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Children are naturally curious about the world around them, but as demands on their time increase with age, it can be easy to compartmentalise ‘learning’ as something that happens at school. Active minds, just as active bodies, need constant feeding and children need opportunities to develop their appetite for learning and remain curious. As well as the proven benefits to wellbeing in later life and mental health in general, a habit of lifelong learning is essential to remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing, technological world.
In order to discover our strengths and passions, we need to try new things. Extracurricular activities offer young people a chance to experiment with different experiences and activities, and find out whether they like them. All the while, children are building a stronger sense of who they are and what is important to them.
School is governed by timetables, standards, assessments and curricula. How often are children given the opportunity to learn outside of these formal structures? Or deepen their understanding of an area simply to satisfy their hunger for it? Or challenge normal behaviour, try something outside of their comfort zone or come into contact with a whole new set of peers? The best extracurricular programmes may support academic study, but they should also deliver an experience which takes children far above and beyond the time they spend in school.
Joining new clubs and groups necessarily forces children to make new connections. Through extended learning activities, children learn collaboration, teamwork, leadership skills and the importance of working together despite differences to reach a common goal. Practising these skills and building relationships with non-school peers can set young people up for a lifetime of healthy and productive professional and personal relationships.
Getting into a leading higher education institution doesn’t just come down to academic achievement. Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded individuals who can display leadership skills, demonstrate commitment and a hard-work ethic, and show active involvement in their community. These are core skills that children develop by taking part in extended learning activities.
Confidence and strength of character don’t just come from discovering that you are good at something. Knowing how to cope when faced with challenges can be just as pivotal in building self-esteem. With the right support and instruction, children can rise to success, but they also need to be allowed to fail in a safe environment, learn appropriate ways to deal with disappointment and practice dusting themselves off and trying again.
We all crave connections with others who understand us – and at no time more than in the teenage years when social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. Joining extended learning programmes means extending your social circle, whatever your age. Through extracurricular activities, children find communities of people with similar interests outside of school, where they can make friends, develop connections and reinforce their sense of identity.
Whether your child takes part in extended learning activities to improve their academic performance, to master a skill or follow a passion, you want them to be able to access the very best standards of teaching. Who better to pass on their knowledge than highly qualified instructors with real-world experience and levels of skill recognised by public awards and accolades?
With such a range of options available, it’s possible to use extended learning activities to provide balance for your children. Children who need to burn off energy will benefit from energetic and sporting activities, while others may benefit from activities which focus concentration, provide calm, quiet space, or which require social interaction. Whatever the unique needs of your child, you can help provide equilibrium and take care of their wellbeing.
Ultimately, children have to enjoy activities in order to get the most out of them. So that it’s not merely an extension of the school day, extracurricular activities need to be exciting. They need to wow and thrill. They need to be lead by inspiring, passionate, energetic instructors and offer experiences beyond everyday reach.