After-School Fun – Keeping Kids Involved And Motivated


After-school activities are an essential and fun way to round out your child’s overall educational experience. “Students in these activities learn important social skills, are given the opportunity to meet a wider variety of peers, and gain confidence and self-esteem,” says Matt Johnson, a director of student services and athletics. Furthermore, involved kids are often motivated to do well academically. Here are some ideas that are sure to inspire:

Doodle, dabble, draw. Art education contributes to problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as creativity. Independently-run art studios, museums and recreation departments offer classes for kids of all ages, including painting, drawing, sculpture and cartooning.

DIY: Put together an “imagination bucket” with art supplies. Include recyclables, construction paper and other doodads. Schedule a special time for your children to present their individual masterpieces to the family.

Move it. Team sports nurture social, communication and leadership skills. Learning to persevere, especially through the disappointment of losing a play or game, helps children build resilience. Sports and activities that are more individualized, like swimming, martial arts, dance, gymnastics or tennis, help kids develop focus and self-discipline. 

DIY: Burn off energy by shooting hoops in the driveway, running through a homemade obstacle course, or groovin’ to funky music before homework time. 

Checkmate! A popular and ancient game of strategy, chess fosters patience and impulse control as players learn to plan and visualize their moves on the board. 

“Chess can help increase a student’s focus and concentration along with helping students with personal skills, such as problem solving and critical thinking,” says Rick Hetzel, a high school chess club moderator.

DIY: Start a club at your child’s school or challenge your kids to a family board game or a game of cards. Locally, Shasta Family YMCA in Redding and Butte County’s Chico branch library both have chess groups youth can join for free to learn about the game and to hone their skills.

Strike the right note. Kids who learn to play a musical instrument learn to read music and gain a sense of timing, beat and rhythm. Multiple research studies have found there is a relationship between music education and its positive influence on mathematics skills. And according to the National Association for Music Education, youngsters involved in music are more likely to be engaged in school, develop a higher self-esteem, and are better able to cope with anxiety. 

DIY: Make your own music. Older children can fill drinking glasses with different levels of water, then tap each jar lightly with a spoon and listen for the varying pitches and vibrations each emits. Young children like creating their simple own instruments, from drums made out of oatmeal containers to rain sticks made from covered paper towel tubes. 

Encore! The performing arts offer a positive outlet for expressive children and can enhance reading comprehension and both verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Also consider debate, photography and journalism clubs.

DIY: Help your child set up a blog to share his writing and photos with a select audience. Check out, which offers a safe and fully moderated place for kids to blog (without using their real name); it’s geared for 9- to 14-year-olds. Younger kids can hone their storytelling chops by writing a story, dressing in costumes, and acting or dancing out the story. 

Get cooking. Learning to prepare healthy meals is a life skill. Plus when following recipes, kids practice reading and math skills like measurements and fractions. Find children’s cooking classes at culinary stores, YMCAs, recreation departments, community resource centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, and even some grocery stores.

DIY: Include your kids in the process of meal preparation. Even on busy weeknights they can help make a salad or set the table. Check out cookbooks geared for kids like Chop Chop, The Kids Guide to Cooking Real Food with Your Family; Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up; and The Star Wars Cook Book: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes

Be of service. “There are many volunteer opportunities that students can pursue in the community where they can give of their time and learn new skills,” says Cindy Neely, a high school counselor coordinator.

Scouting, Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and youth groups are examples of service organizations that offer real-life experiences outside of the classroom, fostering confidence, leadership and communication skills. Through engagement in their communities, kids are less likely to feel isolated, and they gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the world around them.

DIY: Volunteer together at a local shelter, help a neighbor with yardwork, or gather canned goods for a food pantry.

Seek balance. While variety is the spice of life, don’t overwhelm your kids – too many activities can cause stress and affect grades. It’s all about striking a balance that helps foster the development of skills in activities kids may be involved in for a long time to come.  

Considerations when choosing extracurricular activities:

  • Will there be extra fees for uniforms/equipment?
  • Is the activity well-staffed?
  • Is the staff friendly and energized?
  • Are activities well-organized?
  • Is the environment clean and safe?
  • Do the kids appear to be having fun?


Christa Melnyk Hines
About Christa Melnyk Hines

Christa Melnyk Hines and her husband are the parents of two boys. Christa is the author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

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