There is no denying the fact that youngsters today are smarter and more energetic than us. One may blame the increasingly competitive society, excessive consumption of sugar or too much screen time but the fact is that class room learning is simply NOT sufficient enough for the hyperactive yet intellectual kids we have.
I, myself am a witness to this when I look at my four-year-old daughter. The speed at which she gets bored of the same toys, activities and to be honest, playing with the same MOM baffles me! I found myself running out of ideas to channel her energy and curiosity constructively and that’s when I realised that if I have to direct her energy in a productive way (and not end up with excessive energy and resultant tantrums), I had to seek assistance from outside the home.
Don’t judge me but sometimes family and/or house-help is just not enough to keep a child busy for the entire day. Moreover, spending part of the day outdoors, interacting with new people, learning new skills in a fresh environment is also healthy and helps children calm down (even though running around seems like a paradox). I recently read a study which basically concluded that too much screen time tires the mind and not the body; hence, resulting in antsy, whiny children.
Fueled with the enthusiasm of finding something new for her to do, I began my hunt of finding appropriate after-schools activities for her. But soon I realised that there were some short-comings to my plan. The first dilemma I faced was the conveyance issue since I live in a joint family where one driver is demanded by all. Then, those extra bucks going out of my pocket (I found out the hard way how expensive these after-school activities can be!). And, of course, surviving the additional pick and drop trips in Karachi traffic
However, I decided to overlook these setbacks and focused instead on my child’s physical, mental and social development. Keeping this in mind I started to look for skills-based activities which could benefit her in the long-run.
A couple of options which topped my list were:
- The Reading Lab which focuses on understanding phonics, reading, comprehension and vocabulary building. Their starting age is three years.
- Helen O’ Grady Academy for verbal and social skills development.
- Swimming at Avari Towers Karachi with well-trained coaches and a temperature controlled pool. They admit children from 3.6 years to 15 years.
- Roller-skating at Karachi Roller Skating Institute or Arena.
- Tennis at either Karachi Gymkhana, Shamsi Tennis Academy or Modern Club. The training starts at 5 to 7 years of age depending on the child’s physical strength and focus.
- Yoga to improve children’s self-regulation as well as physical stamina and/or Martial Arts to teach them self-defence and self control. The minimum starting age is usually 4 to 5 yrs and classes are available at AQ Power Yoga, Yogi Wajahat Institute, Karachi Taekwondo Academy or Karachi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, to name a few.
One thing I noticed during my quest for after-schools activities for my daughter was that a lot of parents seem to be pursuing these activities either as a source of getting some free time from their kids or without really assessing their individual child’s strengths and interests. When looking for such activities, I feel it is imperative to select something based on YOUR child’s interests and personality; in fact, if your child is not ready for something, it can not only result in low self-esteem in him/her if he/she doesn’t enjoy the said activity and hence, doesn’t do well in it; it will also put an unnecessary dent in your pocket!
Ask the activity managers for a trial week if possible to assess your child’s interest and comfort and then decide upon it if he/she enjoys it. And please please don’t put undue pressure on your child for these activities – yes, it’s good to reach on time and yes, you’re paying hard-earned money for it, but going to school is enough pressure as it is, especially for younger children. If your objective is to help your child find his interest and aid his social and intellectual development, stay relaxed and let him/her be relaxed too!
It’s an “AFTER” school activity, after all!