Help your child discover herself and her hidden talents through these fun offbeat activities that are also great learning opportunities.
By Leena Ghosh
“The cost of not following your heart is spending the rest of your life wishing you had.” ― Anonymous
Indeed, this is one quote every teenager, and even adult, relates to. As your child enters his tweens and teenage years, he has definite opinions about what he wants to do with his life and where he wants to go. While he may not have a plan of action, he knows where his passions and interests lie. As a parent, you will already know which subjects he prefers over others, and what activities he likes doing better.
While school and tuition take up most of the time in your child’s life at this stage, it is very important that she spends some time doing activities that are separate from academics. According to a research titled, ‘Ways to promote the positive development of children and youth’, by Nicole Zarrett, and Richard M. Lerner published in 2008 in childtrends.org, adolescents who participate in more than one activity after school do better than their peers who don’t engage in any activity after school. The study says, ‘Participation in a variety of out-of-school time activities is thought to promote positive development through providing children and adolescents a fuller range of growth-related opportunities, more chances to build supportive relationships with a variety of adults and peers, and opportunities to contribute to the well-being of the community.’
However, when you go about choosing activities for your tween or teen, make sure it’s a discussion rather than a decision that he has to follow. Engaging him in the process of deciding what activities, and how many he’d like to do, based on his interests and time, will make him more enthusiastic about the learning process.
Here are some tips you should follow before deciding on the after-school activities for your child:
Listen: Listen to your child and his thoughts on what he wants to do. This will benefit both you and him.
Combine activities: It is perfectly fine if your child chooses to do more than one kind of activity after school. Mixing things up will help her learn more about herself than one activity would. Give her a free rein.
Make time for two: Try to arrange for activities that both of you can do together, at least once-a-week. This will help you bond with him and find out more about what is happening in his life in and out of school.
Find out about youth groups: When your child gets an opportunity to be among peers in activities beyond school, she benefits from it through the exchange of ideas and teamwork. Another advantage of joining a youth group or a club is that they plan different activities for children to do throughout the month. This keeps them engaged and interested.
Think outside the box: With changing times, after-school activities are not about dancing, singing or learning to play an instrument anymore. While they are good activities, explore different and offbeat avenues that will interest your child in learning something new.
Don’t make it competitive: Your child deals with enough competition in school. So, if she is not interested in competitive sports or activities outside school, don’t force her. These activities should help her learn, yes, but also help her relax after school.
Fencing, Archery or Martial Arts: All these activities teach your child the importance of disciplining yourself and knowing how to focus. They will not only keep him physically and mentally active, they will also teach him a few tips on self-defence.
Community cooking: Whenever there’s an opportunity in your society or neighbourhood, engage your child in community cooking. This activity teaches her about teamwork and empathy. You can also organise a lunch party for her and her friends, where they do the cooking as well as organise and source the raw materials.
Gymnastics: Gymnastics helps build strength, flexibility, coordination and endurance in a child. If your child likes doing it and is reasonably good at it, he can also pursue it as a career.
Build using recyclable materials: Get your child’s creative juices flowing with this fun activity that she can do alone, or with you. Take out the recyclable junk from your home and build place holders or pieces of art or jewellery. This will also teach your child the importance of recycling and how every item in the house has its value.
Create a comic strip: If your child hoards comic books and knows all the famous characters, you could inspire him to build a comic strip of his own. This creative activity will not only hone his writing and designing skills but also help him express himself in a constructive way. If he’s good, he can also look at taking it up as a full-time career.
Learn how to shoot and edit a video: In this digital age, any digital skill your child learns is bound to help her in the future. She can shoot a video of a pet, of her neighbourhood or of her daily routine at home. However, make sure you check the video before she shares it with her friends or publishes it online.
Start a blog: Blogging is not just a hobby anymore. Many youngsters have taken this up professionally and have become inspirational success stories. Help your child figure out what he wants to blog about and get him started on an incredible learning experience.
Photography: Whether he takes this up as a hobby or wants to pursue it as a profession later on, learning about photography has many benefits. Make him join a course where he also learns how to develop a photograph and the different kinds of photography. You can encourage him by framing his pictures and putting them up in your house.
Volunteering at animal shelters: This activity will teach her to be responsible and respect all forms of life. It will also teach her about empathy and the art of learning to pay attention to details. With so many animals on the streets in dire need of help, she will learn about how the society works and the rights of animals.
Carpentry workshops: There’s something about building your own bookshelf or a rocking chair that stays with you forever. Carpentry will enable your child to be creative and resourceful, and teach him an important life skill - the art of fending for himself.
Creative workshops: Whether it’s poetry, script writing or DJing, there are many workshops available now that help explore your child’s hidden talents. Enrol her in more than one of these workshops, if she has the time and interest, and let her learn new skills that will help her in the future and may even lead to a fantastic career.
Guide your child and enable his learning through these offbeat and fun after-school activities. However, remember that you are there to help him find his way and not to make decisions on his behalf about what he wants.
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