After school clubs can be great for children to get involved in a fun activity, as well as giving you extra time in the afternoons if you can’t leave work to do the school pick-up. But knowing how many and which after school activities your child can manage can be difficult. We've got some pointers to help you determine what's right for you and your family.
Every year there is a debate that goes on in most houses with school-aged children...
How many after school clubs should children get involved with?
With the ever-growing list of after school activities children can participate in, it can be difficult to decide between the various dance, music, sport and academic classes.
Too many activities can be exhausting. On the other hand, not enough activity can leave your child bored with too much disposable time on their hands.
Interacting with other children and adults outside of the classroom is great for building self-confidence, learning discipline, developing social skills, complimenting textbook knowledge, and engaging in structured play.
There is no clear-cut answer to this question as every family and every child is different and all need different amounts of time to complete homework and have some time to just relax at home.
We’ve put together some pointers to help you decide what’s best for your child.
Don’t Take on Too Much
It’s easier to add an activity than take one away, so start slowly. Start with one activity and see how your child responds. If they’re enjoying it, then look at adding a second club the following term.
This is also valuable advice when your child changes a year group. Each year there will be new variables from the amount of homework to the amount of sleep they need and how many play dates they may expect to have. Starting the first term with fewer activities will allow you to gauge what they can handle for the rest of the year.
While extra-curricular activities can be enjoyable and children need to be able to let off steam in a fun way after school, they also have homework to do and need some down time.
The later they get home, the more likely it is that they’ll not have the energy to concentrate on homework.
If you notice their school work start to slip because of a club or after school activity, you’ll need to discuss this with your child. Having children make their own schedule and stick to it in order to continue with extra-curricular activities is a great way to hand the responsibility over to them and help your child manage their own schedule.
Are there certain days where you need to be in the office later? Does your work allow flexibility? Do you work from home? When deciding what activities will best suit your child, it’s also important that those activities suit your schedule.
If you know that on Mondays you need to be in the office till 5, then that’s a great day for them to join an after-school club. If, however, on Wednesdays you have the flexibility to work from home, then it makes sense for them not to attend activities that day.
Extra-curricular activities can often turn parents into chauffeurs, especially if you have more than one child. Remember that time together as a family is important too.
Try to set aside one night a week when everyone will be home to do something as a family. Whether it’s making dinner together, streaming a movie, or playing a game, this special family time is great for bonding.
It's Supposed to Be Fun
Remember that clubs and activities are meant to be fun. When choosing activities for your child, let them help make the decisions. If piano lessons was what you wanted as a child, that doesn't necessarily mean that your child will want the same. If you want them to play an instrument, let them choose which one.
Cost of Activities
Extra activities often mean extra costs. Make sure you investigate these costs closely so that you don't end up with a big surprise at the end of the term.
It may be as simple as the cost of a new kit or contributions towards supplies, but there can also be expectations to attend trips or for the cost of accommodation at away matches to be covered by parents.
Not all activities take up the same amount of time. A half hour music lesson isn't just half an hour as they’ll also need to practise at home. Football practice should factor in the frequency and length of matches, and don’t forget factoring in pick-up time and if you need to leave work earlier or later to accommodate this.
Think about what care arrangements you have in place, and how these will fit around after school activities. If you have a nanny, they will be an extra set of hands and feet to ferry children to and from school, but a childminder may not be as flexible as they will have other children in their care.
If you or your partner works long hours, remember that you’ll need to be able to coordinate a plan that you can execute with military precision.
If you find yourself stuck, needing to be in two places at once, arrange emergency childcare such as grandparents, other parents, or those within your support network who could help you out in a pinch.