Help your kid pick the right after-school activity

Mar 31, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. ET

Whether your child loves pretending he's a ninja or dreams of starring on the show Glee one day, there is an extracurricular activity that fits his or her interests. Team sports and group activities can help kids develop confidence and friendships. Help your child find the right fit for her personality and skills.

Do you have a future sports star? Or perhaps a budding artist? During the first few months of school, you’ll receive many flyers advertising after-school activities and little league sports. This year, make your child an active part of the decision-making process. Talk to your child and get input before registering for any activities. Find an extracurricular activity or sport that your child has genuine enthusiasm for.

For kids who love to pretend they're ninjas

Does your child karate chop every surface in your house and wrestle with your dog every chance he gets? Give Fido a break and sign him up for a martial arts class. Classes like karate, kung fu and taekwondo are not only fun, but also teach kids discipline, coordination and confidence.

You can also have her try a solo sport that gives her the chance to work out her high-flying tendencies. Rock climbing gyms, gymnastics classes and skate parks offer kids great ways to hone active sporting skills. Gymnastics might not seem like a daredevil sport until you’re trying to do your first backflip. Look into structured lessons that educate children on proper safety measures.

For kids who love to bust a move

Ballet isn’t the only option for children and teens who love dancing. Dance classes aren’t just for girls, either. Ask your local YMCA and dance studios about options like hip hop, contemporary dance, cheerleading and jazz. Popular shows like So You Think You Can Dance are going a long way toward showing kids that dance can be cool, athletic and challenging. If your child loves to dance but doesn’t want to take a traditional dance class, try capoeira, a Brazilian fighting style that combines music and graceful, fluid martial arts. For competitive kids, look into dance teams that involve attending competitions.

For kids who play ball

Between basketball, soccer, baseball and football, your sporty child has many options for after-school activities. The key to finding the right fit is finding the sport that best aligns to your child’s interests. You should also keep in mind how far you have to drive, what the fees will be and how often your child will be required to attend practices.

Sports like baseball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse are generally available for kids to play either through school leagues starting in middle school or community leagues for younger kids. Have them try out a variety of sports to find the one they like the best!

For kids who love to rock 'n' roll

Since many school music programs have been cut due to budget issues, getting your child exposed to music is more important than ever. If your child shows an interest in a musical interest (or even if she doesn't!) you should consider having them take a music class.

Whether it is learning the guitar, playing the piano or trying their hand at the drums, research shows that music helps improve children's reading and verbal skills!

For kids who are artsy

Look for an art studio nearby that teaches kids classes in pottery, painting or sculpting. Many craft stores, such as Michael's and Hobby Lobby, also teach crafting classes at their stores.

Your local art museum may offer art classes for kids, especially during the summer or during school breaks. Your budding Picasso will love meeting new friends who the same interests.

But wait — there's more!

Extracurricular activities aren’t limited to sports, crafts, music and fitness activities. While it’s important for kids to stay active and fit, they don’t have to do so in a completely structured environment. For kids who want to participate in after-school activities that aren’t sports, look into clubs that are hobby and skill-based. Thespian societies, anime and gaming clubs, service organizations and academic clubs are just some of the ways your kids can get involved with peers after school. If your child opts out of sports or activities with a fitness element, gently encourage time spent outdoors or regular exercise.

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