Why Is It Important For Children To Be Involved In Extracurricular Activities?

Gone are the days when children played hopscotch, double dutch, freeze tag, red light, green light, and rode their bikes happily outside of their homes. Gone are the days when active play was a norm. These were definitely the games I played as a child. I never participated in extracurricular activities, I never stayed after school for a sport until high school, and my mother never paid for any such activities.

Today most children do less active playing and more surfing the internet, fixating on video games and watching YouTube videos than anything else. Children as young as 2 years old know how to use a smartphone better than most adults.

You can barely pull children away from the smartphone or the television without a temper tantrum ensuing. But there are still many parents who promote active play and extracurricular activities in their homes and in their children on a regular.

The purpose of this article is to encourage Parents and schools to take an active interest in encouraging children to participate in extracurricular activities because the benefits are worth the sacrifice.

This article gives six reasons why extracurricular activities are important and must not be neglected. It also features Takeo Dawson, a bright 7-year-old child who is super active, ridiculously athletic, and superiorly well-rounded.

I would like to give a huge shout-out to his parents and his village for doing such a phenomenal job of cultivating greatness in Takeo. I haven’t met too many other parents who have schedules for their children that are more intense than ours, but as much as I complain about our children’s extracurricular schedules, I am so glad I do not have Takeo’s schedule.

In all seriousness, I know it is a major sacrifice for his village, but I salute you for making the sacrifice now, knowing that it is setting him up for greatness.

Watching the Dawson family from afar through their many positive Facebook posts reminds me so much of our village. They never miss a game, they show up to everything, they take pictures of every moment, they chronicle and celebrate every small and large accomplishment, and they unapologetically cheer on greatness in their son like it’s going out of style.

Below are 6 reasons why children participating in extracurricular activities is so important:

It Looks Great on A Resume (High School, College, and Career)

In recent news, we have seen the fall of many celebrities due to the fudging of information and just downright lying on applications in order to gain access to the most elite colleges and universities for their children. They chose to lie because they realized that universities are looking for well-rounded children, not just the child with straight A’s on their report cards.

Are grades important?

Heck, yes, they are important, but they do not necessarily determine the ultimate success of a child. This year I had the joy and challenge of completing high school applications with our oldest son AJ. The process was overwhelming at times and felt worse than filling out a college application. I had no clue about the rigorous process needed for some of the most “elite” schools.

Fortunately, as a parent, I did not have to fudge anything on any application. Not only were our son’s grades awesome, but he participated in more extracurricular activities than I could even name.

When attending his interview with the headmasters of each school, I listened to the questioning they threw his way and realized at that moment that they were more impressed with his well-roundedness, his charisma, his ability to manage challenging schedules, exemplary sportsmanship, and ability to problem solve more than anything else.

Yes, they cared about his grades, but they made it clear that all children applying to their schools had great grades, but if only 30 were being accepted for the 9th-grade class, then they needed to see what set him apart. The skills he mastered through his extracurricular activities, including student government and the speak up an oratorical club, were what set him apart.

When I look at Takeo at an even younger age than AJ, I marvel at the fact that greatness exudes from him and marvel even more at his village, who are intentionally breaking down walls and opening doors of opportunity and access for him in areas that can only lead to his greatness.

This is what cultivating greatness looks like. I remember the little league and Karate days when AJ was 7 years old, and trust me, they led to these moments of complete confidence and charisma. It’s worth the sacrifice.

It Keeps Them Active and Has Many Health Benefits

Being physically active from a young age has numerous health benefits. It is good to keep our children moving! Some of the same benefits physical activity have on adults can be experienced in the health of children as well. It boosts metabolism and improves blood circulation. It also improves stamina and mental alertness.

If you are ever around a child that can barely make it up a flight of steps or doesn’t have any desire to walk or participate in activities, it is most likely because their energy levels are low due to the fact they are not used to moving around. Video games and sedentary routines have sucked the life out of many children.

