At a glance
Challenges faced by kids who learn and think differently can lower their self-esteem.
Afterschool activities can help make learning easier for your child.
The right activities outside of school can boost your child’s confidence.
Many kids who learn and think differently have times when they feel like they’re “not good at anything.” Their challenges can lower their self-esteem and make school a stressful place. But extracurricular activities are a great way for kids to focus on their strengths and passions instead.
These activities can build up a child’s confidence. They can help kids improve their social skills, develop their interests, and inspire them to try new things. They’re also a good way for kids who struggle in school to learn in a fun, low-stress environment.
Here are six ways afterschool activities can improve your child’s self-esteem.
1. Focus on strengths.
Is school a struggle for your child? It is for many kids — one of many reasons why it’s important for afterschool activities to highlight their strengths. For example, if you have an artistic child who loves to draw or paint, there are a number of art classes to explore. If your child likes to sing or play an instrument, then the school band, orchestra, or choir might be great options.
2. Nurture a subject your child enjoys.
Your child may like certain school subjects, but still get stressed out by the amount of work required. Kids who like science but get anxious in class, for instance, may enjoy an afterschool science club that can make learning more fun.
School clubs are a good way for kids to develop their passions without the pressure of tests or other classroom demands. Many schools have clubs for a wide range of interests. Kids can join clubs to learn about photography, drama, and community service.
You can also look into subject-based activities or groups outside of school. Some are offered by local recreation departments. Others are activities that you can ask other parents about or find online, like cooking or coding. Parenting groups on social media are often helpful for finding new activities for your child as well.
3. Encourage your child to try a sport, without pressure.
So many physical activities can support the strengths and interests of kids who are interested in sports. And athletics are a great way to blow off steam. Kids who like basketball or soccer can join school teams or neighborhood leagues.
Team sports can build social skills. They can also provide mentoring opportunities.
On the flip side, team sports also can make some kids who learn and think differently feel anxious. They may even feel rejected or self-conscious if they see themselves as a weaker player on the team. It’s good for them to know there are other options.
Biking, hiking, track and field, or rock climbing can be done with a group or alone. Martial arts and swimming are also great options that can focus on the individual more than the group. Get more ideas about sports for kids who learn and think differently.
4. Look for activities that may develop your child’s skills.
Many activities help build kids’ learning skills, while the kids don’t even realize they’re learning something new.
Activities like yoga and dance can help develop coordination and motor control. Drama classes can help kids with reading comprehension. And chess or robotics club can build problem-solving skills.
5. Be on the lookout for a hidden talent.
Sometimes kids might be reluctant to try new things for fear of failure. Kids who learn and think differently may be more hesitant because they already struggle.
This is why it’s a good idea to encourage kids to try a new activity they’re interested in. You can agree that after giving something new a try, your child can decide whether to stick with it or not.
The payoff could be discovering a new talent. For example, your child might usually be focused on playing baseball but after trying a new art class, discover a real knack for painting. That would be a great discovery — and a big confidence boost.
6. Look for activities that may help with social skills.
Kids who learn and think differently can fear social situations. Their challenges can make interactions with other kids tough or awkward. And for kids who’ve been bullied because of their challenges, it can be really hard to open up and make new friends.
Participating in an afterschool activity is a good way for kids to be social in a more relaxed environment. And they get to meet kids with the same interests. Being with other kids who enjoy the same things can help kids feel like they belong.
Afterschool activities can help kids feel more comfortable with their peers.
Afterschool activities give kids a way to focus on their interests.
Many activities help kids find new interests. They can also help kids enjoy their existing interests.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Jenn Osen-Foss, MAT is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions, and co-planning.