So, your child isn’t into baseball, basketball, soccer, flag football, or lacrosse? (Yes, San Antonio is home to at least one youth lacrosse league.) Maybe it’s her nature, his personality, he’s just not ready, or she’s just not coordinated enough for team sports. Some kids would love sports without competition pressure, while others couldn’t care less about any sport.
Our older kids weren’t into team sports. They were drawn to individual sports. There’s pressure in team sports. Disappointing a teammate or letting a coach down can be too much. Pass the ball too late, miss the winning shot, or foul out, and you let the team down.
The oldest wanted to play soccer when she was four. She only played during practice. When she was older, friends begged our oldest to play basketball. She tried but didn’t like the pressure. She did love dancing—a noncompetitive activity. Our middle played softball one season, but she wasn’t impressed or drawn into team efforts. All three swam. The girls rode horses, and the youngest did tae kwon do and horseback riding for fitness and fun. He was very noncompetitive until 12 years old, when he found basketball. He came to ball later than most of his teammates. Two years later—and it’s all about ball around our home.
Still, I often felt like the odd one out when other families spent weekends at the soccer fields or had team holiday parties. Many (but not all) kids want the friendship and camaraderie that comes with team sports. Luckily, you can find those things in other places.
I’ve got some suggestions for those non-sporty kiddos. Activities bring kids together on a regular basis, allowing relationships to grow and bloom. Many links are San Antonio (SA)-specific.
Live somewhere else? Hit up Google or Yelp to find something near you.
If your child likes or needs physical activity (let’s be honest—everyone does), there are plenty of noncompetitive offerings in San Antonio:
Tae Kwon Do (TKD)
San Antonio boasts many TKD studios, and Google will happily put them at your finger tips.
The benefits of TKD are many. They’re in a class with others, working together uniformly with a real sense of being part of a group. Benefits include self-discipline, respect, increased self-esteem, working the mind and the body, and much more. In most dojos (TKD studios), there is frequent testing with various colored and striped belts awarded ceremoniously. Most dojos include sparring time in their class. For The Batman, sparring wasn’t a favorite. Fortunately, it wasn’t required for belt advancement, and we had an understanding instructor at our dojo.
Likewise, SA is home to many karate studios. TKD and karate are similar with few differences. Terminology is different, and TKD uses more feet moves/kicks. Should your child decided to compete in tournaments, they are structured differently.
Most martial arts studios will allow a trial period. Many studios offer discounts for signing on for an extended time period. I think it’s worth a little bit more to pay month by month until you know your child will keep attending.
Rock climbing is a great way for kids to build confidence, muscle tone, and more. A total body workout, climbing improves flexibility, coordination, and balance. Kids set goals every time they reach a new height, and their confidence grows. It also helps develop focus and concentration and can be beneficial to kids with autism, sensory needs, and physical disabilities. For the more competitive, there are rock climbing teams and competitions.
Both Lifetime Fitness locations in SA offer rock climbing for children.
A few other options for rock climbing:
Kids who avoid sports because of team pressure or contact may enjoy golf. San Antonio has plenty of opportunity for all ages to learn golf. Check out Megan’s post, How to Get Kids Playing Golf in San Antonio.
Like other physical activities, kids get similar benefits from being physically active with gymnastics. They also get the opportunity to be with others their own age while interacting with older coaches. They learn how to take turns, respect others, and make new friends. Skills, coordination, and balance can all be improved with gymnastics. They further develop body awareness.
There are any gymnastics centers in San Antonio offering programs for all ages. Some offer the opportunity to participate in competitive gymnastics. Some offer parkour classes for all ages. Google will be more than happy to help you out.
Swimming is a popular sport in our family. It began at a neighborhood summer swim league with the older two kids. The oldest went on to swim on the high school swim team and, as a teenager, taught swimming lessons for a couple years. The Batman started with Love to Swim as an infant in classes at the local gym. He went on to go through the Love to Swim program. He now swims with Paragon Training and on a local summer swim league.
Swimming is an independent team sport. If you participate in competition, you’re out there to do your best and rack up points for your team, without the team pressure of something like basketball or volleyball.
Swimming has multiple benefits. It improves fitness, uses every one of the body’s major muscle groups, promotes strength and coordination, and promotes water safety. Unlike other activities, swimming can save lives—drowning is a leading cause of death for children.
