How Many Extracurricular Activities and Which Ones to Choose?

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BB is almost the age where extracurricular activities finally become available, as most activities require children to be at least 5. I'm guessing because trying to wrangle a bunch of younger toddlers is not the best way to impart the joys of painting to a class. We're faced with making a decision about which activities we should put him in.

We all have time and money constraints, of course, but also I feel it's important we don't overload our kids with activities that run them from place to place everyday, cutting away from family time. Decisions, decisions.

My philosophy on extracurriculars in early education is that they should help develop a child's mental pathways and expand their thought processes. Here are the classes I am considering:

1. Art. Specifically a class that works in multiple mediums. As a fan of the Reggio Emelia method, I do believe that children have 100 languages in which they learn and express themselves. Unfortunately, given I am a working mom, it's hard to bring out the messy paints and clays as often as my kids need the exposure. Also, I'm not a very good artist so a professional might be more inspiring in this arena.

2. Foreign Language. I talk a lot about culture for kids on this blog. BB is in Chinese school on Saturday mornings during the traditional school year, in part for the cultural exposure, but also because learning different languages at a young age is one of the best ways to absorb a language. Different languages also expands the brains and makes for better use of all known languages.

A Swedish study showed that the brain actually grows from learning additional languages. (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/sep/04/what-happens-to-the-brain-language-learning)

3. Sports or Martial Arts. Confession, we are not a sports family. At most, I've dabbled in Tennis and Golf, while my husband spent quite a few years in Martial Arts. It wasn't until having kids that I realized how important some kind of physical activity is for overall personal development. I lean towards wanting the kids to be involved in something they can continue their whole lives, which rules out a lot of the more injury prone sports like football and soccer. BB is currently enrolled in Tang Soo Do which has done a lot for his self esteem and social skills as well.

An independent study found that martial arts can improve attention span long term, something I think this technology exposed generation could benefit from as well. (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/martial-arts-health-benefits-exercise-mental-attention-alertness-judo-a8220936.html)

4. Music. We recently brought home a keyboard for the kids to start taking piano lessons. I've debated putting the kids in a piano school versus having in home lessons but either way feel very strongly that music helps develop a different way of processing information.

A USC study found that music helped children's brains develop faster, specifically in speech and reading skills. (https://news.usc.edu/102681/childrens-brains-develop-faster-with-music-training/)

In the end, I will likely enroll BB in an art class during the summer and spend more time on art on the weekends, from projects to museum trips and do in home piano lessons so that we can be home instead of running off to another class during the week.

How many and what activities are your children involved in outside of school?


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