Soon after the school year begins, parents will often search for extracurricular activities for their children. Some will be looking for activities which may complement the child’s academic program while others may be in search of those which can add balance or further develop an interest the child has. But after-school activities do require a time commitment and this needs to be taken into consideration before approving your child’s participation. Smart planning at the beginning will help avoid issues later in the semester, especially if you have more than one child to consider.
How much is enough?
Before registering your children for an after-school club or activity, check to see if there are any potential scheduling conflicts that may surface with regard to school schedule and major exam dates, your work day and any substantial fluctuations in seasonal work load you may have experienced in the past and any other activities you and/or your children may have previously committed to. Try combining all of these factors on paper to determine what is realistically feasible and what isn’t . Consider the basics like whether your child will have enough time to eat, sleep and relax? Even the most energetic 12-year old will require some downtime. If it appears that an activity has the potential for adding too much stress to daily life (either your child’s or yours), it might be a hard, but ultimately the right decision, to say no.
Finding an activity that is right for your child
Before committing to a non-school related extra-curricular activity on behalf of your child, you may first want to review what clubs and activities are offered by the school. Not only will it require less transporting of your child to and from multiple locations, but it will be easier to get feedback and hear reviews from other parents at the school. See what’s on offer and determine if any are a good fit for your child.
Consider your child’s interests and abilities. Will being around school mates or peers help improve certain skills or, as may also be possible, have a negative impact on developing your child’s individual interests? Will your child grow from a totally new experience or is it better for them to continue with something that is familiar? Is a certain activity offered in Dutch better or worse than if the same activity is offered elsewhere in English?
If your personal situation is one which has required substantial change already (for example, when the child changes school or if you have just recently arrived in the Netherlands from abroad), it may be preferable to opt for extra-curricular activities which are familiar rather than those which would be experienced for the first time.
Age-appropriate activities for children
Extracurricular activities are available for children of all ages, whether they be in preschool, primary school or secondary school. The one common thread across all of them is that a child who is a member of a club, association or special interest group will learn firsthand the importance of team work, how it feels to have team spirit and why structure is important to team success. It is wise to remember this when considering a full extra-curricular schedule. Try to balance group activities (such as being on a sports team) with those which may be one-on-one (such as music lessons).
When a child is allowed to explore his/her many interests, whether they be related to sports, art, entertainment, social issues, etc., with like-minded peers in an open environment, their development will not be as stressful as it would be if those outlets are not allowed or supported.
Here in The Hague area, extra-curricular activities abound; there is no shortage of music, dance, drama and art classes. Many of them offer a free trial lesson (proeflessen) which can help determine if your child is interested and if it seems to be a good match between teacher and pupil. At one of those listed, Grace Music, you can register your child (ages 0-7) for Kindermusik, instrument training (ages 6+) and even a course which teaches English through Music (ages 2-6).
Children are always infatuated with animals and many would love how to ride a horse or pony. If this sounds like your child, find a myriad of choices of riding schools which offer lessons to children as early as age 7.
The opportunities for learning a sport are endless. Clubs, teams and training are available to children interested in football (soccer), hockey, rugby, golf, tennis, squash, skiing, skating, gymnastics and swimming just to name a few. Have a look at those options here.
And what if you change your mind?
If you have signed your child up for an activity which they do not enjoy or seems to be stressing them in some way (physical, mental, time commitment), review whether it makes sense for their participation to continue. Whatever the reason may be for considering your child’s withdrawal, talk with the advisor or coach. Be polite but direct. Clearly explain the situation and what has brought you to this meeting. If the reason relates to time constraints, the coach or leader may be able to offer an option for continued participation in a way that is less time-consuming. Saying “no” is sometimes the only answer.
Remember, the balance between education and related school work with that of extracurricular activities is one which should always be reviewed and tweaked in order to reach an optimal result.