This question is one parents face with all their children. It is most important when both parents work, but it relates to all parents. Is it best to get your child into sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, football, tennis? Is it better for them to be into music lessons like piano, guitar, trumpet or others? Maybe it should be after-school programs, if your area offers them.
The desire is always at least two-fold. As parents, we know that the old adage has been around for so many years because “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop” is true. So the first reason we want extra-curricular activities for our children is to keep them busy and therefore out of trouble. But the second and more important reason is to provide them with learning and growth opportunities, offering them a more rounded lifestyle and activities that help them discover just who they really are going to be.
So do we enroll them in sports activities? Of course that is an option that provides not only exercise, but teamwork, cooperation, the value of following authority, competition, and other aspects that promote self-esteem and strength of character. We know that only the very few become millionaire sports stars, and that is never our motivation for choosing sports, but often sports participants are respected by their peers in school, providing even more motivational drive to excel in other areas.
How about providing lessons on a musical instrument? Is that what we should offer them? There are many articles that show that learning an instrument increases IQ, benefits language development, improves test scores, is very goal oriented, increases memory, and provides a multitude of other positive influences. So should they be enrolled in band in school? Should they be encouraged to play in a rock band?
As is true with either sports or music, the instructor/coach plays a very important role. However, the most important role in a child’s life is always you. You can offer these opportunities to your children, but keep a watchful eye and an open, encouraging heart. I have had a couple guitar students over the years tell me that they have to learn because their parents paid a lot of money for their guitar and lessons.
My response is always, “Don’t even consider the money. Your parents love you more than you know and they want you to be happy. If the guitar is not making you as happy as trumpet or football, or something else, tell them. They will not be angry. They love you and they want more than anything for you to be happy.”
So my advice as to which extra-curricular activities are best for your child are the ones that they can’t wait to do, the ones that light up their eyes and put the smile on their face. You may have to try several of the options mentioned and some I didn’t include. Be creative, but always watch their faces and try to find “that smile” they get when the activity is right for them. Who knows? They might want to ride a unicycle on the high wire in the circus.