top of page

Vol. 11 #2 Children and Extra-Curricular Activities

Children and Extra-Curricular Activities

Micheline S. Malow, PhD

Manhattanville College

The research is clear; organized, structured activities such as sports, engagement in the arts, or academic enrichment, provide children with enriching social, cognitive and personal opportunities.Specifically, a growing body of research finds that children’s participation in structured activities after the school day has ended is associated with both academic achievement and well-being (Simpkins, Ripke, Huston, & Eccles, 2005; Muschamp, Bullock, Ridge, & Wikeley, 2009). Extra-curricular activities can be organized in multiple ways. For example, they can be provided after-school in the school setting, extending the child’s participation at school beyond the customary academics, or they can be provided in community settings. Whichever way extra-curricular activities are presented, organizing the out-of-school time of children is a way to provide exposure to activities not directly taught in the classroom, as well as a way to give parents opportunities to manage their children’s free time in ways that they see as valuable.

Children and Free Time

When examining children’s spontaneous engagement in free time activities, such as spending time with family, friends, or alone, there is little difference between economically advantaged and economically disadvantaged families (Muschamp, et al., 2009). Everyday activities like shopping, spending time caring for others, watching television, playing on a computer, reading, or just hanging out predominate amongst both groups.

However, when it comes to planning for how to manage children’s out of school time, parents have options, although the number of choices depends on where the family resides, such as rural or urban areas, and whether the family is economically advantaged or disadvantaged. Although options may exist, Larson and Verma (1999) indicate that “material conditions, normative patterns, and cultural values” (p. 728) are considerations that families deliberate when making decisions about children’s free time. Furthermore, Huebner and Mancini (2003) state, “In many respects family values, interests, and capacities control the access that youth have to activity participation, especially when they are younger” (p.460).

Organizing Children’s Activities

Parents’ seeking ways to give their children a competitive advantage for their future utilize available time, the time not spent in school, to enroll children in activities that are valued by the parents and society. In this regard, activities such as sports, the arts, academic enrichment and other activities are seen as a means for parents to enhance children’s social, cognitive, and other capacities (Mahoney, Harris, & Eccles, 2006; Muschamp,, 2009; Shih & Yi, 2014; Bae, Kim, Lee, & Kim,2009). With the growth of children’s participation in organized activities, research has demonstrated that in general, participation in organized activities is associated with positive outcomes for the