Find the Best Extracurricular Interest for Your Child or Teen

Children do art activity in classroom
Kidstock/ Blend Images/ Getty Images

Have you been wondering if an extracurricular activity would be a good choice for your child? There are a host of reasons why your school-age child should join an extracurricular activity:

  • Extracurricular activities offer kids a chance to explore new interests that are not part of the regular school curriculum.
  • They may provide more physical activity than what they would get during the school day and at home.
  • Extracurricular activities also provide fun and enjoyment, which can help keep kids motivated about school when their school work becomes challenging.
  • Extracurricular activities help children gain new skills, learn to socialize, gain leadership ability and learn more about their own interests.
  • Elementary and middle school students gain the benefit of exploration and socialization.
  • High school students may also need extracurricular involvement to improve their chances of college acceptance and gaining scholarships.

Now that you are familiar with the benefits of extracurriculars you need to make sure that they get involved in something they will enjoy. Since extracurricular activities are choice activities, your child should look forward to participating. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of activities that your child can choose from.

Supporting your child in finding the right activity will change as they grow older. If you have a younger elementary-age child, you may need to provide a lot of direction to find the right activity. For a high school age student, you may just want to suggest a few different possibilities and let them find an activity that they think sounds interesting or fun. 

There are many different types of extracurricular activities your child can participate in. Activities can be found for all school-age groups. 

1. Sports 

One of the most well-known after school activities. Schools often have their own after-school sports that are open to students attending a particular school. Additionally, communities also often have their own sports leagues for kids and teens. In medium to large cities, kids can often sign up for a school season and then play in a community league for a favorite sport, extending the time they can play that sport.

Sports are a good choice for kids who need to get more physical activity in their days. This could be kids who do not have space to run and play in their neighborhoods or kids who have high energy levels. 

2. Scouting

Groups like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts teach a variety of skills to include outdoor camping and recreation, self-care, and financial literacy. Girl Scouts of America strives to offer a program to help develop girls into well-rounded leaders of tomorrow. Boy Scouts of America has the mission of training young people, regardless of gender, to become responsible citizens with good character.

Scouting can be a good choice for kids who enjoy the outdoors and are willing to try a variety of activities. While outdoor recreation is the most noticed part of scouting, kids are also expected to earn awards in other tasks like cooking, cleaning, arts, finances, goal setting, and personal care.

3. Art

Art clubs are good choices for children who like to sit and create. If your child shows an interest in art, a club could give them the right age-appropriate place to practice and learn new skills. Some examples of extracurriculars that are popular activities for school students to deepen their knowledge:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Craft classes and clubs 

4. Service Organizations 

Junior versions of groups like Kiwanis and Lions are found in many communities. Individual schools may have a welcome or friendship club. Middle and High School honor societies often require community service projects.

Service organizations are great for teaching children about community and socialization skills. Older kids and teens often gain leadership skills and make important personal connections.

Service organizations can be a particularly good choice for future college applicants.

5. Academic Extension 

Clubs or competitive teams form around academic topics. Schools may have a math counts team that competes against other schools, similar to the way sports teams compete against one another. After school science or gardening clubs can provide time and opportunity for students to work on their own projects and ideas while being supervised by a knowledgeable teacher.

If your child enjoys a particular subject they can go further by participating in its academic extension. They will have the chance to socialize with other students who have similar interests. In younger grades, academic extension clubs may give your child a chance to spend more time with a favorite school staff person who runs the academic extension club. 

High school students can focus on their future career aspirations with academic extensions. High school students can – and should – continue to explore their personal interests with extracurricular activities. Those who already know what they would like to do for a career can enhance their knowledge in high school while adding to future work and college applications.

6. Performing Arts

Dance, theater, and acting are all popular extracurricular activities found in almost every community. Many schools will put on plays and other performances that students can try out for. Other students may help build sets or make costumes. 

