Extra curricular activities and sports are so important for kids, in my opinion. Looking back on my childhood, I made some of the best friends of my life and learned valuable lessons through activities like dance, swim, and cheerleading. I have been watching my middle schooler enjoying the amazing benefits of participating on a swim team for the past four years, but it has taken my youngest until this year to find a thing to call his own.
Activities like sports and learning or interest groups help to teach kids important social skills, teamwork, and give them exposure to a bigger range of people outside their immediate circle. It will give them the opportunity to have fun while sharpening skills and perfecting a sport or other interest. However, you need to be sure that your child is actually enjoying the group or team they have joined and that it is not something that is more about you.
So what do you do when you child shows no interest in sports or other group activities? Here are a few tips that will help you to help your kids find their “thing” and ensure that they can take advantage of the many benefits that sports and extracurricular activities have to offer.
Try everything at least once. – Look for ways to get a taste of all of the sports and clubs that they are interested in. Ask around about clinics, classes, and day camps that will let kids get a taste of the activity without committing to long-term participation. If your kids aren’t sure exactly what they want to do, check with clubs and teams about observation days or trial periods that allow kids a chance to give things a test run. For example, our swim team allows new swimmers to practice with the team for a week before making a commitment, for a small fee that is deducted from their registration fee if they join. Multi-sport summer day camps are also a great way for kids to give several sports a try to find something they enjoy.
Never force a sport or class. – Yes, you should absolutely have kids follow through on their commitment to a team by completing the season or respect your investment in an activity or club by finishing out what you have paid for, but forcing kids to participate in a specific activity because YOU want them to rarely ends well for anyone. It is hard to give your best to an activity that you simply don’t find fun. If they give something a try but sincerely do not like it, move on to another activity once their current commitment is complete.
Think outside the box. – If the “usual” activities like soccer, baseball, dance, or scouting aren’t holding your kids’ interest, try to find other activities that might be less popular but a better fit for them. My youngest son does archery and robotics as his activities through our local 4-H group. You also may be able to find other interest groups like Lego builders clubs, coding classes or groups, or other classes that fit with their personal interests. If they’re in to less popular sports, be prepared to travel around a bit to find a place for them to practice and compete. Remember, those Olympic fencers and curling teams got their start somewhere!
Talk to local parents – Ask local parents about the activities their kids are participating in. They may be aware of activities in the area that aren’t well advertised that would be a perfect fit for your child. They can also share their experiences with different groups and their requirements, which can give you an idea of what your commitment will look like.
What activities are your children involved in? What are your tips for helping your kids to find their “thing”?