity can leave your child quiet and withdrawn because they are bored. Both the over stimulation and under stimulation can have the opposite effect - your child becomes over tired, irritable, moody and act out.

Interacting with other children and adults outside of the classroom is great for building self-confidence, learning discipline, developing social skills, complimenting textbook knowledge, and engaging in structured play.

There is no clear cut answer to this question as every child is different and all need different amounts of time to complete homework and have some time to themselves. We've put together some of our favourite pointers to help you determine what is best for your child.

Don't take on too much

It's easier to add an activity than take one away, so start slowly. Start with one activity and see how that changes their mood and tiredness. If there is no change, look at adding a second club the following term.

This is also valuable advice when your child changes a year group. Each year there will be new variables from the amount of homework to the amount of sleep they need and how many play dates they may expect to have. Starting the first term with fewer activities will allow you to gauge what they can handle for the rest of the year.

If you've ever tried to take away a beloved possession you'll know how hard it is to take something away once you've said they can have it, so remember that once you commit to the term you'll have a hard time saying no half way through.

Homework

While extra-curricular activities are fun and children need to be able to let off steam in a fun way after school, they also have homework to do.

The later they get home the more likely it is that they will not have the energy to concentrate. Keep an eye on homework and make it a condition of joining clubs.

If you notice school work start to slip because of a club or after school activity you'll need to discuss this with your child. If it was an initial condition it will be easier to follow through with taking them out of a club. Having children make their own schedule and sticking to it in order to continue with extra-curricular activities is a great way to hand the responsibility over to them and help your child manage their own schedule.

Structured play

Can your child entertain themselves for an afternoon without the aid of any adults telling them what to do? Some children are good at this, while others need more input and adult guidance.

Developing your own unstructured play is important as a child so determining how much time your child needs to do this is key. If a child who prefers structured play is never given the chance to be on their own, they will get bored very quickly and as their parent you will find yourself unable to leave them be.

On the other hand, if your child prefers to play on their own, some structured play with other children will help them improve social skills and confidence in group situations.

Family time

Extra-curricular activities can often turn mum and dad into chauffeurs, especially if you have more than one child. Remember that time together as a family is important too.

Set aside one night a week when you know everyone will be home and plan to do something as a family. Make dinner together, go for a bike ride, play a game - whatever you do take the time to bond as a family. Don't let every night become a free for all, eating dinner on the run.

It's supposed to be fun

Remember that clubs and activities are meant to be fun. When choosing activities for your kids, let them help make the decisions. Just because you didn't get to have piano lessons when you were a child doesn't mean that your son or daughter wants piano lessons now.

If you want them to play an instrument let them choose which one (OK, you might want to narrow it down and let them choose or you'll end up with a drum kit in the living room).

If they want to play sports let them indicate what ones they would like to play and then see what fits into their schedule. Find out what activities their friends are involved in and see if your child is interested in the same ones as helping one another with pickup and drop off becomes useful.

Cost of activities

Extra activities often mean extra costs. Make sure you look into these costs closely so that you don't end up with a big surprise at the end of the term.

It may be as simple as the cost of a new kit or contributions towards supplies, but there can also be expectations to attend trips or for the cost of accommodation at away matches to be covered by parents.

Time commitment

Not all activities take up the same amount of time. A half hour music lesson isn't just half an hour its also the 20 minutes of practice they have to do every night. Football practice should factor in the frequency and length of matches. Other after school clubs will likely take the hour they are allotted.

Care arrangements

Think about what care arrangements you have in place, and how these will fit in around after school activities. If you have a nanny, they will be an extra set of hands and feet to ferry children to and from school, but a childminder may not be as flexible as they will have other children in their care.

If your partner works long hours remember that you will need to be able to coordinate a plan that you can execute with military precision.

If you find yourself stuck, needing to be in two places at once, backup care services like Emergency Childcare are useful in an emergency... So you can still make it to Jake's big game while James is home with the chicken pox and an emergency nanny.

 
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The best thing since sliced bread. Great having a party where the children had more fun than the grownups! And I wanted to do the cheerleading lesson.
Davina McCall, Hertfordshire, Party Crèche