Sports are a popular activity for adults and children alike. While adults may not have the time to hit the hardwoods or toss the ball around as much as they used to, sports continue to be as popular as ever among young people. According to the State of Play: 2018 report from The Aspen Institute, 69 percent of children between the ages of six and 12 participated in a team or individual sport at least once in 2017.
As popular as sports are, some students are not inclined to lace up a pair of cleats or compete with their peers on the athletic playing fields. In fact, the State of Play: 2018 report found that just 37 percent of kids between the ages of six and 12 participated in a team sport on a regular basis in 2017. Lack of interest in sports is nothing for parents to worry about, though it is important that parents encourage their kids to participate in extracurricular activities, which can pay a host of dividends.
Why participate in extracurricular activities?
Extracurricular activities do more than just provide something for kids to do once they're dismissed from school. Certain activities may help kids perform better academically. In analyzing data on more than 25,000 second school students, the United States Department of Education found that those who reported consistent involvement in instrumental music during middle school and high school performed significantly better in mathematics by grade 12 than kids who did not participate in music programs.
Participation in extracurricular activities as a youngster also may pay dividends well into the future. A 2017 study from researchers at Rutgers University found that people who were involved in extracurricular activities in high school were likely to stay involved in their communities throughout their lives.
Extracurricular activities for non-athletes
Sports might be a popular extracurricular activity, but there are still plenty of additional activities for kids who have no interest in sports.
• Music: School bands or community music programs provide opportunities for kids to learn an instrument and connect with fellow music lovers.
• Volunteering: Many organizations welcome teenager volunteers, recognizing that kids who volunteer as teens are more likely to continue doing so as adults, which can help charities and other organizations meet their missions. Volunteering even allows kids to further indulge an existing passion. For example, kids who love the beach can volunteer with a local environmental organization that works to clean up local beaches and waterways.
• Writing: Youngsters with an interest in writing can participate in local creative writing groups. Such groups can be great places to brainstorm story ideas and learn about the creative writing process.
Participating in extracurricular activities can enrich young peoples' lives and lay the foundation for a rich, fulfilling life.