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Crack the Code: How to Select After School Activities Your Kids Will Love

Choosing an after school activity with your child can feel a bit daunting. You might feel obligated to sign them up for the same activities as their peers (perhaps a little motivated by FOMO?). You may want to encourage them to excel at a sport or art form that you excelled at (or wish you did) when you were younger.

You wonder how much to push or encourage them to participate in something they may or may not want to do or when to pull back and admit defeat. It’s a tricky line parents have to walk and one of our biggest challenges.

The good news is that we are lucky to live in a city with an endless (albeit a bit overwhelming) number of options for after school activities. When you make a choice you are setting your child (and yourself) up for a major time (and financial) commitment so you better get it right, right?  Here’s a handy little guide to ask yourself and your child when it’s time to choose.

kid playing drums
Music lessons might be the perfect after school activity for your kids

Expert Tips on Choosing the Perfect After School Activity for Los Angeles Kids

What are they interested in?

Before getting caught in a rush to sign them up for something, for fear the class will fill up and everyone else is doing it, take a moment to sit down as a family and reflect on your child’s interests, hobbies, and passions WITH THEM. What activities do they enjoy doing in their free time? Make a list of things that genuinely excite them.

What are they already excelling at?

Think about the strengths and skills your child already has. Are there any NEW activities that align with these abilities? If they already love skateboarding what about signing up for surf lessons? Do they love playing video games? What about a coding class? Consider how you can leverage your child’s talents in an activity that helps them explore something new. Maybe each year you make a goal to have your child try at least one new activity.

Explore Your Options

Research different after-school activities available in your area and talk to friends to see what they know and teachers about your own child’s interests and goals. There is no shortage of options but in your research try to consider other factors like:

  • The Time Commitment: How long will the drive take? Will there be friends participating that you can arrange a carpool with? 
  • Consider factors like homework and other responsibilities so that it fits comfortably into your schedule without causing excessive stress or exhaustion.
  • Keep track of the time commitments, the costs and the pros and cons of these activities in a spreadsheet to stay organized (and sane).
little girl in pink dancing in a park setting
Your kids may love dance lessons

Set Goals

Talk to your child about what they hope to gain from participating in extracurricular activities. Are they looking to improve a specific skill, meet new friends, boost their academic performance, or simply have fun? Setting clear goals can help narrow down your options.

Attend Trials and Open Houses

Most programs will offer FREE trial sessions or will host open houses where you can experience the activity firsthand before committing. Take advantage of these opportunities to get a feel for the environment, meet instructors or coaches, and see if the activity is a good fit.

Consider the Long-term Benefits

Think about the potential long-term benefits of each activity. Will it help your child develop important life skills, boost their college applications, or provide opportunities for personal growth and leadership? Choose an activity that aligns with their future aspirations. If they don’t know yet that’s ok. This is their time to explore!

kid lying on a surfboard on the sand
Maybe SoCal Kids should all learn to surf!

Listen to Your Gut

Trust you and your child’s instincts. You will know if your child is enjoying something and if they are just not that into it. If you are lucky enough to find something they love- keep it up!  If they are resisting and it’s all starting to feel forced, you need to resist the urge to push them into it or you may have an adverse effect (e.g. your child quits and never picks it up again). You and your child’s intuition can often guide you towards the best choice for your child’s interests and personality.

Be Open to New Experiences

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. A child that seems to resist playing a sport or instrument might get inspired by something totally unique like a cooking class or an after school nature program. If the piano lessons are starting to feel like pulling teeth, try signing them up to play the keyboard in a band at School of Rock.  

Maybe your “strong willed” tween could benefit by channeling some of that cheekiness into a comedy class? Sometimes, the most rewarding experiences come from taking risks and exploring totally unfamiliar territory.

Remember parents, the goal of an after-school activity is to keep your kids active, engaged and curious and maybe, if all goes well, enhance their overall well-being.

Choose activities that bring them joy, challenges them to grow, and enriches their life both in and out of the classroom. Then give yourself a pat on the back for excelling at one of the hardest skills of all; parenting.

Maggie Tancred is a writer and mother of two working in kid’s content with the goal of helping others and bringing good into the world. You can read more of her writing at The Mother Co.

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