Kids who are interested in performing are naturals for enjoying the performing arts. Also, those who enjoy costuming, interior design and building. Performing arts provide a vast range of skills to kids and teens.

While some kids who join a performing arts group will grow up to be professional actors, comedians or other performers, many more will build self-confidence, develop friendships and go on to participate in community theater or similar groups as they become adults.

7. Music 

Band and choir are popular elective courses in many schools. Other schools and community offer programs outside of the mandatory school day. Children can also get private lessons or join a community youth orchestra or other music groups.

Educational research suggests that kids who play musical instruments do better in academic school subjects. Still, learning to appreciate and play music alone is a fantastic reward.

Kids and teens also learn how to persevere. They begin with little knowledge of how to play an instrument or sing, and improve dramatically with practice. This is part of having a "growth mindset," an important skill for success in STEM subjects, and in life.

8. Student Government 

Student government is available from upper elementary grades through high school and most college campuses. Students can run and campaign in elections and help make decisions about important events for their school year class. Many student governments also occasionally weigh in on school policy decisions. 

If your child has shown interest in leadership, politics or thinks of ways to improve their community, they could be a natural fit for student government.

9. Student Media 

Today's schools have student newspapers, literary magazines, yearbook, video or audio school newscast, film clubs,  student-created websites. and more. Today's school media clubs work hard to teach the skills that are used in today's media fields. 

If your student likes to write or create films, student media groups can provide the chance to learn how to use new equipment, gain professional skills, and create a portfolio for future jobs and college applications.

10. Hobby 

From knitting to totally free-form creative writing, hobby clubs provide a chance for students to meet others with a common interest and add to their skill set. Think photography, Lego structures, poetry, cooking, origami—pretty much any hobby that might appeal to a school-age child.

Hobbies are excellent for relieving stress and providing a fun part of the school day. Encouraging a hobby now along with supporting their academic success will help your child be able to find work-life balance when they become adults.

11. Culture and Acceptance Focused Clubs

The last few decades have included a major increase in global communications and greater awareness of bullying. These clubs foster an awareness and appreciation of different groups of people that students may want to know more about or be a member of that group.

Today's schools may offer a culture club where kids can explore a culture they are interested in—such as a Spanish club that explores language, media, foods and other aspects of Spanish speaking countries.

Schools may also have an anti-bullying or kindness club, where kids come together and find ways to support and accept all students while learning how to discourage and respond to bullying.

Schools Are Not the Only Source for Extracurricular Activities

If your school-age students' school doesn't offer a particular extracurricular activity and there are several students interested, find out from your schools' administration what is needed to start such a club. With enough student interest and an adult willing to help organize or supervise the students, almost any activity can be offered.

You can also look for activities sponsored by organizations in the local community. Local newspapers, bulletin boards, and social or online media often advertise programs for school-age children and teens. Public libraries across the nation are increasing programs for older children and teens, providing another possible source of activities.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Belton S, Prior P, Wickel E, Woods C. The impact of participation in extra-curricular physical activity on males from disadvantaged schools. Eur Phys Educ Rev. 2016;23(1):60-72. doi:10.1177/1356336X15625381

  2. Christison C. The Benefits of Participating in Extracurricular Activities. BU J Grad Stud Educ. 2013;5(2):17-20.

  3. Urlings-Strop LC, Themmen APN, Steger-Jager KM. The relationship between extracurricular activities assessed during selection and during medical school and performance. Adv Health Sci Educ. 2017;22:282-298. doi:10.1007/s10459-016-9729-y

  4. Karagianni D, Montgomery AJ. Developing leadership skills among adolescents and young adults: A review of leadership programmesInt J Adolesc Youth. 2018;23(1):86-98. doi:10.1080/02673843.2017.1292928

  5. Guhn M, Emerson SD, Gouzouasis P. A Population-Level Analysis of Associations Between School Music Participation and Academic Achievement. J Educ Psychol. 2020;112(2):308-328. doi:10.1037/edu0000376