Back to School: Roll into after-school activities with confidence

School is coming, ready or not, and it’s time for parents as well as kids to get ready. Herald reporter (and mum) Kirsty Wynn offers a practical guide to what you need to know. Today: After-school activities.

From skateboarding and parkour to roller skating and cooking classes there is now a never-ending choice of extra-curricular activities.

Choosing the right fit for your child instills confidence and dedication – an activity they don’t enjoy can mean weekly push-back and arguments about attendance.

Team sports are still popular but there is a growing trend among schoolkids to try something new – and often just for fun.

The cancellation of school sports during lockdown saw a spike in sales of skateboards and roller skates.

And the interest hasn’t waned.

The free-play trend isn’t restricted by Covid-19 and it’s also been given the thumbs-up by Rechelle McNair, a kids play consultant with 30 years’ experience.

“When choosing after-school activities it’s important to have a couple of free-play options where it is truly just for fun,” McNair said.

“As soon as you introduce an element of competition it becomes goal-focused .”

Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC), the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education say Kiwi kids aged 5 to 18 should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day.

They should spend less than two hours a day (out of school time) in front of the television, computers, and game consoles.

Skateboarding pulled plenty of kids away from screens in 2020.

Top New Zealand skateboarder Simon Thorp said demand for his mobile Young Guns Skate School mushroomed last year.

Vans filled with purpose-built ramps, rails, skateboards and helmets were set up at 11 different schools around Auckland throughout the week.

The classes cater to skaters aged from 4 to 14 of all skill levels and are on a drop-in basis.

“Kids come along with no experience and some are too scared to get on the board and then after 10 lessons they are trying tricks and their confidence is amazing,” Thorp said.

“They are learning determination and perseverance and we get feedback from teachers and parents that kids who were distracted in class are settled after they get hooked on skateboarding.”

Thorp said that after the cost of the board and some lessons, skaters could teach themselves – with social media and YouTube clips an ongoing source of inspiration.

“It’s an individual activity but is social as well, skating somewhere, showing each other tricks and celebrating when someone lands something new.”

Girls Skate NZ is also growing in popularity with four classes a week and a free class every Sunday.

Talented skateboarder Amber Clyde, 24, started the all-girl skate crew to “inspire confidence and get as many girls involved in skateboarding as we can”.

There are more than 20 girls in each session and Clyde has now expanded to include holiday programmes.

Roller skating coach Macarena Carrascosa has seen a tripling in the size of her after-school classes at ActivZone in Glenfield this year.

Roller skating has been growing in popularity for years but Carrascosa said the spike came when roller skates came down in price and brands started popping up in mainstream shops.

“It is an amazing activity for all ages, is great for fitness and even though it is an individual thing you can do it in a group and have a lot of fun.”

Carrascosa said parents were drawn to the activity because of the low cost.

Entry to council-owned rinks was inexpensive and costs were kept low for classes.

“We have tried to keep the cost down, especially because of Covid-19, we want people to be able to afford it,” Carrascosa said.

Kidslink – which links parents with educational, physical, and emotional services for their child, says extra-curricular activities create confident children.

Kidslink tips:

– allow them to try and fail
– help them learn that more practice is required to achieve their goal
– listen / back their coach and teacher by supporting suggestions for improvement
– have rewards and consequences for behaviour

Let kids do what they love

The Gallagher family calendar is full during term-time with no arguments from Eli, 11 or Roman, 8.

Between them, the Mt Albert brothers play softball, touch, cricket, football and futsal – with a break from ball sports for piano lessons.

Mum Michelle Clarke said the 12 hours a week Eli and Roman are engaged in activities is time away from school, screens and gaming.

“They are at that age where if they are not busy they tend to just want to park up and game or be on screens all the time.

“We get home and it’s a snack and then off to softball or futsal so there is no window to pick up a device.”

Dad Nathan coaches both boys’ teams in softball, football, and futsal so practice and game days also mean time together as a family.

“Depending on timing we tend to head out as a family to games,” Michelle said.

“We delegate a sport to each other and we are both on the team Whatsapp groups to keep up with what is happening.”

With so many sports to manage Clarke said a military approach was needed.

Clarke’s advice:

Choose a sport or activity that suits the interests of the child to ensure early buy-in – for example, ripper rugby for kids who love playing tag, keas/scouts for the adventurous.

When introducing a new activity, enlisting a friend or sibling can ensure a smooth transition.

No team manager? Set up a WhatsApp group for communication and carpooling.

Get into the routine of packing uniforms and gear the night before and involve the kids by preparing a checklist they can tick off.

If the activity falls close to dinner time, serve a large protein-rich snack or their actual dinner straight after school.

Alternatively, pack fruit and other portable nutrient-dense snacks and always a water bottle.

Before you embark on territories unknown, ask to trial a sport or activity before you commit to the season.

If you are mid-season and finding that the odds are stacked against you, it’s OK to push pause and try again next year.

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