San Antonio is home to many opportunities for year-round swim lessons and swim teams. Most large gyms (Lifetime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, etc.) offer swim lessons if they have a pool. As I mentioned earlier, we love Paragon Training. Paragon offers swimming five days a week for the homeschool community. Competitions are available but not mandatory. Paragon also offers triathlon training for kids, a running camp, and a once-a-week bicycle program—competition is optional.
Some local options for swimmers:
It’s never too early to start a child on an adventure of a lifetime of running. I’ve got just the recommendation for you! Kids Run San Antonio (KRSA) is part of We Run San Antonio. KRSA is a non-competitive, community-driven program that stresses the importance of physical fitness in a fun environment. Best of all, it’s FREE! Costs may be associated if your child chooses to participate in a formal run. We did KRSA for a couple of seasons. It was fun, and I walked the local track with another mom while my son participated. Alas, we are not a running family, as our knees doth protest too much. Even for non-runners, KRSA was a good fit.
Maybe you’ve seen their little signs along your neighborhood roads and wondered about i9. If your child wants to learn various team sports without the pressure of big competition, I’d strongly suggest checking out i9 Sports. i9 is a nationwide program throughout the U.S. that offers leagues, camps, and clinics for girls and boys in flag football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and cheerleading. Kids get unique experiences while learning about the foundation of the sport along and good sportsmanship on and off the field or court.
Full disclosure: We love i9! We’ve done flag football and, of course, basketball. I mentioned earlier, The Batman came to ball later than his peers, but with i9 that didn’t matter. They meet once a week for about 90 minutes. The first 45 minutes are spent learning fundamental skills and drills. The last 45 minutes are spent in a game with another i9 team. Parents are encouraged to cheer for both teams, and unsportsmanlike conduct is not tolerated. At the first meeting parents and players learn the values of i9. It’s a great way to try a sport.
Do you have a Hunger Games fan or a younger Brave enthusiast? Maybe they’ll like learning to shoot an arrow with a bow. Archery is fantastic for kids! Archery requires skill, concentration, and perseverance, according to the ATA (Archery Trade Association). Two Texas teachers even started teaching archery to help third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders understand geometry! Archery also builds confidence while teaching kids to follow directions, set goals, and challenge themselves.
Here are a few archery opportunities in SA:
Texas Archery Association (scroll down to San Antonio for range locations)
Maybe your child isn’t interested in physical activity. Maybe he/she wants to exercise in a less physically strenuous way. We’ve got some ideas for that, too!
4-H is not just for farm kids anymore. Did you know 4-H has several types of clubs for third- through 12th-graders? They do, and you only need five youths to form your own club. While they still have the standard projects of cooking and veterinary science, they’ve expanded to include robotics, citizenship, rocketry, aerospace, international travel, theatre and performance art, and so much more. Check it out!
Going strong since 1912, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is more than a pack of girls selling those cookies you hide in the back of the freezer behind the peas and cauliflower. (Your secret is safe with me.) Their mission is, “Building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Girl Scouts is worldwide and for girls from Kinder to 12th grade. (Yes, your child can join Girl Scouts in KINDERGARTEN!) There aren’t many extracurricular activities kids can begin in Kinder and follow through high school. An inclusive program, they’ve got something for every girl. Find a troop near you.
Around for 100 years, Boy Scouts of America provides “…programs for young people that build character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.” Boys Scouts serves boys ages 7–20 years old. Learn more about Boy Scouts and find a troop near you.
If you’re a military family and new in town, check here for the various activities for school-aged children on base or at Ft. Sam Houston. They offer programs affiliated with 4-H, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and more. These activities focus on mentorship, leadership skills, community service, etc. (They offer sports programs as well.)
Non-physical Academic Activities
San Antonio schools and independent venues offer many ways to get together with others and work together to exercise your brain!
Engineering & Robotics
Robotics employs hands-on STEM learning and develops creative problem solving skills, teamwork, and a sense of accomplishment.
Engineering for Kids is a comprehensive engineering program, offering “age appropriate, inquiry-based, hands-on-learning for children ages 4 to 14 through FUN activities from designing and constructing rockets, hot air balloons, and roller coasters to LEGO® Robotics and video game designing.” Check their site for club locations and summer camps in your area.
Sylvan Learning Centers offer Robotics as well. They’re not just for reading and writing!
Maybe you’re raising the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Youth Code Jam, recognized by President Obama in 2016, introduces upper elementary through high school students to computer science and is right here in San Antonio!
