How to Choose an After-School Activity for your Child

As parents, we want them to thrive, find their passions and feel confident in who they are. As a mum of six, three of whom are now adults, after-school activities became a big part of helping them discover what they were good at and what they loved doing. Like many parents, I allowed my first two children to try lots of different activities, which led to my eldest child being over-committed as she never wanted to quit anything, and my second eldest wondered if he would be good at anything. Over time I discovered three principles that helped me as a parent guide our children into activities that they would be successful at and would love. 

Principle 1: Let your child’s natural curiosity guide you.

Children are great at telling us what they love. When we spend a little time in their world, it is easy to see who they are and their interests. Is your child constantly outside kicking a ball around? Do they prefer to pull out pencils and draw? Are they always singing and dancing? 

Even as young as two, I was able to see what my children were gravitating to most often. My eldest was fascinated by music. Her great grandfather would often play the violin for her; she was mesmerised by it. She graduated from university with a bachelor of performance and still sings regularly and derives great joy from music. At three, my second eldest was a fish, and he taught himself to swim across our backyard pool. Even though we didn’t immediately recognise his love of water, he thrived once he began formal swimming lessons. Eventually, he ended up in a swimming squad, training four days and week and competing on weekends. He still enjoys swimming and goes to the pool regularly to keep fit.  

Once I began observing my children, I started to see them and was able to help guide them towards activities that would help them grow their skills and grit.

Principle 2: Be part of their interests

In the movie Inside Out, there is a scene where Joy and Sadness are re-living one of Riley’s memories. In the scene, we see Riley in a tree crying; she wants to quit playing ice hockey because she missed the winning shot causing her team to lose the game. Her parents step in to comfort and support her, and they help her see the bigger picture and encourage her to remember all the good times she played ice hockey.

Throughout the movie, Riley’s parents put time and effort into helping her find and grow her love of ice hockey. We see them practising with her and cheering her on from the sidelines. This level of support and interest in their hobbies is what most children need from their parents to be successful. 

The younger a child is, the more motivated they are to stick at something when their parent invests in being part of that hobby. In practice, this could look like a parent being the coach of their child’s soccer team, or doing the make-up for a dance competition, or sitting with their child while practising the piano. I know that my sons continued playing soccer far longer than their interest level simply because their dad was the coach, and they wanted to hang out with dad.

Principle 3 – Consider the cost

Children who develop a passion for a particular sport, musical instrument or any other hobby will be spending the best part of 10 – 15 years learning and refining that skill. It will cost money and time for your child to reach their potential. Parents need to consider these costs and research their options before enrolling their child in an activity. 

When I started using these three principles to help guide my children into afterschool activities, the following happened;

  1. My children were less overloaded with activities and had more space and time to develop those skills there were learning in class at home. 
  2. My children continued these activities into adulthood and developed the skill of persevering past the hard stuff (Grit).
  3. We spent less money on activities for them to “try out” things which allowed us to find high-quality teachers and coaches for the things they did want to do.

Helping our children discover their talents and grow to reach their full potential is one of the most rewarding experiences as a parent. When we know our children well and can fully support who they are, we get to see them thrive. Choosing high-quality after-school activities for them at a young age can provide years of fulfilment for you and your child.

If you think that your child may have a passion for music and you want to get them started on developing their skills, Hope Performing Arts Centre has a range of music classes and private instrumental lessons (including piano, violin and voice lessons) that are age-appropriate and engaging. To find out how you can get your child started or for more information about our classes, fill in our contact form below and one of our team will be in contact with you within the next 48 hours.


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Oops, I forgot how to play that – How to help your child beat the forgetting curve.

Last week my nine year old forgot to pack his lunch box in his bag for school. It’s been a while since he has done that, so I quickly jumped in the car and drove it up to the school so that he would have something to eat for lunch.

It wasn’t always that rare for him; as a matter of fact, all my children forgot things during their early years of school. They forgot hats, lunch boxes, drink bottles, jumpers etc. and the result often meant lost items at school and money spent replacing things. Eventually, with our encouragement, our children developed routines and habits that meant less and less forgetting. Now it is infrequent in our house for something to be forgotten.

As teachers, we experience the same thing in lessons. “I forgot where my hands go Mrs, Collyer?” – “Let’s take a look at your music and work it out” is my reply, and together we begin to review our notes and finger numbers and to work out our hand position on the piano. Forgetting hand positions, forgetting notes on the stave, forgetting to hold minims and semibreves, forgetting what the dynamic means etc., are very common among beginner piano students. Forgetting things is very common for many children, and there is a huge reason why – the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve, created by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus is a visual representation of how we forget learned information over time. It is interesting to note that within 24 hours of learning, we forget 70% of what we learned, and within 7 days, we have only retained about 10% of what we learned the week prior. It is no wonder young pianists can’t remember where middle C is, or the young violinist forgets how to hold the bow correctly.

But there is hope. Extending on his research Ebbinghaus discovered an essential key to remembering. If put in place, this key helps to maintain new knowledge learned, beating the forgetting curve.

The key to beating the forgetting curve is regularly reviewing newly learned material in regular intervals throughout the week. In doing this, students can retain 80 to 90% of the information learned in the previous week. Just three review sessions a week on days one, three and six after your child’s lesson will do wonders for helping them to retain and master material learned in their instrumental lessons.

One of the biggest reasons your child’s instrumental teacher is always talking about practice is because they know it is the biggest key to your child’s success. Outside of finding a great teacher and using age-appropriate engaging resources for your child, establishing a practice routine with your child at home from their very first lesson will bring your child many hours of joyful music-making and will help them to progress quickly and confidently through each stage of instrumental learning.