As a parent or caretaker, time is a precious resource. We want the best for our children and try to fill their days with the things that support their growth. That means plenty of time for school and therapy, but what about extracurricular activities? In this post, we’ll break down some of the benefits of making time for sports and recreation in your child’s busy schedule.
Recreational activities and extracurriculars are designed to offer learning and experiences beyond the curriculum of a classroom. Sports are the most obvious example of an extracurricular as many schools offer the opportunity to join clubs or teams that compete after class. Beyond sports, extracurricular activities can include clubs and gatherings on books, chess, board games, collecting, and much more.
By being involved in extracurricular and recreational activities your child may see the following benefits:
- Higher self-esteem.
- More socialization and opportunity to build on communication skills.
- Deeper bonds with peers.
- More physical or mental stimulation that is both healthy and structured.
- A sense of belonging and part of the community.
- Increased independence and healthier habits.
- Opportunities to develop fine motor skills.
- Improved behavior and listening/attentiveness.
All of these support healthy development and some even have the added benefit of keeping your child busy while you supervise, cheer on or simply observe how your child navigates a healthy challenge and structured activity. If these sound like solid benefits, you may be wondering where to get started with finding the right activity.
We recommend taking stock of your child’s interests first and foremost to get a better idea of what may suit them best. Focus on where their mind wanders when they’re not in school- what are the things that they tend to look forward to and enjoy? What about those things keep them engaged? Is it working with others? Is it developing their understanding of a certain topic? What motivates them to do what they do?
Though these may seem like difficult questions to answer, the common themes you find as you ponder them will lead you to activities your child is most likely to enjoy and be interested in. We recommend checking in with your child’s school to see what extracurriculars are available, and if any of them can suit your child’s needs. If they have no suitable options or you want to look elsewhere, we recommend your local community center, park district, JCC or YMCA. These can offer special swim courses, fitness clubs, sports and clubs all built with accessibility in mind or specifically designed around children on the spectrum or with special needs.
While you search, don’t forget other recreational activities like craft-making, painting, drawing and other forms of art. If structured activities aren’t readily available at school or a community center, consider the possibility of either petitioning for one or creating your own with a group of families looking for similar services.
Any activity that lets your child learn and grow in unexpected ways can improve their lives drastically in the long run. Find an extracurricular activity that fits their interests and ability near you, and do your part to support the flourishing of new skills and creativity.
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