Are we targeting children after school or not?


Now that the beginning of the school year is approaching, it is time for parents to decide what extracurricular activities our children will do. Will they continue with the swimming lessons? Or do we better target them for math reinforcement?

It is normal that, in these circumstances, we doubt if we are not saturating the little ones with excessive extracurricular classes. We might even question whether spending so many hours away from home robs them of study time.

At first glance it may seem that the simplest option if we do not want it to affect their school performance is to continue with activities of a more theoretical nature. Taking math or English classes, we think, will benefit them in their school grades. On the contrary, those that are less academic in nature are dispensable, right?

Discarding sports activities is counterproductive

This way of thinking is the usual trend in our society. In fact, a study carried out in Spain with more than 10,000 children between the ages of 8 and 16 revealed a striking decrease in girls’ sports practice, with a drop of almost 25% between 11 and 16 years.

The question is whether we are doing the right thing by discarding sports activities. It is not a trivial decision, because it will affect how our children will be in the future . Among other things because they will have a greater tendency to be overweight or obese.

Sport or English on the scale

So what is more important? Prevent a possible obesity in my daughter or assure her a bright future after having received private classes in English, computer science or physics? At the end of the day, we can think, in schools they already receive compulsory Physical Education classes. Isn’t it enough?

Unfortunately, the latest report carried out on the Spanish child and youth population showed that children do not even remotely comply with the physical exercise recommendations made by the World Health Organization (WHO). What’s more, in most schools, not even the full physical education load allowed is taught.

Given this deficit, we can take up with more arguments the problem of the beginning: do we take away study time if, advocating for your health, we sign you up for a sport?

The question is so serious that several researchers have already raised it . The latest results reveal that, far from producing academic failure, participation in extracurricular sports activities could contribute to academic success.

So, case solved. I point them to sports because not only do they improve their health, but they will also succeed academically.

I wish it were that simple. However, be careful not to “over-program” our children. Sports activities that begin in childhood could become increasingly competitive in adolescence, forcing an excessive number of hours to be devoted to sports.

How many hours of after-school per week?

It is not very clear what happens academically when a child or adolescent dedicates a high number of hours to extracurricular activities. But it seems indisputable that quantity counts. Without going any further, in American students it has been seen that being signed up for 5 or more activities and dedicating 14 hours or more a week to them could not be beneficial for their studies.

However, so few students spend so much time in extracurricular classes that it is not possible to draw accurate conclusions. Most are aimed at 2 or 3 activities (sports and non-sports) in which they spend an average of 5 hours per week. And those times do mean a benefit for their school performance, especially if they involve physical activity.

In Spain, the study that analyzed the activities of children and adolescents detected positive associations between the practice of extracurricular physical activity and academic success. Those who practiced sports had a higher academic level than the rest of their classmates. With an added advantage: students who play sports spend fewer hours of screen time (less sedentary lifestyle) and feel healthier.

Dilemma solved then. I will enroll my daughter in my favorite sport next year. This way I will get him to get good grades, to spend less hours in front of his mobile and I will also be watching over his health. She does not like that sport at all, she was already angry when I signed her up when she was 4 years old, but I will convince her by telling her that it is for her good.

Be careful, because this is another factor to solve. The activity should be attractive to the boy or girl, not a wish unfulfilled by the parent in their infancy. Perhaps, imposing the compulsory performance of a sport would not be the most appropriate. The obligation could generate a persistent rejection of sports practice.

Instead of imposing, what you should do is set an example, move, have an active and healthy life, even play sports with them. Letting them decide between different possibilities will also allow them to feel some autonomy and could be one more motivation.

Author Bio:Cristina Romero Blanco is a Contracted Professor Doctor. Public Health Specialty at the University of Castilla-La Mancha