Many of you are aware that enrichment and extra-curricular activities are crucial to a child’s development, but did you realize participating in too many can be more harmful rather than beneficial? While such activities provide an environment for learning outside of the classroom and are a great way to make new friends and to pass free time, too many activities can cause burnout and fatigue. Not to mention, participating in too many activities can sometimes make it more difficult to nurture a child’s true passions.
It is frequently said such activities are equally important, if not more, than classroom learning because they foster communication, confidence, creativity, social skills, collaboration skills and time management — many skills that cannot be obtained simply by attending academic classes. We’re also often told from an early age that extra-curricular activities are necessary when it comes to applying for schools and for future jobs and internships.
Not a surprising fact, since participation in enrichment and extra-curricular activities can help children identify what major or career path to choose later in life. We’re told schools seek candidates who are “well-rounded” and who are “leaders” in addition to showing academic rigor and high test-scores. But what does it mean to be “well-rounded” and what activities are most helpful? Are children supposed to get good grades in addition to participating in sports, music, art, drama, write for the school newspaper, be part of the debate team as well as volunteer on weekends?
We try to cram as much as we can into our children’s schedules because we think it will enhance their chances of getting into an elite school overseas. They have extra tutoring after school, but also attend swim class, violin class, drama class and cooking class. They’re so busy that frequently they do not have sufficient time to unwind, and instead are splitting their energy over too many activities. They move from activity to activity with no break and no time to reflect or think. They’re stressed and frustrated; sometimes they don’t meet goals or achieve desirable results because they are only mediocre at what they do. As a result they can’t identify their true passions.
Rather than fall into the trap of trying to do more to please schools, we should ask ourselves, how do we help our children choose meaningful activities? Ones that will nurture their natural talents but give them a platform and environment to achieve a high level of success? Ones that will help them develop crucial life skills and experiences that they can use in every aspect of their daily lives? Ones that will provide them with compelling stories to tell when it comes time to write those school applications? Below are some of my thoughts on how to help your child go about choosing meaningful activities.
Try a summer camp at least once, more specifically, a traditional camp. I like the idea of a traditional camp versus a “themed” summer camp (such as sports camp or music camp or arts camp) exactly because they offer a broader range of activities. If your child hasn’t found his / her direction in life or an activity they’re truly passionate to pursue, a traditional camp may be a better choice. At least he / she will have the opportunity to try different activities and upon discovering those one or two that he / she enjoys the most you can encourage them to maintain their participation during the school year.
According to Stateside Adventures, “traditional camps offer activities that show children the amazing things they are capable of achieving. Traditional camps are places where they can leave their comfort zone and take healthy risks with both emotional and physical “safety nets” in place to catch them.” For further information, click here.
Find out more here
This post first appeared on February 15, 2014 on Prep Beijing and written by Alicia Lui.
Alicia Lui is a co-founder at Prep Beijing!, a coaching company focusing on core soft skills such as effective communication, social and emotional skills, etiquette, critical thinking and leadership skills. Prior to founding Prep Beijing! She has worked in management consulting and in banking. She holds and MBA from INSEAD and Bachelor’s from University of Chicago.
Photo courtesy of The Lund Report