The Best Extracurricular Activities for Middle Schoolers

Karate lesson
April 26, 2024
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Not sure which extracurricular activities you should join? We’ve got you covered! We’ll explore the after-school activities for middle schoolers to help you decide.

Middle school is an exciting time for young students. They’re learning, growing, and exploring new interests. One of the best ways for them to enhance their middle school experience is by participating in extracurricular activities

These activities not only provide a break from academics, but also allow students to explore their passions, develop new skills, and make new friends. From sports to music to volunteering, there's a wide variety of extracurricular activities to choose from, each with its own unique benefits.

However, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming for middle schoolers and their parents to choose the right activity. That's why we've put together a list of the best extracurricular activities for middle schoolers, including the benefits of each and how they can help students grow both academically and socially.

10 Extracurriculars for Middle Schoolers

The number of extracurricular activities for middle schoolers may range in the dozens! From cooking classes to learning a musical instrument, young students can participate in many extracurricular activities, based on their interests. Though this list is not exhaustive, here are ten examples you can consider.

Dance Classes

Dance classes are an interactive extracurricular activity that encourages movement and self-expression. Students can engage in many dance styles, from ballroom to hip-hop. Like many extracurriculars, dance clubs are also a great way to meet new friends and develop life-long teamwork skills.

Cooking Classes

Though not as common as sports or dancing, cooking classes are a great after-school hobby! Kids can learn useful kitchen skills, a sense of independence, and creativity. Cooking classes will introduce middle schoolers to a range of international cuisines while learning useful culinary techniques. Plus, it’s not a bad idea having another kitchen-savvy hand in the house!

Sports Teams

Sports are a popular and highly beneficial extracurricular activity for middle schoolers. Participating in sports provides not only exercise, which is important for overall health, but also an outlet for relaxation and stress relief

Regular exercise has been shown to enhance mood, improve creativity, memory, and problem-solving skills, making sports an excellent choice for students looking to enhance their overall well-being.

Playing sports can be a fun and social activity, providing opportunities for middle schoolers to meet new friends and develop teamwork skills. Whether they're interested in traditional sports like basketball or soccer, or more niche activities like rock climbing or fencing, there are many sports-related extracurricular activities for middle schoolers to choose from.

Coding Camps

Besides meeting peers at a sports team or dance class, coding camps are an exciting option for middle schoolers. These camps provide a fun and engaging environment for students to develop their technical skills and learn valuable life skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving. 

Young students who participate in coding camps have the opportunity to explore the world of computer science and build their knowledge of programming languages and software development. This can be a particularly exciting hobby for middle schoolers who are interested in pursuing computer science in college or as a career.

Along with the technical skills learned in coding camps, students also have the opportunity to connect with peers and build lasting relationships. Whether they're just starting to learn about coding or already have a passion for technology, coding camps are an excellent choice for middle schoolers looking to explore and develop their tech-savvy skills.

Visual Art Classes

Kids don’t have to be the next Monet or Van Gogh to enjoy art classes. Whether it’s painting, sketching, or pottery, visual art makes for enjoyable after-school activities for middle schoolers. Art is a great way for middle schoolers to develop skills related to problem-solving, detail orientation, and communication.

Theatre Groups

The theater arts invite youth to express themselves while meeting new friends and gaining interpersonal skills. Most importantly, joining theater (especially for extroverted youth) make for an excellent extracurricular for young students! Plus, it can be rewarding for a child to have their hard work pay off in the form of a final recital or show.

Chess Clubs

Chess is a game that requires strategic thinking, problem-solving skills, and critical decision-making. By participating in after-school chess clubs, middle schoolers can exercise their minds and develop these important skills.

Not only is chess a fun and engaging activity, but it has been shown to improve test-taking skills and overall academic performance. For students who are passionate about strategy-based games, chess clubs provide an opportunity to hone their skills and work towards becoming the next Magnus Carlson, one of the greatest chess players of all time.

Martial Arts

Martial arts clubs offer a unique set of benefits for middle schoolers. In addition to getting regular exercise and learning self-defense techniques, these clubs can help build confidence and develop discipline in young students. 

