by Lisa Thompson
The fall semester brings a flurry of back-to-school activities—Meet the Teacher, Friday night football lights, pep rallies, dress-up days, community-wide events, fundraisers. The hustle and bustle of back-to-school stands in stark contrast with the carefree, lazy days of summer.
Shifting from summer to a fall schedule isn’t easy, but once everyone settles back into the back-to-school routine and has a feel for the new schedule, parents often think… “What else?”
We’ve all caught ourselves scrolling through social media in pajamas on Saturday morning and seeing pictures of our friends’ children participating in an activity we had no idea existed. Sometimes we wonder if our kids are missing out. And when our kids hear about their friends playing flag football or learning a new dance, it doesn’t take long for them to begin campaigning for us to sign them up.
The good news is that there are tons of benefits to enrolling your kids in after-school activities. These activities can be a great way for kids to make new friends and develop a sense of belonging. And while they’re at it, they’ll learn valuable lessons about working with others in a positive environment. This will help your child build confidence and self-esteem. Extracurricular activities can also have a positive impact on kids’ academic performance—kids who participate are more likely to pay attention in class, be more engaged, and stay out of trouble. Then there’s the obvious benefit: the more time your child spends doing group activities after school, the less time they’re spending glued to a screen.
When it comes to after-school activities, there are tons of options in the greater Texarkana area. In fact, we’ve created a directory of different types of kid-friendly after-school activities in our area. You’ll find activities in the categories listed in this article—and more. And if you have information about activities missing from our directory, let us know!
Our area is home to many sports leagues, including soccer, baseball, flag and tackle football, basketball, track and more. The easiest way to find out about such sports is to check out Texarkana Parent’s online directory, call the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, or even ask the P.E. teacher at your child’s school. Be sure to ask about the level of commitment expected, the practice and game schedule, and financial requirements. It’s important to find the right level of participation for your child and family.
Gymnastics, Cheer & Dance
Each of these activities have their own nuances and are suitable for different children. Dance academies offer classes beginning as young as age two and three, continuing up to adult classes. Disciplines include traditional ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, clogging, pointe, contemporary, lyrical, and more. While dance is often regarded as a sport for girls, a growing number of boys are also participating, and some even think it is beneficial for baseball, football and basketball players to participate in some types of dance. Gymnastics has gotten a lot of attention recently due to the Summer Olympics, and cheerleading is a related sport that benefits from gymnastics and dance training.
While the objective of martial arts is to train individuals for hand-to-hand combat, martial arts programming teaches valuable principles that can be beneficial to children. If your child is not inclined to participate in traditional athletic programs, martial arts can keep them active. Texarkana has several dojos, or places for training, with classes including karate, taekwondo, boxing, kickboxing, jiu jitsu and more.
Our area has many opportunities to learn and grow with like-minded youth. These groups can lead to personal development for young people in the way of tutoring, cooking classes, soft skills, personal finances, recreational sports, leadership classes, public speaking activities, clean-ups, volunteering and much more. Popular examples of this type of group are Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and neighborhood associations like Believe in Beverly, Rosehill Neighborhood Association and the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Many local churches provide an AWANA program, which is a club-like setting kids attend weekly. Many churches also offer youth groups or Bible studies geared toward middle school and high school aged children. This can provide your child an outlet to socialize with friends in a safe place. If you seek out a children’s program at a church you do not regularly attend, get to know the leaders and understand the concepts they’ll be teaching your child.
Lisa Thompson is a mother of three boys and is married to Brad, a firefighter with the Texarkana Texas Fire Department. She is the Economic Developer for the City of Texarkana, TX and teaches as an adjunct at University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana.