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How much is too much,

Should your child go for the football practice 5 days a week, Are 3 days
enough, It is common for parents to be a little confused when it comes to
deciding how much is too much with reference to after school activities.
They argue that since most of the activities are fun (as different from
studies), children will simply lap up these classes. But, too much of fun
can also make a child sick. Here is a simple guide that will help you
decide how much is too much for your child.

Kindergarten:
Your child is just beginning to learn to interact and get used to
discipline. His or her after-school life should be simple and carefree.
One or two classes per week are enough at the beginning. Once the child
settles down, look for more challenging activities like a music program.

Grade 1:
One or two activities per week, play dates and playground visits are
recommended. Avoid competitive sports activities. The child is still too
young to have to worry about winning and losing. After the rigors of a
full day at school, he or she needs a healthy outlet for pent up energy.
Physical activities and noncompetitive sports are best for this age.

Grade 2:
Your child is old enough to voice opinions on what activities he or she
wants. Sports, skating, swimming or computers – steer him towards things
he likes. Many children begin lessons on a musical instrument around this
age. But, allow your child some ‘alone time’ during which he can unwind
and just do whatever he wishes.

Grade 3:
Socialization begins to take center stage. Team sports are a good choice.
Developing motor skills, painting, drawing etc are good too. Let the child
explore areas of interests. But leave aside enough time for the family and
for fun activities.

Grade 4:
At this age, the child will tell you what he likes. He needs to get
involved in activities that will boost his confidence. This will also help
him manage stress as this is the time when social pressure is beginning to
build. But, beware of the homework demon. Your child needs more time with
his studies. Balancing his schoolwork with other activities is very
important.

Grade 5:
The fifth grader is bubbling with energy and will want to do just
about everything. But she or he may conveniently push studies to the
background. So, close supervision is needed. Keep one or two days free for
family time and other activities. Now is a great time to get your child
interested in community service.

Middle school:
Steer him away from TV. Get him engaged in activities that reinforce
learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging your preteen
to join clubs like the Girl/Boy Scouts program, language clubs, chess
clubs etc. As a thumb rule, 16-20 hours a week of extra activity should be
more than enough. But look out for signs of burnout.

What you select for your child and how long he should work at it is
basically decided by the child’s temperament. As a parent, you should
closely observe your child and base your decisions on feedback from the
child himself.

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After school activities and relationship building

After school activities are the rage of the day. With about $500 million
invested in these programs and more than 10 million children attending
them in America alone, the popularity of these activities cannot be
overlooked. Everyone understands the need to develop new skills, gain more
knowledge and keep the children safe when parents are working.

The most important factor in the success of any program is the
relationship between the children participating in the program and the
adult members who work with these children. Often, children may confide in
an adult member who is not a teacher. This kind of emotional interaction
is a must when children are struggling to make sense of the whirlpool of
emotions that assail them.

Direct contact with professionals can be an inspiring experience. Children
are very much impressed by the knowledge and experience of these adults.
Young people gain a lot of knowledge and experience when they deal with
experienced adults and older youth who serve as teachers or mentors in
these programs. These mentors are different from the teachers in the
school and children are more likely to draw inspiration from them.

After school activities that are managed professionally by people who are
successful in their own fields of expertise will produce children who are
more enthusiastic and successful. Meaningful interaction with adults is a
learning experience in itself.

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A home-based after school program

So, your son’s school does not offer any extracurricular activities. You
are worried of depriving your child of all that extra knowledge and fun.
What should you do,

After school activities need not be taught in a school-like environment by
professional teachers in a structured and timely manner. There is a lot
YOU can do to support your child’s academic, physical and social
development. Do not be too concerned about formal programs, as many of our
children are already over-scheduled.

Obviously, school is top priority for children. They need to go to school,
and finish their homework. They should then do their daily reading or
writing work etc. This may take about 30-60 minutes. In the course of his
daily work, your child may develop certain academic preferences and
interests. In that case, you can try and find a program in a college or a
community center that will help him and encourage him. In the age of the
Internet, information is really not a rarity. Allow him to use the net to
find more information about thing that he likes. Encouraging the child to
do independent research to gain in-depth knowledge is something that no
formal program does.

If you are concerned about the lack of social life, enroll him or her in a
club – a reading club maybe. Visit public libraries or even the theatre,
if your child is interested. It is not necessary for your child to make
friends with children his own age. A parent-child book club is another
interesting option. If you can round up a number of like-minded children
and their parents, you may well start your own after-school program.

When there is no organized group activity, look to your community. Many
children love to get involved in social problems. They get their first
real taste of suffering, charity and community help from such experiences.
Volunteering for clean-up sessions, adult education programs etc could be
a real eye-opener for your child. The lessons thus learnt are invaluable.

If physical activity or the lack of it is your major concern, enroll your
child for some dancing classes. If organized sports are impossible to get,
try to enroll her in a gym. She may find friends there and may take to the
treadmill.

Your child does not necessarily have to be a part of an organized group to
benefit from after-school activities. There are various avenues open in
front of you. Roping in the enthusiasm of your children in daily household
activities like cooking, cleaning etc can also provide them with a
refreshing extracurricular experience. Moreover, it will improve family
ties too.

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