The latest update for this article is written by Lindsay Podolak.
As we kick off another school year, parents and kids are deciding what types of afterschool activities they want to commit to. Naturally, all parents want their children to reap the physical and social benefits of extra-curricular sports, clubs and classes. But what if your kid has no interest in typical activities such as baseball or dance class?
Luckily New Jersey is full of unique programs offering everything from archery to rock climbing to circus arts. Start by really thinking about what your child loves to do. Chances are, you can find an activity nearby that will fit their interests.
If your child loves to battle with toy swords, try a fencing class. Fencing is a great sport that provides both a physical and mental workout. Hub City Fencing Academy in Edison offers fencing lessons for kids ages 7 and up. Their most popular program is a ten-week introductory course that teaches the basics of the sport, including footwork, rules and how to use a variety of weapons. If your child enjoys the course, they can move on to group classes or private lessons.
Why I like it: Fencing is a sport that teaches strategy, confidence and determination, just the things that a school-age child learning to focus will need.
Does your kid love to aim and shoot Nerf guns? Consider registering him or her for an archery class. This fun sport has been enjoyed for centuries. X-Ring Archers School of Archery, located in Lambertville, provides archery lessons for kids ages 7 and older. Their beginner, 9-week class teaches students about safety, focus, form and shooting. The school also offers intermediate and advanced classes, as well as a Junior Olympic Archery Development Program for serious young archers.
Why I like it: Before committing to a class, you can host your child’s birthday party here to see if the interest is there.
If your child loves to help you cook, try a cooking class. Cooking is a lifelong skill that allows kids to be creative while learning to measure, mix and follow a recipe. Marlboro’s Young Chefs Academy offers programs and classes for kids ages 4 through 18. Their Junior Chef Program for ages 7-12 focuses on food preparation, kitchen safety, cooking and baking techniques, presentation and more. Monthly themes allow students to experience a wide variety of recipes, from appetizers to desserts.
Why I like it: Participants can either pay a $35 per class drop-in price or become a member to receive a reduced rate for the eight weeks of classes.
Fans of the TV hit American Ninja Warrior, rejoice! Sign your kids up for a class at one of Pinnacle Parkour’s three New Jersey locations (Cherry Hill, Princeton and Washington Township) and they will get a workout that promotes strength, focus and creativity. Kids’ classes start at age 3 and go all the way through high school age. Beginners learn the basics of parkour and ultimately advance to completing the toughest obstacles on the course.
Why I like it: Several of Pinnacle’s coaches have actually competed on American Ninja Warrior, so your kids will love the celebrity factor of this after-school activity!
If your child loves to entertain, try out a circus class. Circus Place, based in Hillsborough, is the state’s premier circus school for kids of all ages. They have many circus-themed classes available, including juggling, hula hooping, tumbling, trapeze and unicycle. They even offer classes on clowning! Options are also provided for parents and children who want to take a class together.
Why I like it: Students set their own personal goals here and work at a pace they are comfortable with.
Got a kid who’s climbing the walls? Sign them up for a rock climbing class. In addition to being a great workout, rock climbing can improve hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Fairfield’s New Jersey Rock Gym offers a Youth Climbing Program for ages 5 through 14. Students learn climbing techniques, knot-tying and safety under the supervision of experienced instructors. Classes are kept small, so your children will get plenty of attention as they learn to climb in a safe, fun and friendly environment.
Why I like it: Kids will also learn knot-tying, a great skill to have in any survival situation, as part of their climbing course.
If your child likes to play in the dirt, encourage them to create a garden. Each year, the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township invites kids ages 5 through 13 to get their hands dirty while they learn about gardening. The Arboretum’s Branching Out Program is a hands-on educational program where kids can plant, maintain and harvest their own flowers, herbs and vegetables. The gardeners also take part in a variety of projects using the plants they grew themselves.
Why I like it: Branching Out classes are held on Saturdays, which is perfect for the kids who need their after school hours to do homework or unwind.
Looking for a sport that doesn’t involve too much running around? Golf lessons may be the perfect fit. The game of golf incorporates skill, focus and logic. It can be a great activity for kids who shy away from team sports. The Total Golf School at Quail Ridge, located in Wall, offers a Junior Golf Program for children ages 6 and up. The program takes kids through several levels of classes. They will learn the history of the game, along with the basic rules and fundamentals of the sport.
Why I like it: Small, frequent classes (twice a week for 45-minutes) mean your kids will receive personalized instruction and be ready to hit the links with you in no time!
With locations in Turnersville, Vineland and Mays Landing, Performance Krav Maga has certified instructors with many years of experience teaching the art of Krav Maga. Your kids will get in shape and learn cutting-edge skills to defend themselves, while also learning discipline and respect.
Why I like it: Free trials let you check it out before committing to a program. Meanwhile, adults can try out classes, too!
For kids that love climbing on the jungle gym or cartwheeling down the beach, gymnastics may be the natural choice. At Bright Stars Academy in Egg Harbor Township, kids will learn age-appropriate skills designed to enhance coordination, strength, flexibility, hand-eye coordination and more. Bright Stars Academy in Egg Harbor Township is not just a gymnastics center– it offers swimming and NinjaZone classes, too. Plus if you refer a friend, you’ll get $20 credited to your account– a win-win!
Why I like it: Open Gym is held Saturdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm for school-age children. At this time, they can either use the equipment or practice their tumbling.