One of the principal reasons we launched Kidzu was because we know, both from firsthand experience and from the research we’ve collected, that extracurricular activities are good for kids. Indeed, Iceland managed to rescue virtually its entire youth population with such programs.
Specifically, kids who engage in sports, theatre, art, dance, chess, robotics, outdoor adventure – you name it – are happier, healthier, more confident, and enjoy stronger social connections. And these attributes carry over into adult life, in the form of healthy relationships, educational achievements, stronger leadership skills, better income and much, much more.
But why, precisely, are extracurriculars so crucial to a child’s wellbeing? What is it about being on a team, in a club, or part of a youth group, that is so good for kids?
The U.S. and other developed countries face a growing epidemic in loneliness, spurred in large part – at least in the young – by addictions to social media and mobile phones. Rather than engaging with each other, kids too often are turning to, and trusting in, the digital world.
But by engaging with groups of like-minded kids outside the classroom and home, children learn valuable socialization skills that, with time and practice, help them learn to navigate that same outside world with more confidence. Bonus: places like summer camp usually are digital-free zones, meaning the kids must leave the phones and social media at home.
Because extracurricular activities are more fun than the classroom and (usually) are chosen by the kids themselves, they’re more likely to excel at them for the simple reason that they enjoy them.
This is particularly important for kids who may be struggling in the classroom, since it gives them a badly needed boost in confidence. But all children ultimately can benefit from working as part of a group, be it on an athletic team, at camp, in a music band, etc.
An often overlooked benefit to extracurriculars is the opportunity for kids to spend some quality time with adults outside the home or classroom and engaged in activities they truly care about. This is particularly true of teens, who are at an age where those same adult interactions can be difficult. A coach or club director can still leave that child feeling valued, respected, and loved.
And, of course, these adults volunteers are even more important for kids from single-family homes – kids who may have little to no quality interaction with adults.
After years of extensive research into the subject, it is indisputable that kids who engage in extracurricular activities make better students and enjoy better grades.
Why? Well, for starters, because of all the reasons we’ve already listed here. The kids feel more confident, mingle and mix more easily, and feel respected by peers and adults alike. Additionally, these kids are generally happier because they’ve got an outlet in a sport or activity they genuinely enjoy beyond the classroom.
Not to be confused with improved socialization skills, the ability to work well with others is incredibly important not just to a child’s academic success, but also his or her chances for healthy adult relationships as well as professional success.
Whether a child is part of an athletic team, a marching band or orchestra, a dance or theatre group, or engaged in an arts class, the required teamwork translates to classroom projects today and complex professional and interpersonal interactions later in life.
So if you’re on the fence about extracurriculars for your kids, jump on down and let you kids dive into an activity they will enjoy – and benefit from.