As I sit and watch a class of children in gymnastics I reflect on how important it is to for children to develop skills that build confidence. All humans strive to gain skills and develop pride in their abilities, making it important to begin fostering this development in children.

Each child is unique in their interests and abilities and sometimes it feels tricky to help them to find their niche. When children are young it is helpful to provide them exposure to a variety of activities and skills. Exposure will allow opportunity for a child to explore their interests, discover their dislikes and to develop a variety of skills. Extracurricular activities can be an important platform to nurture this part of a child’s development.

When considering what types of activities to expose your child, you can consider a few pieces of information such as: what are your child’s current interests, what are your child’s current strengths, what type of environment does your child thrive in and what type of skills would your child benefit from learning.

Make Observations of Your Child

Here are some questions to ask yourself when observing your child’s current strengths and interests:

  • Does your child have a high level of energy or is he more quiet and calm?
  • Is your child athletically coordinated or less agile?
  • Is your child creative?
  • Does your child enjoy hands on activities such as building, constructing, crafting, etc.?
  • Does your child enjoy reading or writing?
  • Do you observe your child singing and dancing as if she is on a stage?
  • Does your child prefer to be outdoors or indoors?
  • Does your child thrive in a group environment, 1:1 or a small group?

Once you have made observations about your child you can use this information to help determine a list of activities your child is more likely to have success with. You will want to consider balancing your child’s interests, current strengths and skills as well as skills you would like him to develop. Of all of these qualities, your child’s interest will be vital. Yes, we all need a nudge to try something new, but intrinsic motivation will always support and accelerate skill development, enjoyment and overall SELF CONFIDENCE!

How Do Extracurricular Activities Help?

Self-confidence is strengthened when a child finds enjoyment in an activity of her interest. There are many characteristics of extracurricular activities that help to support a feeling of self-confidence in children:

  • Development and mastery of new skills
  • Social interaction
  • Widening a child’s social circle
  • Team cooperation
  • Being accepted by others
  • Developing problem solving skills
  • Learning to value oneself, as well as feeling valued by others
  • Learning the benefits of practice and persistence
  • Coping with failure and disappointment
  • Developing time management skills

The Benefits of Self-Confidence in Children

Participation in extracurricular activities can help a child begin to form an identity. This sense of identity will lead to confidence that extends to other areas of a child’s development. It also builds the concept of identifying with a larger peer group (e.g. musicians, scientists, athletes, artists, etc.). Confidence and identification with a larger peer group will strengthen a child’s resilience against the many challenges and temptations in life such as acting out, drugs and alcohol, sexual promiscuity, violence, etc. A child will feel grounded in her life skills, her level of confidence and her sense of purpose resulting in less need and desire to seek out her identity in negative ways.

Self-confidence and engagement in activities can also provide a protective layer against mental health challenges. A variety of factors such as physical activity, mental stimulation, a sense of capability, motivation, problem solving and peer identification are all factors that buffer against symptoms of depression, anxiety and mood swings. As a child develops skills and self-confidence these become tools that support his ability to handle life’s challenges and develop an inner voice of capability and resourcefulness. This does not guarantee a child will never feel depressed or anxious, but it will prepare him to handle more mild symptoms of depression, like tools in a toolkit. The more tools we can help a child develop, the more prepared and self-confident she will feel to master the daily challenges of life!