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6 Unique Extra Curricular Activities for Kids

Move over, soccer. Kids are whipping up all kinds of extracurricular fun with these exciting activities!
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Cognitive Skills
Motor Skills
Social Skills
Archery
When to start
Age 6 for group classes
 
Why it’s hot
The Hunger Games, of course. USA Archery membership has jumped 25 percent since the movie came out.
 
What it teaches 
“Archery helps develop attention span,” says Michael Usherenko, an archery coach who trained U.S. Olympian Khatuna Lorig. “By its nature, it demands focus and concentration, which can help kids do better in school.” Safety is emphasized above all, so kids are expected to be seriously responsible. 
 
Cost
$200 to $600 for 12 weeks of 90-minute group lessons (with equipment rental) at a public range. Or turn to a private club (find both at Teamusa.org/usa-archery). If your child takes to archery and advances, he’ll need his own bow, about $250.
 
Fencing
When to start
Ages 9 to 11
 
Why it’s hot
From Johnny Depp’s swashbuckling to Darth Vader’s light-saber moves, swordplay is timeless. Kid participation in fencing has doubled in the past decade, notes Seth Kelsey, director of USA Fencing and a three-time Olympian.
 
What it teaches 
Problem-solving. “You can never predict what your opponent will do, so you have to be able to adapt quickly and make adjustments,” says Kelsey. “Concentration and focus are also key to maintaining composure under pressure.”
 
Cost
$80 to $120 a month for biweekly classes (with equipment). Go to Usfencing.org to find a club. If she wants to go competitive, outfitting her will be about $300.
 
Cooking
When to start
It’s almost never too soon to start! “Our classes begin at age 2,” notes Cara Buffalino-Silman of Freshmade NYC, a family cooking school.
 
Why it’s hot
Child culinarians have never been cooler. Hadley and Delaney Robertson, 9-year-old twins, teach that healthy eating can be fun on their PBS cooking show, Twice as Good. After 12-year-old Jack Witherspoon’s cookbook, Twist It Up, took off, he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. One 9-year-old even developed his own cooking app!
 
What it teaches
“Early exposure to cooking leads to a love of healthy food,” says Buffalino-Silman. On top of nutrition, kids pick up on sequential order, following directions, even literature appreciation. “We use Rah, Rah, Radishes! by April Pulley Sayre,” shares Buffalino-Silman. “It’s fun to read aloud and inspires cooking!”
 
Cost
Varies widely by location. Young Chef’s Academy (Youngchefsacademy.com) charges $25 to $35 a class, for example. But classes with the department of recreation or at the library are much less.
 
Golf
When to start
Ages 6 to 8
 
Why it’s hot
There have never been so many young stars. Kid golfers look to Ginger Howard, 18, the youngest female black golfer to go pro, or to champion Rickie Fowler, 24, known for his Bieber-esque shag.
 
What it teaches
“Golf is the only sport that requires you to call a penalty on yourself. It’s nearly impossible to play without developing integrity,” says Joshua Jacobs, founder of TGA Premier Junior Golf. “And you shake hands with your opponents before the first tee and at the 18th hole, which builds sportsmanship.”
 
Cost
$80 to $150, including equipment, for 6 to 10 weeks at an after-school program like TGA Premier Junior Golf (Playtga.com). Their group lessons are held at schools or local community centers in 52 cities. If your kid enjoys it, try lessons or a clinic at your local course. Don’t invest in clubs—even a used set can run $150—until then, says Jacobs.
 
First Lego League (FLL)
When to start
Age 9
 
Why it’s hot
Robots, people! Building something that moves at your command is straight-up kid magic. And it doesn’t hurt that Legos are eternally popular, thanks to their ever-expanding lines for boys and girls.
 
What it teaches
The basics of robotics technology and teamwork. Kids are grouped into teams with one coach. They meet at schools, places of worship, and after-school centers. The teams work together to solve the (purposely embedded) glitches and bugs to build walking, talking robots for the competitive finale. “I learned computer programming with the LEGO robot we used, and then in school, I taught myself HTML,” recalls Adam Benzinane, 9, of Weare, NH. His team, The Copperbots, took first place in the regional championships. 
 
Cost 
$25 for an 8- to 10-week session. Then, if they choose, team members can participate in qualifying and championship tournaments. There’s a small charge per each additional round. Go to Firstlegoleague.org/parents for the lowdown.
 
Chess
When to start
Age 5 or 6
 
Why it’s hot
More kids than ever play chess, encouraged by parents who know it boosts analytical skills. It’s easy to learn and inexpensive to start.
 
What it teaches
Confidence, for one. “Playing chess in her school club taught my daughter Fiona strategy skills,” says Jennifer Geddes, who lives in New York City. “She learned to think ahead, identifying when an opponent botched a move.”
 
Cost 
Free at libraries, schools, and some town recreation departments. Club lessons run $10 to $60 an hour, depending on location and class size. Go to Uschess.org for a directory of clubs.

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