Extracurricular activities and clubs have many benefits for children. They help kids explore their physical, creative, and social potential. They allow kids to find out where their career may lie. Activities can teach real world skills that encourage life-long interests. They encourage teamwork and leadership skills, responsibility and discipline. Extracurricular activities teach children to multitask and micromanage as they juggle the demands of school, friends, and family. Activities allow kids to boost their self-esteem as they learn to perform in something they enjoy. They may find friends that share their common interests and also meet kids from other backgrounds. All enjoyable activities provide a source of stress relief.
Activities, such as sports, drama, music, scouting, dance, and various clubs, are an important part of the educational experience of many students. Most studies find that children who participate in these activities are more successful academically than those who don’t. It’s not clear whether this is because the brighter, more energetic students are also the ones who participate more in extracurricular activities, or whether the activities themselves boost students’ academic performance. Probably both are true.
Such activities offer other benefits as well. For a child who is not gifted academically, the chance to excel in the arts or in sports, for example, can make a huge difference in self-esteem. Many extracurricular activities teach real-world skills, such as journalism, photography, or debate, which can lead to lifelong interests, even careers. Teens and preteens who devote themselves to service projects, such as food drives, book drives, or neighborhood improvement projects, learn that they can make a difference and contribute to society. They also learn teamwork and leadership skills that may be even more important in the long run than some of the academic subjects they study.
Extracurricular activities and clubs also play a role in reducing drug and alcohol use and irresponsible sexual activity in older children and teens, especially those who otherwise would be on their own after school. It’s not only a matter of keeping the kids busy. The self-esteem and sense of purpose that children can get from serious involvement in extracurricular activities may help raise their aspirations and give them a reason to say “no” to risky behaviors.
As important as the activities themselves are the relationships young people can build with the committed adults who direct the activities. In a groundbreaking study of children growing up in Hawaii, it was often the presence of this sort of supportive relationship, either with parents or with another adult–that made the difference between success in life and later unemployment or even legal problems.