‘They have a sense of purpose’

Involvement in sports, art, music, clubs and community groups is incredibly beneficial for children’s health, academics and social skills. Leslie Foster explains why you should enrol your child in extracurricular activities this fall.

Whether your child plays hockey, takes piano lessons, or participates in Girl Guides, there’s no question: extracurricular activities are good for their health and well-being.

Participation in organized extracurricular activities has been associated with positive short- and long-term outcomes for children in areas such as academic achievement (including reduced school dropout rates) and social behaviour, according to Statistics Canada.


According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for children ages 5-17, children should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily, above and beyond regular activity such as getting ready for school.

The ParticipACTION Canada website features great posts with ideas on how to get your kids more active, with strategies like active transportation (example: walking or bicycling to school) and trading 30 minutes of “screen time” for “green time.” To access the complete Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, visit www.particpaction.com.

In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, we are fortunate to have access to a wide range of organized sports for our children: hockey, soccer, swimming, fencing, water polo, gymnastics, biathlon, synchronized swimming, football, diving, and much, much more.

Benefits from increased physical activity and participating in sports include:

• Decrease chance of developing diseases like diabetes;

• Improve overall health and maintain a healthy body weight;

• Improve fitness and gain strength;

• Build self-esteem, improve self-confidence and feel happier;

• Better performance in school;

• Learn new skills;

• Develop teamwork and character;

• Learn self-discipline and time-management;

• Make friends, develop social skills;

• Have fun!

“Organized sports are a great way for kids to share a common interest and passion with a group of their peers,” said Celso Rojas, head coach for Capital Wave Water Polo.

“Kids in sports live different life experiences, demonstrate a high level of discipline, and enjoy better health. And they’re not just sitting in front of a screen or hanging out on the streets getting into trouble. They have a sense of purpose.”

Art and Music

Art and music effectively promote use of imagination and outside-the-box thinking. The Ottawa-Gatineau area offers so many creativity-based options like painting, cartooning, pottery, cello, piano, vocal lessons, graphic design, writing, and much more.

These creative experiences offer many benefits:

• Exposure to math, shapes, and geometry through exploration of rhythm and patterns;

• Provide different perspective or lens through which to view the world, and develop critical thinking;

• Develop a passion for the arts;

• Better performance in school;

• Learn how to deal with stress and nervousness (think recitals);

• Learn new skills;

• Make friends, improve social skills;

• Have fun!

Clubs and Community Groups

There are many clubs and community groups in the area such as Cubs, Scouts and Guides, debating, paramilitary groups like cadets, and more. Many of these programs touch on the benefits mentioned above while building life skills, leadership and teamwork.

Most are non-competitive, inclusive, and focus on acceptance. Some of these clubs are a great place to try several new activities to determine what your child might like. Another benefit is that many of these programs are free or very low-cost.

“These days, I think parents have to be cognizant of the costs involved in any extracurricular activities,” said Jeff Woznow, Ottawa branch president of the Navy League of Canada. “As a parent it can be quite frustrating to enrol a child into an activity and then struggle to find the funds required to support him or her as they progress through such pursuits.

“With Sea Cadets, there is no cost to join, there are no membership fees, all uniforms and equipment (including any musical instruments for members of the band) are provided at no cost, and effectively all travel and training are free as well.”

Extracurricular activities teach skills for life, said Woznow. “Sea Cadets produce well-rounded, responsible young adults with a level of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness, which ensures that they are well-placed to succeed in whatever endeavours they choose to follow later in life.

“No less a person than Marc Garneau – Canada’s first astronaut and current Member of Parliament – credits cadets with pointing him in the right direction for his later successes.”

There are so many activity options, each with a long list of benefits. With back-to-school upon us, fall programs are filling up quickly. If you are considering enrolling your child in an activity, check out programs of interest and register today.