Healthy Food & Life: How After-School Activities Help Children
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How After-School Activities Help Children

girl playing piano

With the idea of saving taxpayer money, many politicians want to discontinue all types of after-school activities. Activities like clubs, music and even all types of sports.  If nothing else, school districts should be promoting after-school activities for children. Studies show that after-school activities help children learn today and how to prepare for later in life.

I recently heard a local conservative radio talk show host say that music classes and many after-school activities should be dropped to save tax payer money. His reasoning was that we don’t need a thousand more hip-hop artists and that’s all music classes were turning out. This has to be one of the more ridiculous ideas I have ever heard, and he was serious. 

Others argue that these after-school activities are nothing more than tax dollar supported day care clinics until parents get home from work. Learning music and other after-school activities are important and can help children learn new skills and make friendships.

After-School Activities for Children

There can be many different after-school activities for a wide range of interests that include:

  • Music, band and band contests
  • Team sports like football, baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and in some areas ice skating and hockey.
  • Chess clubs
  • Coin and stamp clubs
  • Track and cross-country running
  • Swim meets
  • Tennis
  • Martial Arts
  • Arts and crafts
  • Ham radio clubs
  • Color Guard

Most likely, the team sports like football and basketball are not mentioned as something to cut, especially since football is such a big part of the American high school culture. But other sports have been cut or the costs have become prohibitive for many children to participate in.  

How Learning Music Can Help Children

The comment that music isn’t important because we already have enough hip-hop artists is not only ridiculous but a very ignorant comment. Learning music is not only fascinating, but increases a child’s brain power. You not only learn how to play a musical instrument, but also learn how to read musical notes, timing and possibly even writing your own music.

A study reported in Psychology Today found that learning music not only increased brain power or what is called neural plasticity but is compared as fitness for the brain just like working out for the body is. Learning music increases memory capacity which can lead to an approved ability to learn and remember other subjects as well.

Another study that involved children who were in music training classes found that there were structural changes in their auditory and motor areas of the brain. Other studies found that children that learned music also had a greater vocabulary and reading ability. Learning music also improved concentration, especially in a noisy classroom situation [1].

How Learning Chess Helps Children

One of my favorite after-school activities in elementary school was the chess club. Our science teacher, Mr. Fields, always held a chess club after-school, teaching chess and playing chess games with each student. There are many documented studies that show learning chess can help children with cognitive development, critical thinking, increased self-esteem, better grades, increase problem solving abilities, improved reading math scores and a higher IQ [2].

Chess is actually part of the school curriculum in 30 countries. In 1992, New Jersey Governor Jim Florio signed into law a bill that established chess instruction in public schools stating “countries where chess is offered widely in schools, students exhibit excellence in the ability to recognize complex patterns and consequently excel in math and science...'' [3].

How Team Sports Help Children

Team sports have become too expensive for some parents and that is a shame, expenses that include clothing and equipment. Team sports can build self-esteem, build friendships and teach children how to interact with teammates not to mention learning how to take instructions from coaches.  

Team sports can teach children what is known as the three P’s, patience, practice and perseverance. Practice does make perfect in sports and this carries over into studying and lessons learned in other subjects and endeavors that can carry on through the rest of a child’s life. Individual and team sports can teach a child about their own ego and how to believe in themselves.

More After-School Activities for Children

Not everyone is cut out for athletics and that is the beauty of after-school activities, there can be so many choices for every child to participate in and learn. After-school activities can range from stamp and coin collecting clubs, debate clubs or ham radio clubs where every child can learn a skill, how to work with others, develop life long friendships or simply learn a hobby.


As tax dollars continue to diminish and voters continue to turn down funding for public schools, after-school activities for children are diminishing. And with the loss of these after-school activities, the benefits to help children learn also diminish. Another benefit for after-school activities as our government continues to talk about the obesity in children, after-school activities is certainly one way to keep children active and healthy.

About the Author

Sam Montana is a certified Food Over Medicine instructor from the Wellness Forum Health Center and certified in optimal nutrition from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Copyright © November 2011 Sam Montana


[1] Psychology Today - Bless your kids with music education. Published on July 31, 2010
[3] Education .com - Dan Edelman, ``New Jersey Legislature Passes Chess Bill into Law,'' Chess Coach Newsletter, Spring 1993, Vol. 6 (1), pp. 1 & 3.

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