I love soccer. I started playing when I was five years old, and I didn’t stop until we moved to Charleston 25 years later. The decision had little to do with our move (although there were relatively few options for adult soccer where we lived at the time in West Ashley), and more to do with other life changes.
As a teenager, I took soccer seriously. I played on a travel team that entered tournaments all along the East Coast, and I started for three years on my high school varsity team. I chose to focus on other interests during college, but then played in an amateur league with former pro players in my mid and late twenties. Even though I don’t play organized soccer today, I still consider myself a soccer player, and watching the 2022 Men’s World Cup this winter got me interested in joining a team once again. While, in retrospect, it was quite time-consuming for my parents, at least they knew what to sign me up for each season.
My Child Does Not Love Soccer
Today, I am also a parent, and I have a young daughter who does not love soccer—which is, of course, totally fine. She also hasn’t shown a particular interest in any of the other team sports that children traditionally play during their youth. Fortunately, we live in Charleston, and that means there are lots of other options available.
If you are interested in signing your child up for lessons or an activity, you have the opportunity to take advantage of all that Charleston has to offer. From Charleston’s beaches and the Charleston harbor to local businesses in nearly all of the area’s neighborhoods, there are indoor and outdoor options, options for extroverts and introverts, and options for kids of all ages.
10 Activities for Kids in Charleston Who Aren’t Interested in Traditional Sports
So, if you are a parent and you have a child who isn’t interested in traditional sports, what else is out there? Here are 10 examples of non-traditional (i.e., non-sports-related) lessons, activities and clubs we have tried in Charleston—and that we are thinking we might try if our daughter shows interest in the future:
The Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston offers several summer camp programs for children ages six to sixteen. It also offers various workshops for children in different age groups throughout the year. Several local galleries and other businesses offer children’s art lessons as well. While signing up for these takes a bit more commitment (so far, we haven’t found an option that allows parents to sign up for a group of lessons all at once) and forethought (the Gibbes’ programs, in particular, fill up quickly), they are well worth the effort for children who show an interest in art.
What soccer is to me, dance is to my daughter (at least for now). Even at a relatively young age, she is already taking several lessons each week, and she dances in her studio’s annual spring show and Nutcracker performances in downtown Charleston. The studio is an incredibly supportive environment, and dancers of all ages are encouraged to befriend and encourage one another. But, while this level of commitment is an option, taking one ballet, tap, or hip hop lesson a week to learn a new skill and make new friends is an option as well.
Having visited a local gymnastics studio to drop off and pick up my daughter on numerous occasions, I am well aware of just how serious gymnastics can be. But, while kids can get involved in competitive gymnastics from an early age, they can also simply take lessons to build their strength and confidence. Our daughter has taken a handful of group lessons and attended day camps, but she definitely gets the most out of one-on-one private lessons. We are currently doing these about twice a month, and this is enough to maintain both continuity and progress.
4. Ice Skating
The Carolina Ice Palace in North Charleston offers children’s ice skating lessons. Going ice skating offers an interesting contrast to going to the beach, and it is a unique experience to pack up winter coats and gloves on a 100-degree summer day.
Similar to gymnastics, this is not a weekly commitment for us, but rather something we do about once or twice a month. But, if we lived closer to the ice skating rink, this wouldn’t necessarily be the case. Additionally, while the lessons are very worthwhile, we go to the open skating sessions every once in a while as well. As a side note, the Charleston area has two temporary outdoor ice skating rinks during the winter holiday season, and already knowing how to skate makes visiting these more fun for everyone.
Taking music lessons allows kids to learn two skills at once. Not only do they learn to play their chosen instrument, but they also learn how to read music. Parents can rent instruments before they buy, and that way their kids can try out several instruments before choosing one to focus on more intently. There are several music studios and other local businesses that offer children’s music lessons across the Charleston area.
There aren’t many cities in the country where kids (or adults, for that matter) can take sailing lessons, and that is one of the things I love about living in Charleston. Our daughter enjoyed sailing camp overall, though she found it a bit tiring to spend that much time on choppy water (during a calmer week, her experience would have been much different). For children who take an interest during camp (or whose parents are interested in getting them into sailing), there are options to take regular sailing lessons as well. The camp we tried was located in one of the marinas on the Ashley River in downtown Charleston.
Now that skateboarding is an Olympic sport, it is becoming much more mainstream. The Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) opened a large outdoor skatepark on the peninsula in 2017, and there is a small skatepark on Sycamore Avenue (Ackerman Park) in West Ashley. The CCPRC offers lessons at SK8 Charleston. Parents can find local skaters who provide private lessons as well.
Our daughter has attended surf camp and taken private surfing lessons (as have I) at Folly Beach for several years. Surfing is another one of those activities that is unique to Charleston; and, as someone who grew up nowhere near the beach, I think it’s pretty neat that this is an option for local kids. Like dancing and gymnastics, surfing is great for building strength and confidence, and it has helped my daughter become even more comfortable going in the ocean. For both camps and lessons, renting a surfboard is an option—and parents can even rent surfboards without signing up for lessons once their kids are able to catch waves.
Like gymnastics, it is certainly possible to take swimming very seriously and pursue swimming as a competitive activity. But, it is equally possible to pursue swimming as a basic life skill. Living near the water and going to the beach regularly, we wanted to make sure our daughter could swim from an early age. The CCPRC and various local community organizations and small businesses offer swimming lessons; or, if you prefer, you can likely find a neighborhood teen or retiree who offers private lessons at home or at your neighborhood’s community pool as well.
10. Rock Climbing
Like ice skating, rock climbing is not an activity that immediately comes to mind when thinking about things to do in Charleston. But, there is an outdoor climbing wall at James Island County Park, and parents can sign their kids up for lessons or one of the local youth climbing clubs. There is an indoor bouldering gym in downtown Charleston as well (bouldering involves climbing more difficult routes to lower heights without a rope). The bouldering gym offers class packages for children starting at age 12.
Children’s Summer Camps and Day Camps in Charleston
Most of these are options that offer the ability to sign up for regularly-scheduled lessons or to join a club that meets on a regular basis (i.e., a youth climbing club that meets at the James Island County Park climbing wall). If you are looking for summer camps or day camps over the spring or winter break, you have even more options available. We’ve tried kids’ pottery classes, cooking classes, and even flower-arranging; and, with a bit of time searching online, I’ve found options for nature camps, technology camps, gardening, and various other activities as well.
PRO TIP: If you are interested in signing your child up for one of these activities, do so sooner rather than later. If you try to register and it is too early, find out when registration begins. Some of the more popular lessons and camps can fill up in a matter of hours once the registration window opens.
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