Our former First Lady, Michelle Obama, dedicated her time to fighting childhood obesity with her “let’s move campaign. Let’s take a page out of her book, and let’s keep our children moving.

It Teaches Teamwork and Other Skills That are Immeasurable

Taking part in after-school or club activities provides children like Takeo with great social skills such as working with others, accepting feedback, and being responsible for one’s actions. These skills often positively transfer to other areas of life. Because Takeo has learned these skills early in life, he is likely to be more successful when difficult moments and peer pressure arises.

These skills will be helpful not only during his schooling but also during adulthood, no matter what path he may choose.

It Allows Them to Release Stress

Nowadays, it is not just parents and adults that find themselves wallowing in moments of stress. Even young children have fallen prey to a life of stress! High-stakes testing in schools has taken stress in young children to another level.

Teens are reporting high levels of stress, according to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (2014). The American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed teens, ages 13 to 17, living in the United States to understand how teens experience stress and the impact that stress is having on their lives.

Respondents reported stress levels far above what they viewed as healthy, and on average, teens’ reported stress levels were higher than what adults reported in regard to their stress levels. Eighty-three percent of teens surveyed cited school as a source of stress, sixty-nine percent cited “getting into a good college or deciding what to do after high school,” and sixty-five percent cited “financial concerns for their family.”

While many teens surveyed believe that stress has no or only a slight impact on their health, teens report experiencing a variety of symptoms of stress, both physical and psychological. Thirty-six percent of teens reported feeling nervous or anxious, thirty-one percent reported feeling overwhelmed, and thirty percent reported feeling depressed or sad as a result of stress in the month prior to the survey.

The findings suggest that many teens are experiencing symptoms of stress in their daily lives and that school is a contributing factor to that stress.

Apart from good sleep, extracurricular activities play a key role in busting this stress. They provide much-needed leisure and recreation needed. They cool the mind down, remove tension, and give peace. Let’s not downplay the stress levels of our children.

It Teaches Them to Take Risks and Avoid Negative Choices

Skills such as time management and positive peer interactions are of the utmost importance. When children participate in extracurricular activities, they are asked to be on time, commit to a group, and expected to trust individuals.

They work on building positive relationships and grow socially due to these skills. On a team such as a chess club or band, children are put in a position to take risks and learn new skills and habits.

These positive risk-taking opportunities replace the negative choices often available to those not involved in a structured activity.

It Provides Them with Better Time Management and The Ability to Prioritize

Time management and prioritizing are skills I find the most difficult in adults. Most adults who have concerns at their workplace normally can track it back to time management concerns.

Most children who fail classes in school can normally track it back to a lack of time management. That is not the only factor, but it is a factor. Time management is not a skill that children can wait to learn when they enter college. It is a skill they must learn very early.

A child-like Takeo is learning to multi-task early and is developing the skills needed to prioritize. This will set him up for success as a teen and as an adult. Prioritizing is needed to make the right decisions in a limited time. Big things should assume importance in comparison with insignificant ones.

The ability to differentiate the wheat from the chaff is called prioritizing. Participating in many activities will improve a child’s ability to handle different things and take on newer challenges fearlessly.

There are major benefits to children participating in extracurricular activities. Yes, they can become pricey, especially when you have multiple children, but most schools have great sports options after school, and most communities have great YMCAs and Recreation Centers that are just amazing.

The largest sacrifice will not be the money, but it will be the dedication of time. We can only handle the schedule of our children because we have the village we have that pours into their greatness and shares in their development and their joy just as much as we do. At a young age, it doesn’t matter the sport or activity chosen for children. It just matters that your child is involved in them.

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About Maki Hojo

Maki Hojo is a student at the University of Michigan. A foodie since birth, she enjoys cooking, eating, photographing, reading about, and playing with any and all types of food. Her idolization of culinary delights is complemented by her active spirit - she enjoys running, swimming, barre classes, and even spontaneous bursts of interpretative dance if the mood strikes her.

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