Participating in a martial arts program requires commitment and focus, which can be a valuable lesson for middle schoolers as they navigate this important stage of their lives. With various styles to choose from, such as jiujitsu, taekwondo, judo, and karate, there is something for every student's interests and abilities.

Whether they're looking to improve their physical fitness, develop new skills, or gain self-assurance, martial arts clubs offer a comprehensive experience for middle schoolers.

Music Lessons

Music lessons can have a profound impact on middle schoolers, both in terms of their cognitive abilities and personal development. According to research, musicians have been shown to have faster reaction times and multisensory cognitive abilities.

For young students who are interested in music, there are many extracurricular activities to choose from. Whether they're interested in learning to play the flute, brass instruments, keyboard, or drums, middle schoolers have the opportunity to explore their musical interests and develop their skills.

Playing an instrument can also be a fun and fulfilling hobby that can provide a sense of accomplishment and creativity. Overall, music lessons can be a valuable and enriching extracurricular activity for middle schoolers.

Volunteer Work

Besides dancing, playing chess, or joining sports teams, middle schoolers can enjoy another extracurricular activity by helping their local communities. Often seen as a means for students or to beef up their applications for Ivy League schools, volunteering is an opportunity for youth to help their local community. 

In turn, volunteering can teach kids valuable life skills, which are easily transferable to future jobs and careers. Places seeking volunteers usually include (but are definitely not limited to):

  • Food banks
  • Community gardens
  • Senior community centers
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Museums

The best part about volunteering as an extracurricular activity is, youths can partake in a variety of volunteer opportunities based on their interests!

Benefits of Extracurricular Activities for Middle Schoolers

Middle schoolers need a break from the academic rigors of school, and that's where extracurricular activities come in! Not only do they offer a fun and engaging source of entertainment, but they also have numerous benefits for the social development of young adolescents.

A recent study from the University of British Columbia has shown that participating in sports and other extracurricular activities can have a positive impact on the mental health of students in grades 4 to 7. The study found that these students experienced improved mental health and reported a stronger sense of belonging among their peers.

With an estimated 42% of children spending over 30 hours a week on their cell phones, participating in after-school activities can provide a much-needed break from screen time. These activities encourage middle schoolers to engage in face-to-face interactions with peers who share similar interests. 

Finally, taking part in extracurricular activities can enhance a young person's self-assurance and sense of self-worth. A study showed that extracurricular involvement positively impacts academic performance and boosts confidence. By engaging in after-school activities, students develop new skills and tackle new challenges, which can increase their sense of self-assurance.

FAQs: Extracurriculars for Middle Schoolers

Are you a middle school student interested in pursuing extracurricular activities? If you have any questions, it’s likely been asked by other students–so check out these frequently asked questions!

1. What Extracurricular Activities Are Ideal for Teenagers?

There are many extracurricular activities that are ideal for teenagers, depending on their interests and goals. Some popular options include:

  • Sports teams: basketball, soccer, track and field, swimming, cheerleading
  • Arts: theater, dance, music, art, photography, graphic design, yearbook club
  • Academic clubs: debate, chess, robotics, foreign languages, Model UN

Honestly, the “ideal” extracurricular activity depends on the teenager’s interest. 

2. What Is the Most Popular After-School Activity?

Popular extracurricular activities for middle schoolers vary by the dozens, but the most popular choices include:

  • Sports teams: basketball, soccer, volleyball
  • Music and arts: band, choir, theater, art club
  • Academic clubs: chess, book clubs, foreign languages, STEM-related clubs
  • Service-based activities: volunteer work, peer mentoring, fundraising events, neighborhood cleanups

Overall, the most popular after-school activity for middle schoolers will depend on the individual interests, talents, and needs of the students, as well as the resources and offerings available at the school.

Final Thoughts

The truth is, there is no ideal extracurricular activity for middle schoolers. In fact, the “best” extracurricular activity is one that is based on the youth’s interest, and other factors like their personal goals and career interests. When balanced with school, after-school activities are an excellent way to meet peers and develop new skills. 

From acrylic painting classes to weekly chess clubs, there are tons of extracurriculars that students can engage in, depending on their personal preferences. Besides offering a mélange of life-long benefits, after-school activities should be fun, interactive, and enjoyable for the kids!

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