Benefits of Enrichment Activities
We parents strive to broaden our children’s horizons and enrich their lives as much as possible. Whether it be enrolling our kids in gymnastics, art classes, martial arts or music classes, enrichment activities have many benefits that will extend into adulthood.
“Enrichment activities spur growth and development,” says a team of professionals providing services to families through the First Steps program. “Good activities will stimulate the senses, promote bonding and promote an atmosphere of learning and exploration through play.” According to these professionals, it’s never too early to begin enrichment activities. “Enrichment activities should start prenatally. Reading, singing, participation in activities that are soaked in music can penetrate the womb to spur language and development of music and language concepts.”
A major benefit of enrichment programs is that children will gain confidence as they learn new and challenging skills. According to “After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What It Takes to Achieve It,” published by the Harvard Family Research Project, “Programs with a strong intentional focus on improving social and personal skills were found to improve students’ self-esteem and self-confidence.” When they conquer new things, kids will feel a sense of accomplishment and feel better about themselves.
These enrichment programs may take place outside of the classroom, but their benefits will follow your children into their academics. According to the report by HFRP, many studies “repeatedly underscore the impact of supporting a range of positive learning outcomes, including academic achievement, by affording children and youth opportunities to learn and practice new skills through hands-on, experimental learning.”
Children also will improve their social skills by working with their peers and problem solving. In the age of too much screen time, getting children to interact with other children outside of school is extremely important.
Parent involvement in their children’s activities is also important. The First Steps professionals suggest carrying the learning home through car conversations by asking what children’s favorite or least favorite parts of an experience were, as well as trying to repeat the activities at home. You also will want to monitor how kids feel about the activity. If they are eager to attend class each week, that’s a great sign you have chosen the right activity. If they dread going every week, it might be time to reevaluate.
Enrichment activities don’t have to be hard on your budget. Budget friendly activities include play dates, trips to the park, library visits, bike trails, museums, splash pads, art creation at Kaleidoscope and story times. Visit KCParent.com for a full list of activities available in Kansas City for every budget.
How to Pick the Best Enrichment Activity for Your Child
With so many different enrichment programs available, choosing the right program for your child is important.
Follow your child’s interests.
Pay attention to your child’s talents and interests, and let those lead the way. Encourage children to discover what interests them.
Try out a class.
Before you enroll your child in a new activity, ask whether you can schedule a visit so the two of you can see the activity for yourselves. After seeing the activity, you and your child should be able to gauge whether it will be a good fit for him.
Meet the staff.
Meeting the staff and program leaders is an essential step. Ask them about their skills and background to assess the program’s quality.
Don’t schedule too many activities.
If your child has many interests, choosing just a few can be hard. Try to choose only the activities that will fit conveniently into your schedule. You don’t want to overschedule your child and increase her stress levels. Children should still have unstructured playtime at home. To keep from overscheduling, consider enrolling your child in a different program every season of the year instead of year-long activities. This will provide your youngster with a broad range of activities without filling up your schedule.
If kids’ extracurricular activities are leaving them exhausted and yearning for some downtime, it might be a sign to cut back on an activity. If you’re having trouble choosing which activity to cut out of your schedule, try to keep activities that will make your kids the most well rounded. If they are in two music classes and one art class, it might be time to drop that second music class.
Check your budget.
Before enrolling your child in an activity, make sure you’ve covered all of the costs involved and feel comfortable with the financial commitment. Many activities might have small fees to enroll, but extra costs like uniforms, equipment and competitive fees can add up. Make sure you aren’t caught off guard by those extra costs.
Look at each child individually
If you have more than one child, looking at each child as an individual is important. Even though your oldest child loved martial arts, your youngest might have no interest in that activity. The same is true for parents. Many parents want their children to follow in their footsteps, but your child might be interested in activities that hold no interest for you.
Find the fun!
Make sure all of the activities you enroll your children in have some aspect of fun added in the mix. Enjoying programs they’re involved in is important for kids. Otherwise, they won’t be motivated to continue going. Children also learn better when they are enjoying themselves.
Regan Lyons is a freelance writer who lives in St. Joseph, MO, with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.