My eldest child is four years old, and the other is just shy of his second birthday. I am constantly on the search for extra curricular activities that might interest both of them. Since spring break is around the corner, and my children get extremely inactive and bored just playing at home, I wanted to look into some super fun activities they could indulge in to keep them busy and stimulated. I have always been conflicted about the ‘burden’ these after school activities might place on their tiny minds and body, especially in Karachi’s tiring heat. I reduce screen time for them regularly because of the countless issues it can cause. As a consequence, my children are forced to become creative to keep themselves entertained – something which I am glad about, but doesn’t always work as well as an app or TV in terms of keeping their attention. Gone are the days when the idea of playing in the garden all day was a special treat. Furthermore, research shows that in some cases children learn faster than adults who try their hand at learning the same thing. This is because the prefrontal cortex of the brain, where working memory is stored, is way more developed in adults than children. Due to this, the creativity of children gives them the ability to be flexible with their ideas, and far more inventive. Kids have minds that are designed to learn and adults have minds designed to perform. So undoubtly, the best time to be taught something is when you are young! It might also be the best gift for a parent to make a child try different activities, because it will help the child develop their natural abilities through creativity rather than routine at school. Extracurricular activities are so important because they make positive use of free time and discourage laziness. Playing, learning, experiencing in groups all create a sense of belonging in children and help build confidence. My search led me to find some wonderful activities that I hope will enable my children to grow in different ways. Take a look!
1. Teach Them A Foreign Language
Mandarin was declared the world’s fastest growing language back when I was in college 10 years ago. All the international students I knew would flock to take courses in beginners level mandarin. I didn’t. But with the Pak-China friendship flourishing, and the numerous possibilities this may hold for our future generations, s learning this complicated language is bound to break barriers! And it’s not just me. According to research, families are jumping on the bilingual bandwagon more and more, as in our increasingly global world, parents are realizing that their kids will benefit from knowing more than one language no matter the profession or country they may find themselves in. Furthermore, the younger the learner, the better they are at mimicking new sounds and adopting pronunciation. The brain is more open to new sounds and patterns at younger ages, and learners are more skilled at identifying subtle differences in sounds, already giving them the in born tools necessary to learn something new. The good news for Karachites is that there are many play schools and qualified individuals offering play based learning language programmes. For instance, take a look at Toddler Town. Based in the heart of Karachi, this play school for children offers a wide variety of fun programmes ranging from science, music, arts, religion, and many languages. These include Arabic, Spanish, and Chinese.
My kids love the pool. As babies, both would make a dash for the pool every opportunity they could get. It’s not surprising because adults love pools as well. There is just something about being in a body of water that makes us all calmer and happy. But putting aside the fun quotient, you need to give your child the chance to learn to swim. The most important reason is that swimming is the only sport which can save your child’s life potentially and is an essential tool for survival. In fact, swimming also provides loads of health benefits which can help to keep your children healthy. It improves your child’s heart and lung function, works on strength and flexibility, increases stamina, and even adjusts balance and posture. A four year study by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research found that children who were taught to swim by age 5 experienced a number of cognitive and physical advantages over children who did not know how to swim. They were also more advanced in mathematics, counting, language, and following instructions. The importance of swimming has been known for long, and it is no surprise that many clubs, hotels, and schools offer learning classes for children. While swimming in Karachi remains mainly restricted to private clubs or sports facilities, hotels such as Avari, Ramada, PC, Movenpick and sports facilities such as Moin Khan Academy all have some form of swimming classes available for anyone willing to pay.
3. Learning A Sport
Learning a sport can help children develop social skills that will benefit them throughout their entire lives. Participation in group sports such as soccer can have a huge positive impact on a child’s self esteem and confidence. They learn to trust in their own abilities and push themselves. Playing a sport not only reduces stress and increases feelings of physical and mental well being, but also contributes to proper physical development. Furthermore, character and moral principles are formed through learning fair play, and children who are actively engaged in sports learn to respect authority, rules, team players, and opponents. The other day I took my almost two year old to the Karachi United’s Youth Programme. My little boy is a football fanatic. The first thing he asks for as soon as he wakes up is a ball, so before he started preschool, we decided to send him to a football activity where he could meet and play with other kids as small as him! Karachi United initiated its Youth Program to foster the development of children in the worlds most popular sport: football. It was great! The programme is full of dedicated coaches teaching children ranging from 2 to 18 years of age. Then there is Teddy Tennis, created to make tennis fun for little children! There is also Little Gymnast, a programme formed for increasing muscle flexibility in children through learning gymnastics. Beyond these specific ones, numerous clubs, hotels, and schools offer a diverse variety of sports activities for children ranging from rowing, and badminton, to archery.
4. Cooking Classes
This might no sound like the most exciting venture, but getting your child enrolled in cooking classes could be thrilling for them! Karachi’s Little Chef offers culinary classes for little ones who are interested in knowing the basics of how to make their favorite cookies or pizzas, and a lot more! While we have already said teaching kids the basic skills of survival at a young age is important, learning how to cook also enhances fine motor skills and increases math capability. It also helps improve their focus and attention while introducing them to scientific concepts. The best way to teach kids is to get them into the kitchen to prepare healthy meals together. Cooking is a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutrition and food safety, and eating right. The same rule applies for when your children help you cook at home. Getting them to stir the pancake mix, measure one cup of water, roll out the dough. These are all cooking tasks that help kids develop necessary academic, cognitive, and motor skills.
5. Reading Classes
I recently enrolled my daughter in the Tot And The Line’s story telling class, and she absolutely loved it! They also offer similar story telling programmes in Urdu. My daughter, like myself, has a stellar imagination and loves to read. The programme engages the children in popular childrens books and then collaborates a fun piece of art based on the story they have read that day. This was probably the after school activity I pushed for the most. In this screen time heavy world, as an avid reader myself, there is nothing I want more than for my children to know the joy of reading and fantasising. The benefits of reading early are innumerable. There has been many a time when I have felt like I have failed to instil a necessary lesson in empathy to my children. In times like these, reading an interesting story has successfully been able to do the job for me. As children read and develop, they begin to imagine how they would feel in that situation. Through reading a variety of books children learn about people, places, and events outside of their own experience.
6. Yoga For Kids
Children love the challenge of contorting their body into the different poses, feeling strong and in control as they move. Yoga for children not only stresses on physical strength, flexibility and coordination, but also as a tool for managing stress and anxiety. Yogitales by Fatima Naqvi has recently opened its doors to children, giving them a space to learn and manage their thoughts and emotions. In todays competitive world, offering yoga, a profoundly uncompetitive activity, enhances mental health and calmness. It also encourages healthy habits and teaches self awareness. After the various sometimes competitive activities I’ve mentioned above, Yoga is the perfect activity to sign your children up for to help them unwind in a healthy, active environment.