Participation is defined as a person’s participation in a life situation and it is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the central domains in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Participation is further categorized into learning and applying knowledge, general tasks and demands, communication, mobility, self care, domestic life, interpersonal interactions and relationships, major life areas and community, social and civic life (WHO 2001). The definition is broad as it includes children’s participation in school environments as well as in extracurricular activities, such as recreation and leisure. There are many studies done which proved that participation will benefits children in variety ways. In this article, the benefits of participation in academic learning, psychosocial development, physical development, cognitive development and skills development will be discussed further.
It has been proved in several studies that participation will benefits children in their academic learning. In a study conducted by Vandell and Pierce (Vandell & Pierce 1999) in those poverty and high crime rate neighborhoods showed that the higher frequency of children’s participation in after school activities, the better the children’s academic results will be at the end of the year. In 1999, Larson and Verma also recognized that learning can be enhanced when children participate in non-school activities (Larson & Verma 1999). A study which conducted Copper et al. In 1999 (Cooper et al. 1999) also proved that when some external factors such as gender, ethnic and level of adult supervision after school was statistically controlled, participation can still contribute to improvement in academic achievements.
Participation in activities will also help with children’s psychosocial development. Children will have the opportunity to from meaningful relationships with others, learn how to communicate with each other when they play together and learn how to solve the conflicts happen within them without help form adults. According to a study conducted by Rae-Grant et al. in 1989 (Rae-Grant et al. 1989), the result showed that participation in activities is one of the way to reduce risk of emotional and behavioral disorders in children. A study conducted by Vandell and Pierce (Vandell & Pierce 1999) showed that children are less likely to solve their peer conflicts by damaging social relationships. Through Barnett and Weber research (Barnett & Weber 2008) that look into parent’s view and perspective, children will get more opportunities to socialize and more chances to practice and improve their social skills when they participate in after school activities. Through participation, children will have chances to practice team work while they are in groups and learn how to make decision on their own throughout the process (Ginsburg 2007).
In addition, participation can also benefits children in term of physical development. Physical development can be considered as improved strength, coordination, flexibility and endurance of the children. Study conducted by Barnett and Weber (Barnett & Weber 2008) reported parents found that their children have more opportunities to exercise when they participate in after school activities, majority of the parents in this research also reported that participation benefited their children in term of physical development. Another study conducted by Fjørtoft in 2004 (Fjørtoft 2004) reported that there are significant improvements showed on motor fitness for children who participate in outdoor activities, the effects are more significant in balance and coordination.
On the other hand, cognitive development of children such as their thinking ability and intellectual functioning also show improvements through participation in activities. Through participation, children will be able to explore things that they interested with and developed creativity through the process (Ginsburg 2007). For example, when a child participate in some simple game like “snake and ladder”, he or she will need to first understand the rules of the game, remember the rules, after that, child will need to calculate how many steps they need to move according to the dice and they need to think what is the consequences if they step on a ladder or a snake. There are many other simple activities like “snake and ladder” which provide children opportunities to think and further enhance their cognitive development.
Last but not least, through participation in activities especially individual sports and performing arts activities, children will be able to develop their skills as well. This was proved by Barnett and Weber in their study conducted in 2008 (Barnett & Weber 2008), it was reported that parents agreed that their children showed improvement in skills after their participation in activities especially for individual sports and performing arts activities. It was reported that there are specific skills that showed improvement, for example, children learned how to perform in front of public, learned how to swim safely, learned knowledge about nutrition and learned about money managements. All these skills are not taught in class and children only able to acquire those skills if they spend their time to participate in after school activities.
In conclusion, participation is important for all individual especially for children. This is because participation is one of the important aspect for children’s development, which will affects children’s quality of life and their future life outcomes (King et al. 2003). Participation can benefits children in many different aspects for example academic learning, psychosocial development, physical development, cognitive development and .skills development.According to psychologist, participation can lead to life satisfaction and sense of competence and it’s essential for emotional, psychological and skill development (Larson & Verma 1999; Law 2002). Thus, parents should provide more chances for their children to participate in various after school activities so that children will be able to acquire different kind of knowledge and skills that are not taught in class.
- Barnett, L. A. & Weber, J. J. 2008. Perceived Benefits to Children from Participating in Different Types of Recreational Activities. Journal of Park & Recreation Administration 26(3):
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- Fjørtoft, I. 2004. Landscape as Playscape: The Effects of Natural Environments on Children’s Play and Motor Development. Children Youth and Environments 14(2): 21-44.
- Ginsburg, K. R. 2007. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics 119(1): 182-191.
- King, G., Lawm, M., King, S., Rosenbaum, P., Kertoy, M. K. & Young, N. L. 2003. A Conceptual Model of the Factors Affecting the Recreation and Leisure Participation of Children with Disabilities. Physical & occupational therapy in pediatrics 23(1): 63-90.
- Larson, R. W. & Verma, S. 1999. How Children and Adolescents Spend Time across the World: Work, Play, and Developmental Opportunities. Psychological bulletin 125(6): 701.
- Rae-Grant, N., Thomas, B. H., Offord, D. R. & Boyle, M. H. 1989. Risk, Protective Factors, and the Prevalence of Behavioral and Emotional Disorders in Children and Adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 28(2): 262-268.
- Vandell, D. L. & Pierce, K. 1999. Can after-School Programs Benefit Children Who Live in High-Crime Neighborhoods. Poster Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Albuquerque, NM, hlm.