As the new school year begins, many parents are researching after school activities for their children. Enrichment activities can provide your child with social interaction, exercise and the opportunity to be creative. However, with so many options available families can also easily become overscheduled and stressed.

When selecting after school activities, think about what your child chooses to do in his free time. Does he like to draw? Is he constantly singing songs throughout the day? Is he forever playing basketball in the driveway?

Anne Aylin, a school guidance counselor, suggests that parents make a list of activities that their children have expressed interest in. While parents should have the final decision about an activity, children are more likely to practice and actively participate in an activity that they are interested in. If you are considering signing your child up for an advanced class or elite team make sure that the competitiveness of the activity is a match for your child’s personality.

Many parents often wonder how many activities they should sign their child up for at one time. Child psychologist Jana Martin, Ph.D., recommends that parents enroll their children in no more than two outside activities during the school year. She also notes that many kids do best with only one enrichment activity especially if the activity involves a large time commitment. When determining if your child should do multiple activities, consider your child’s personality, amount of homework each night and the amount of time each week that the activities require.

Before committing to after school activities, Martin recommends that parents write the schedule for all of the proposed activities on a calendar. Pick a typical day and write out a detailed plan for the day. Be sure to include travel time to the activities, meal preparation time, meal time, homework and bath time. After you are finished, look at the schedule and make sure that it will work for your child and your family. By determining how all aspects of family life will fall into the schedule, parents can decide if they can reasonably commit to all of the proposed activities.

Here are additional things to consider:

  • When considering activities, be sure to factor in travel time to the lesson or practice site. If you are considering a sports team, ask if any of the games will be held in different locations.
  • If you have more than one child, think about what she will do while the other child participates in the activity. An option that works for many families is to sign their kids up for activities at the same time and location.
  • Determine all costs. In addition to initial registration fees, many activities have additional uniform or supply fees. Get an accurate picture of all costs associated with the activity so that you can be sure that it fits within your budget.
  • Think about the length of commitment. If this is a new activity for your child, consider signing up for a six to eight-week session instead of a full school year. This allows your child to try out an activity without a large time or financial commitment from your family.
  • Many children enjoy activities more if they already know someone on the team or in the class. Consider signing up with a friend from you neighborhood or school. Another benefit to signing up with a friend is that the families can take turns carpooling to the activity.
  • After the activity begins, parents should continue to talk to their child about an activity to make sure that they are enjoying participating in the activity. Oftentimes children are nervous to tell their parents that an activity is different than they thought it would be. Brainstorm with your child about possible solutions to her concerns or issues.
  • You should also continue to evaluate if the activity works for your families schedule and priorities. Aylin advises parents that they may need to take a break from an activity if their child is regularly past their bedtime to finish homework or falling asleep in class.

After school activities can be a positive addition to your family life and provide new friendships. Your child will also learn new skills and the value of hard work. With some research and planning, your child’s after school activities can have a positive impact on your family.