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After-School Activities

Choosing the right options for your child

August 01, 2011
School days are rapidly approaching and it's time to start planning your child's after-school activities. These programs are more than just time fillers. Research shows that after-school activities keep kids out of trouble, improve their social skills and even boost their academic skills. We talked to grown-ups and kids alike to get the inside scoop on some of the best activities around town.

For the Ingram family in Fishers, dance and sports are the top activities. Silah, age 5, loves ballet. She said she likes it "because I like to be a princess". Her 7-year-old brother, Micah, prefers Tae Kwon Do and soccer "because I like winning trophies…and because I get to play on a team".

The U'Ren family in Brownsburg keeps extra busy. Brooke, Kierstyn, Amber and Kennedy all participate in activities through the Upwards Sports Program, a Christian sports league. The kids play soccer, football, basketball and cheerleading. Kierstyn, age 11, loves the program because she gets to play football on a co-ed team. She said, "We can all have fun with it and we get to play as a team." Kennedy, age 6, agreed. "My favorite sport is football because there is lots of throwing and I don't have to kick anyone like in soccer."

At the Mpistolarides' home in Geist, after-school activities consist of baseball, hockey, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse. Paul, Nick and Victoria have always been encouraged to try a lot of different activities. Dad, Paul said, "I let them do however much they wanted as long as their grades are good. I'm a firm believer that sports helps institute a lot of important values such as teamwork. I feel that sports actually help a student stay focused and organized."

The arts are also popular among the school-aged set. From music to drama, there are plenty of programs to challenge your child. At Meridian Music, children ages 7 and up can take private lessons on various instruments. Hillary Blake is the education director at Meridian Music. She said the program includes monthly recitals that allow students to showcase their skills on a regular basis. Another option is the IUPUI Music Academy. There are group keyboard classes for 1st and 2nd graders. For older students, there are private lessons in everything from voice to viola.

Dancers will find many options, too. Imagine the thrill of dancing at Indianapolis School of Ballet with its huge studios overlooking the Indiana Capitol. There are classes for ages 4 and up. To learn more, go to www.indyballet.org. Dance Connection in Franklin Township is another popular studio with ballet, tap, jazz and Zumba for teens. Dance Connection has open enrollment so new students are welcome at any time.

If you have a drama king or queen in your house, check out the Young Actors Theatre. The classes are for kindergarteners up through 12th grade. Registration opens in August and does fill up. Go to www.yatkids.org for more information.

For artists, the Indianapolis Art Center offers a variety of classes including drawing, sculpture, photography and glass blowing. Brooke Klejnot, guest services manager at the center, said "The arts promote creativity and help to develop a sense of self-confidence." The center's schedule is listed at www.indplsartcenter.org/Fall11.

Fencing is another option at the Indianapolis Fencing Club at the Boys and Girls Club in Whitestown, Ind. Bill Winget is president of the fencing club. He said, "Fencing is a lifetime sport. It provides great exercise and requires out-thinking your opponent." For more information, go to www.indyfencing.com.

Your child can even learn a new language after school. The Indy Foreign Language Academy in Carmel has classes featuring Spanish conversation, games and multimedia activities.

If music is of interest to your child, the Indianapolis Children's Choir (ICC) may be the perfect fit. The ICC is a non-profit organization that has provided quality music education to nearly 2500 children in central Indiana. Children in 4th – 9th grades are invited to audition for the choir. For more information contact 317-940-9640.

For parents who have difficulty making the dash from work to extracurriculars, you'll find one-stop shopping at the Arthur M. Glick JCC. The center will pick-up students in Washington Township and take them to an after-care program that includes playing, studying and swimming. While the kids are there, they can also sign up for sports, dance and other classes. After-school care is open to members and non-members. AYS, Inc. also offers after-school care at four IPS schools and several schools in Hamilton and Hendricks counties. These programs provide child care and includes Enrichment activities from art to health to multicultural studies.

Now that you know some of the options, how do you narrow down the choices? Dr. David Lowenstein is a psychologist and writer specializing in family issues. He said think about your child's personality when choosing. It might be tempting to sign a sedentary child up for soccer, but Lowenstein said it might be counterintuitive. Your child might feel more comfortable in a club. If you do go the sports route, Lowenstein recommended finding a league that stresses learning the skills rather than just winning the game.

Lowenstein cautioned against booking too many activities. "If the evening dinner hour is pulling up to the drive-through window a few nights a week, your family is overscheduled." He recommends one or two activities per season, and whatever you choose, make sure it's fun.

This just scratches the surface of what's available around town. To find more options, check out the activities listed in our Arts & Enrichment Guide.

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Amy Seng Holtzman is a freelance writer from Northern, KY. Writer, producer, mom of three. Xavier University, Class of `92 She can be reached at amyseng@aol.com.

Tags: Enrichment, In This Issue, Local, Parenting

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