How to choose your kids after school activities
As a new parent, and an Englishman, I’m amazed at the variety of kids after school activities for kids in South Africa. Growing up in a small town in Devon, UK there were options, but not as many as there are available here. I also don’t recall my schedule or my friend’s schedules being so hectic. We went to school, came home, ate and played football. I tried other sports and played them around football, but I had one main passion and that’s what I did every day, whether training was scheduled or not.
It’s intrinsic to South Africans and their culture to be productive with a bright and early 7:30 am schooltime-start from the young age of 6 (or earlier). My brother and I walked to school for 9am and we walked home at 3pm. In winter it was going dark soon after that, so our days were shorter. There are pros and cons to both kinds of living.
Living in Johannesburg gives you options and time. My wife and I have found incredible kids after school activities just on our doorstep. We love the options, and we love the high quality. When we began searching it almost became tempting to pick too many.
We firmly believe kids should play and grow up playing. We don’t believe a child should feel too ‘busy’. A child should not be familiar with rushing. The only time they should be running is for fun, not to and from one activity to the next. But, this is easier said than done, especially in a big city. Kids after school activities are essential. They provide new experiences, skills, friends, perspectives and so much more. This means that choices must be made.
Here are seven things that we’ve considered when choosing kids after school activities:
Let your child show you
Let your child show you what activities they enjoy. Let them try it out and decide for themselves whether it is something that will bring them joy. If they’re very young, you as the parent can determine if it’s a good fit. But never force them. The best way to make a child hate a sport is to force them to go week after week when they are showing no interest and no enjoyment.
Choose kids after school activities that will benefit them for life. The foundational years of a child are potentially the most important, hence why Early Childhood Development is such a key focus. Make sure the focus is on play and fun, and incorporated in it all must be a strong focus on brain development. Often this means it will involve physical movement, social interaction, emotional benefits and mental focus. Choose instructors/coaches that are well-versed in child development.
Focus on diversity early
The very early years are a good opportunity to explore a range of kids after school activities. Choose a term/season of one activity and then change it up for the next season. If they’re loving the activity don’t make them stop for the sake of taking up a new one. Nurture their love of the activity because you can never underestimate the benefits of early introduction. Always include a fun movement activity. When they learn to love moving their bodies when they’re young, you’re building in your child a great habit and passion for life.
Become more focused as they grow
When they enter their primary years, development can begin to be more focused to a specific area that they’re showing a passion for (but remember it must be their passion, not just your own passion). Often kids will enjoy activities that they’re good at, but it’s not always the case. It’s important to allow them to do what they enjoy, and not simply label the child with something they excel in.
Choose coaches who focus on fun, development, wellness and character
Often, kids after school activities will reap benefits in their academic and general life. Research the activity you’re sending them to, and chat to their coaches to learn more.
Think emotional and social development
Pick kids after school activities that introduce them to a host of children from different ages and backgrounds as this will have huge benefits to their emotional and social development.
Consider time and travel
It may help to consider a sports club or community hall that hosts a range of kids after school activities to save on time and avoid transportation issues.
Considering we run our own after school activity – IQ Football Academy we’re obviously big advocates of them. From our diverse experiences in different countries, we’re conscious of the temptation to choose too many. Pick wisely and you’ll be giving your child an invaluable gift for life.