Extracurricular activities enhance a child’s learning experience as well as her overall development. Child development advances when kids are challenged and given opportunities to acquire and practice new skills, according the the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Extracurricular activities range from sports and the arts to interest clubs and community work, so there are plenty of options that suit an array of interests. Encourage your child to explore and try different extracurricular activities to promote important developmental skills through enriching and enjoyable experiences.
1. Social Development
All extracurricular activities promote social development by encouraging participants to work together and share ideas. Sports teams foster social skills such as teamwork and camaraderie, while other groups, such as spirit club and band, promote collaboration, interaction and communication. Community-based activities promote social development by teaching and exposing kids to real issues, and by giving kids an active role in making a difference in the community. Extracurricular activities also give children additional opportunities for forming friendships with other children who share their interests. Social development is essential to a child’s language development, self-esteem, academic performance and conflict resolution.
2. Emotional Development
Emotional development is important to a child’s ability to develop relationships, be self-confident, be trusting and empathetic toward others and manage adversity and stress in a healthy way. The camaraderie that develops among teams and clubs promotes bonding and meaningful relationships with others, while activities that encourage hard work and collaboration with peers foster a sense of pride and accomplishment for children to share with each other.
3. Physical Development
Not all activities promote physical development in the obvious ways that athletics do. Physical development, which encourages fitness, agility, strength and even academic performance, can take place in a multitude of extracurricular activities. Art and music classes promote fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, while dance and gymnastics promote gross motor development.
4. Cognitive Development
Cognitive development relates to a child’s ability to think and reason. Academic clubs obviously promote thinking skills, but so do interest clubs such as astronomy and book club. Community-based activities can teach children to problem-solve, while art classes encourage children to think creatively. Even sports competitions contribute to cognitive development, as children must use logic, strategy and prediction skills to defeat the opposing team and secure a victory.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: Principles of Child Development and Learning that Inform Developmentally Appropriate Practice
- Stop Child Abuse Now: Social Development in Children
- American Academy of Pediatrics: The Social Emotional Development of Young Children
- Journal of Exercise Physiology: Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement
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