All work and no play make for a frustrated child. The answer, according to Andra Coberly Webster, executive director of communications at the YMCA of Northern Colorado, is often extracurriculars, from after-school programs to sports, theater and music classes. After all, she said, “Kids need safe spaces after school so parents can provide for their families. It’s vital to families, communities and society.”

Josh Hill, programming manager at Boulder Rock Club, agreed, noting, “Not every kiddo thrives in the classroom, and extracurricular activity can provide them with the opportunity to better understand and practice social skills, improve their physical fitness and potentially find a new outlet or coping skill that they can utilize throughout the rest of their lives.” Laura Amaya, president of Airborne, which offers gymnastics, dance and “trampoline-ninja-tumbling,” added, Movement-based extracurriculars “help children learn about their bodies, help facilitate brain development and instill confidence.”

After-school activities can also get children outside and off screens, said Liz Napp, manager and program administrator at Sunflower Farm. She said, “We want kids to feel the unconditional love of a new baby lamb or goat and find worms in the dirt.”

Thankfully, Boulder County has an incredible lineup of awesome extracurriculars that stretch the mind, strengthen the body and connect with the natural world. 

YMCA of Northern Colorado, Flag FootballYMCA of Northern Colorado
The YMCAs of Northern Colorado after-school programs “provide children with homework help, active playtime and group activities, games and projects to keep them engaged and moving,” said Coberly Webster. Fall sports include basketball, flag football, hockey and volleyball. Financial assistance is available to “ensure all children have opportunities to learn and grow,” she said.

Boulder Rock ClubBoulder Rock Club
Boulder Rock Club’s after-school clubs last eight to 10 weeks, with additional camps offered over school holidays. Hill said, “Climbing in itself is a great opportunity for anyone, especially kiddos, to learn how to set reasonable goals measure progress and process failure.” He continued, Boulder Rock Club provides “new climbers with the skills and abilities to not only be proficient in their new activity but to excel.”

Airborne GymnasticsAirborne
At Airborne, “we offer something for everyone,” said Amaya, “from little three-year-olds learning colors and cartwheels in our Sweet Pea Educational Gymnastics Program to highly competitive gymnasts that are bound for NCAA gymnastics.” Those eager to channel their inner ninja will want to check out Airborne’s trampoline and tumbling classes. Amaya said, “We strive to teach all of our athletes (that) with perseverance you can learn to do hard things.”

Sunflower FarmSunflower Farm
Children learn hands-on at Sunflower Farm, said Napp. “Everything from animal care to harvesting and planting and learning about where their food comes from to life and death of our natural world,” she said. “It’s important for us to get kids and families outside connecting with nature, unplugging from our modern-day living.” Sunflower Farms offers preschool and school-aged programming, and after-school programs are in the works.

Boulder Performing Arts Co.Boulder Performing Arts Co.
For more than 40 years, Boulder Performing Arts has been nurturing student teamwork and leadership, said owner Pollyanna Demitro. She explained, “Some students are just beginning to discover their talent while others are preparing to have the self-confidence to audition for a starring role. Practicing speaking in front of a group or reading a script with expression help kids develop empathy for their character and discover who they are and want to be.” This fall the company will perform Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”

HB WoodsongsHB Woodsongs
“There are so many benefits to learning an instrument,” said owner Sondra Blanchard. “The student is learning a new language, how to listen, how to play with others, how to be patient. There is tremendous creativity and grit in the process. Students learn to get comfy with failure and trying again.” In addition to offering instrument rentals, HB Woodsongs’ studio lessons include guitar, mandolin, bass, ukulele, piano and banjo.

ABC Kids ClimbingABC Kids Climbing
Climbing is a great way to teach kids balance, controlled falls, motor skills and general confidence, said manager Kristen Lutz. ABC Kids Climbing’s advanced programs emphasize route reading, footwork, dynamic and static movement, endurance and strength training. Lutz said, “We promote collaboration within each program, which provides a well-rounded social and physical learning experience.”

Pedaling MindsPedaling Minds
Founded by the Olympian Mike Friedman in 2014 after he retired from professional cycling, Pedaling Minds is a nonprofit “on a mission to help every person have fun learning how to ride a bicycle with control and confidence,” said director of operations Noemi Leick. The organization runs indoor and outdoor camps during school-off days. Winter classes feature STEM activities such as powering light bulbs with cycling power.

Rocky Mountain Theatre for KidsRocky Mountain Theatre for Kids
Rocky Mountain Theatre for Kids delivers a unique combination of education, performance and community, said executive director Barry Freniere. “You might also say process and product meet fun and friends.” After-school classes are available, as is Actors Academy for advanced students. “We give students, beginner and experienced alike, a professional theater experience, as well as a personal, in-depth and holistic perspective on the crafting of theater,” Freniere said.

BVSD Lifelong LearningBVSD Lifelong Learning
Boulder Valley School District’s Lifelong Learning program includes after-school and “late start Wednesday” enrichment classes. BVSD communications manager Matt Jenkins said, “Our classes are skill-focused, so kids get practical learning in their areas of interest while having a blast with their friends.” Class options include chess, cooking, sports, music and hula hooping. “Igniting a spark outside of the classroom can improve children’s attitude toward school and boost their self-confidence,” he said.

By Sarah Huber, Raised in the Rockies