Which after-school activity is right for her?

Your child should be involved in other activities apart from those in school, but how do you choose one?

Dr Richard C. Woolfson

At this age, your child has just started formal schooling and naturally, you want to ensure that she fulfils her learning potential. However, she may have other talents, perhaps in music, gymnastics, art, performing, or even in taking care of others. It is important that you identify and develop these. Your child should be involved in other activities apart from those in school. 

It is never easy selecting the right after-school activity for your child, because often, you will not know how she will react to it until she starts. There are two good starting points, however:

What she is good at You have had six years to observe your child in various situations. By now, you have a rough idea, for instance, whether or not she is musically talented. Think about her areas of strength, as these are the ones most likely to form the basis of a successful leisure interest.

What she likes Your child’s preferences are important as well. Her enthusiasm motivates her to persist with an activity.

Be prepared for her to have some degree of uncertainty. What may seem a good idea at the start – for instance, drama lessons – may turn out to be a waste of time if she realises that this particular activity does not suit her.

Conversely, resist the temptation to reject her suggestion because you think she has no aptitude in that area. For example, she may appear clumsy, but her physical skills could be sharper when she is part of a group following a structured programme.

It also makes sense not to buy expensive equipment until your child is fully immersed in the programme. Giving her a settling-in period of a month or so allows both of you to judge whether or not she has the hidden talent needed for that particular activity.

There may come a point when your child’s enthusiasm for the leisure activity – no matter how great her natural aptitude – begins to flag. By all means, encourage her to persist as she may want to give up for a minor reason, say, she can’t watch her favourite cartoon on TV because it clashes with the course.

And by all means, encourage her to try harder when preparing for an assessment or a grading exam; there is no harm putting some pressure on her to achieve.

Be careful, however, of crossing the line into pushy-parent land! That is when you start to lose sight of why your child has embarked on this activity in the first place, namely, to foster her skills, to give her fun, to improve her confidence, and become focused only on the outcome, namely, a grade in music, a level in athletics, a major part in a play.

For pushy parents, the goal is more important than the process leading up to it – but in the end, your child should be allowed to drop the activity if her motivation for it has vanished.


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