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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Extracurricular activities help kids make the grade, learn life lessons

STILLWATER, Okla. – Every school year, parents and guardians often pull off the ultimate balancing act, shuffling kids from athletic practices and games to orchestra to debate, but the potential benefits for those children is nearly as limitless as the activities open to them.

“Kids will always fill their time with something, whether it’s playing a video game, talking with friends or practicing the violin,” said Ron Cox, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension marriage and family specialist. “Beyond helping kids spend their time in positive, constructive ways, extracurricular activities allow them to develop life skills they wouldn’t easily obtain in other ways.”

Sure, music, theatre, athletics and similar activities do a good job of keeping children occupied for the unsupervised 2 hours to 4 hours between when the final school bell rings and working parents make it home for the evening. But, extracurricular activities also function as real-time labs for learning crucial life skills such as leadership, discipline and teamwork.

“Take 4-H, for instance, which includes lots of service projects that give kids a chance to learn first hand about serving others, generosity and self-sacrifice,” Cox said. “There just aren’t a lot of places where kids can learn these types of lessons.”

Contrary to the common parental concern that outside activities could interfere with students’ academic performance, generally, kids who are involved in extracurricular outlets earn better grades compared to kids who are not similarly engaged.

Interestingly, another benefit to encouraging kids’ involvement in activities outside the classroom is connecting them with positive adult role models.

Research shows students who have at least one other caring adult in their lives, in addition to a parent, tend to do better in several ways – academically, socially and in terms of avoiding drug use and teen pregnancy.

Cox recommended exposing kids to a variety of activities and allowing them to move to the ones they most enjoy.

“With plenty of activities offered through the school as well as through community groups, churches and other organizations, families will be able to find activities that fit well with their schedules, budgets and kids’ interests,” he said. “Extracurricular activities can be incredibly important to kids growing into positive role models and contributing citizens of our state.”

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Leilana McKindra
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Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000