This post, from the San Antonio Express-News, offers many computer resources for kids in the SA area.
rackspacechess.com says it best: “We need people with logical thinking skills, problem solving ability, and technical creativity. Chess develops all these skills.”
Chess has many benefits. It can be taught as young as four years old, but those in second grade seem to be the ideal age for learning the game. It increases reading and math skills and hones logic and planning skills.
Click here for local tournament, class, and private instruction information.
Many schools have chess clubs, tournaments, and activities as well.
Check out chesskid.com for chess practice at home.
Why teach your child to cook? Besides the obvious—to keep from going hungry as an adult—there are other reasons learning to cook is a good idea. Learning in a class with friends is the icing on the cake (puns intended).
Food is more than a human need. Friends and families connect, build relationships, and make memories while preparing and eating meals together. Cooking also gives your kids responsibility. Learning to do things on their own give a sense of confidence and pride in the final product. Plus, when they’ve helped make a dish, kids might be more likely to give it a positive review.
Cooking teaches science, basic math skills, and sequencing skills. Cooking alongside your child is also a great time to discuss good food choices and basic nutrition. Learning has never been so tasty!
You can find a lot of hints on cooking at home with your kids here.
If your child is seeking a group experience or wants to get some friends together for some cooking fun, San Antonio offers several opportunities for cooking with kids:
There are many art opportunities in SA, from summer camps to year-round classes to after-school art classes. Art benefits children in many ways. It enhances fine motor skills, problem solving, creativity, and individuality, as well as helping kids express themselves.
We loved many art classes throughout the years. Homeschool co-ops and classes with real artists were always a hit at our home. We’ve loved The Southwest School of Art classes, and we’ve had amazing experiences with the teachers from My Art Starz too!
Here are a few options for budding artists:
The Southwest School of Art Young Artist Programs (these classes fill up fast, so sign up early!)
My Art Starz (multiple after-school programs, along with independent other locations)
Young Rembrandts (an after-school art program)
Maybe your child is interested in music? When I was growing up, my dad was the quiet kind, but he had one rule: You begin piano lessons when you start Kindergarten and continue until you graduate. You’d think I’d have become a great player after so many years behind the keys—ha! I play enough to love it; to appreciate really good pianists; and to play my feelings out after a long day.
All of our children started out with Music Masters, a comprehensive experiential music program for kids ages 3 to 7. From there, they all took piano lessons—not as long as I did, as horses and dance got in their way. The youngest still takes lessons. He has the coolest teacher. For one recital, he played the theme to The Walking Dead and an original musical piece he wrote himself. My middle child plays guitar.
By now, we all know the benefits of music: how it helps our brain and aids in understanding things like mathematics. In case you were knee deep in diapers and spit up when that stuff came out, you can find more about the benefits of music here and here.
There are endless private instructors in SA. I’ll briefly focus on some of the group programs available:
Music Masters, a program for ages 3–7.
Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA) has several levels of orchestras for youths aged 8–20 years old. Most instruments require one year experience.
Children’s Chorus of San Antonio has multi-level choruses and ensembles for ages 5–22.
School of Rock is for all age groups. One of our ACMB writers has a teen enrolled here and spoke highly of this program.
Music Together is a program for little ones.
San Antonio Parks and Recreation offers a variety of music classes.
Our oldest two danced for many years. They loved ballet, tap, and jazz at Connolly Dance Arts. Dance offers many benefits for girls AND boys. Dance is social, great for fitness, can increase coordination and posture, and helps to develop an overall improved sense of the body and its movements.
San Antonio is home to a variety of amazing dance studios. Some start children as early as two or three years old. Here are a few to get you started. (Google can help with the rest.)
I once had a four-year-old Batman. I mean, my son was Batman. Painfully shy, he’d only talk to others outside the family if he was wearing his Batman mask. So, I did what every mom would do: made sure I had plenty of Batman masks around. If he liked you, he may have explained that really, he was Bruce Wayne, but really, again, he was Adam West. When he was about five, I enrolled him in a Superheroes acting class at the Magik Theatre. Little did we know, he’d later take more classes and become relaxed and confident when talking in front of others, giving class presentations, or reciting Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech in his homeschool history class. Theatre classes improve confidence, increase self-esteem, and produce calm confident speakers.
Here are a few options in San Antonio:
This is only the beginning of opportunities for those less competitive, less sports-minded kids. There are many things they can do to keep fit and enjoy the company of their peers. Through the years, our family enjoyed swimming, basketball, horseback riding, acting classes, piano, violin, guitar, and robotics. What does your family do?