Children are inclined to be very sociable and most enjoy getting out and about, mixing with others, and learning new things.
Social interaction is extremely important for a child’s development and their overall well-being. Most children’s early social and leisure activities will be at playgroups, nurseries and school; however, as they grow up, they usually develop their own interests and will want to get involved in activities outside school.
Children who demonstrate talent for a particular sport or show an interest in physical activity are likely to spend much of their free time engaged in training and practice sessions, matches or competitions and other related social activities.
Not all leisure activities involve physical activity and many young people will prefer cultural and artistic pursuits, like amateur dramatics, playing a musical instrument, gaming, theatre and cinema, arts and crafts, or maybe even getting involved with a fan base for a favourite sporting team, musician or band. Some young people may become interested in politics or a specific lobbying movement, e.g. animal rights. There are many ways to link with like-minded individuals, including local and online groups, though always stay vigilant.
Being able to play outside with friends in their community is another great way for younger children to socialise and it helps forge friendships between parents too.
It’s important that young disabled people and young carers are given the same opportunities to socialise and get involved in activities that interest them.
The benefits of socialising
Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help a child become more confident and independent. They have an opportunity to mix with people from different backgrounds, make new friends and travel to new places, sometimes even abroad.
Young people who have been engaged in social, leisure and cultural activities are well-placed to apply for training opportunities, employment, and college/university places because they have real-life experiences to talk about. As well as participating in an activity they enjoy, they have often developed important life skills like communicating with others, teamwork, problem-solving and emotional maturity.
Some things to think about
Before agreeing for your child to get involved in any social or leisure activity – particularly one that involves paying upfront fees or buying expensive equipment – consider the following:
- Location – there are far more opportunities in cities and large towns. If you live rurally and your child wants to get involved in an activity some distance away, someone must be prepared to take them there and back.
- Age – many activities and clubs have strict criteria regarding the child’s age. Check your child’s eligibility before building up their hopes.
- Aptitude– while some skills are learnt, it can be soul-destroying for a child to consistently take part in activities for which they have no talent or aptitude.
- Waiting lists – popular activities are often over-subscribed and many operate a waiting list system. Ask if there are any related activities your child could do in the interim.
- Time commitment – any parent whose child is involved in sports, athletics, dancing or any other competitive activity will necessarily end up giving up a lot of their own free time to support their child.
- Cost – know what you’re signing up to beforehand, e.g. membership fees, coaching/tuition costs, equipment, clothes, shoes, etc. You might also be asked to get involved in fund-raising events.
Be careful not to fill every hour of your child’s life with social and leisure activities. Even the most well-balanced child needs some occasional downtime!
Contact your local council to find out what’s available in your area, including sports opportunities for disabled young people. Alternatively, talk to other parents or search for local clubs on the internet.
The Family Information Service can provide details of local activities, events, sports and leisure opportunities.
The Urdd offers activities and projects for young people across Wales, including eisteddfodau, sports, local and overseas trips and regional youth forums.
The Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Wales is involved in a wide range of projects.
Beavers, cubs and scouts are ever-popular with boys and girls who enjoy outdoor activities, while Girl Guiding offers adventures for girls aged 5 and 25.
Some theatres run workshops and drama groups for children and young people, and there are many amateur, local and community groups.
Young Wales has a network of groups for young people aged 11-25 who want to bring about positive change.