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EXTRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITY CLASSES FOR CHILDREN: HEALTHY OR UNHEALTHY?

A good number of us watch our children run from one tuition class to another. Then they have school homework, tuition homework, school tests and tuition tests to take care of. Moreover, children today also go to a number of extracurricular or activity classes. They sure learn how to multitask early on! Parents are divided in their opinion of this trend. While some of us feel it is the order of the day, some others think it disturbs the natural experience of ‘childhood’. I wanted to share with you some questions which if you ask yourselves may help to you gain more clarity as to whether a particular extra class is healthy or unhealthy for the child’s development.

Will this Extra Curricular Activity Class Help My Child in an Area of Weakness?

Any extra curricular class that helps the child develop in an area of his weakness would be healthy. This in fact is a prime reason we enroll our children into tuitions/coaching classes. Every time you enroll your child into a new class, ask yourself if it would help him/her substantially in an area of his/her weakness. If you think classes he already attends are doing him good and the new class you are considering won’t add enough, it would probably be a good idea to drop it.

A nested question here would be, “how important is it for the child to improve in this area of weakness?” For most school going children, academic weaknesses are by and large the most alarming. Close on its heels are behavioral or emotional weaknesses. Other weaknesses such as those in sports or music may not be as important.

What will this Extra-Curricular Activity Class do for My Child’s Self Esteem?

Any extra class is a good bet only if it will help to raise your child’s self esteem. If you and your child think the class will help him feel better and more secure about himself, it would probably be a good option to enroll for it. For eg., if your child does well otherwise, but is below average at oratory skills, whether he must go to a relevant class would depend on how he feels about his oratory skills. While for one child, a slight deficit in such skill would mean nothing, another child could be anxious and under confident due to it and may wish to improve. It would be a better idea to enroll the latter child to an extra class for communication skills.

Will this Extra Curricular Activity Class leverage on My Child’s Strengths?

Every child, like every human, is above average or superior at one thing, be it academics, sports, dance, music or art. At times, strengths may be subtler. For eg., your child may have wonderful comic timing and may have you and his friends in splits with his jokes. Or he may be a whiz with gadgets and appliances and may repair mobile phones and air conditioners sooner than you’ve deciphered what is wrong. Sometimes, children have wonderful memory or rich vocabulary. Ensure that whatever activity class or extra class your child is enrolled into focuses on leveraging upon his strengths. Not all strengths can be directly tapped in classes. In such instances, look for other ways to build on them. Maybe you could get more machine like toys for the mechanics whiz, more Scrabble and novels for the ‘vocab champ’ and so on. Encourage the “have me in splits!” child to probably pen down his spontaneous jokes, weaving a situation around each. Set your minds free. Think beyond classes about what you could provide to your child that will help him develop further what he is already good at.

Does this Extra Curricular Activity Class leave My Child with Enough Free Time?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…so does all work and all play structured. Extra classes, even if they are effective, still constitute a structured environment, with some rules to be followed. Children today frantically need “nothing time.” Many of us must have realized that leisure time is fast reducing for a child today. We need to prevent it from becoming extinct and encourage it! Having some time to run around in the building compound screaming “eeeeeee”, daydream into wilderness or make faces at the mirror, deeply studying how each face looks is almost as important as any academic or extracurricular pursuit! True spontaneous leisure doesn’t require just time, it also requires the child to feel free inside, in his mind. So a half an hour or one hour break in between two classes is hardly a space that would encourage true leisure. It cannot match the anticipation of a free evening after finishing twenty sums of math homework. Maintain a balance between skill building and leisure time. Encourage your children to enjoy their childhood!

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan. Malini is a Psychologist at Inner Space since 2010. 

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