Benefits of Extracurricular Activities for Kids

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 10, 2023
4 min read

As children age, they have increasing opportunities to get involved with extracurricular activities. For example, they might play a sport or join a club or student organization. These activities can keep them mentally engaged and, depending on the activity, physically active, but the advantages don’t end there. Read on and learn about the benefits of extracurricular activities for children.

Around the age of five, children begin to have the discipline to participate in organized after-school activities. Schools and community organizations provide multiple opportunities for them to get involved with sports, interest groups, and after-school classes. Some common extracurricular activities for children include:

  • Team and individual sports
  • Clubs associated with interests or cultural backgrounds
  • Student organizations and publications
  • Visual arts 
  • Performing arts
  • Martial arts
  • Academic competitions

Kids, particularly older kids and teens, can find groups for a wide range of interests. Many schools will even help them develop clubs to meet evolving disciplines and hobbies.

There are numerous advantages to extracurricular involvement. These activities can help school-age children in the following ways.

Motivates Kids to Exercise

Not all extracurricular activities are physical in nature, but many are. Examples include: 

  • Team sports
  • Individual sports
  • Martial arts
  • Dance 
  • Clubs focused on exploring the outdoors 

Physical activity for children provides multiple health benefits. Kids who exercise regularly are at lower risk for many conditions, such as:

They also sleep better and receive the related health benefits from a good night’s rest. Aerobic exercise yields the most benefits, and children should aim for at least 60 minutes of moderate activity a day.

It is important to choose the right physical activity for each child. Not every kid is a natural athlete or even particularly interested in sports. They should have the opportunity to explore exercise that interests them. As they get older, their options increase. For example, teens may want to join a skateboarding club or take a yoga class.

Improves Social Development and Instills a Sense of Belonging

Extracurricular activities help kids develop the social skills that they will need as adults. They provide opportunities for leadership, cooperation, and peer interaction. 

Clubs associated with certain cultural backgrounds or faiths can give children a community of peers, which can be particularly beneficial for students from like backgrounds. On the other hand, extracurriculars can also give kids the ability to interact with people different from themselves, expanding their world views.

One study on extracurricular activities focused on kids during the time of transition from middle childhood to early adolescence. Between roughly the ages of nine and thirteen, children who participated in extracurricular activities felt higher levels of peer belonging, a sense they then carried into adolescence.

Improves Self-Esteem and Builds Interests and Skills

The wide variety of extracurricular activities available allows kids to find their passions and talents. These can help children to develop a robust sense of self. In fact, improved self-esteem is one of the most highly reported benefits of extracurricular activities.

By demonstrating their breadth of interests or commitment to a certain discipline, extracurriculars can also help older kids succeed when it comes to college admissions or the job market. 

Better Mental Health

Both self-esteem and a sense of belonging contribute to more general benefits involving mental and psychosocial health. One study found that adolescents who participated in extracurricular activities demonstrated higher levels of satisfaction with life and optimism and lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

These adolescents also reported significantly less recreational screen time, which was associated with the reverse: lower levels of satisfaction with life and optimism and higher levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Positive Habits 

Finally, extracurricular activities help kids develop positive habits that stead them well throughout their lives and contribute to their general health and wellbeing. These include:

  • Time-management skills
  • Community involvement
  • The development of structure and routine
  • Persistence and follow-through

Teens involved in extracurriculars tend to get better grades and are more likely to graduate high school.

In thinking about whether or not to get your child involved in extracurricular activities, you will need to make sure that the setting includes proper supervision and safety measures. You should also consider your child's schedule and aptitude.

Over-scheduling can create stress and depression for both children and their parents. In addition, unstructured playtime is essential to a child’s wellbeing and needs to be incorporated into their schedule.

Children need to find the right activities for them, and it’s important to let them explore. Being forced to participate in activities that do not interest them and where they do not excel can lead to boredom, frustration, and lower self-esteem.