There we were, my kiddos and I, 6:00 pm, in our car, parked in a parking lot with a bag full of Subway sandwiches sitting on the seat next to me for dinner. My daughter had her homework on her lap and my toddler was fiddling with her toy. My son ran out of the car to meet up with his new baseball team, sporting a smile that could wrap around the moon. March madness for our family has begun. We’ve been waiting for the crazy to begin and now it has.
The topic of how many extra-curricular activities our kids should be in is such a debatable topic. There is no right or wrong answer, There is only what is right or wrong for each individual family. I know families that don’t have their kids in any extra activities for various reasons. I know families whose life revolves around extra-curricular activities. As for my family, we’re pro-activities. But I don’t make that decision blindly or without a lot of thought.
I used to say that my kids could choose one activity to be in and that was it. One. Nothing more and nothing less. That was all I could physically handle at the time with my husband’s work load. That has evolved though with the needs and wants and age of each child. I see how much my son and daughter can handle and we go from there.
My 7-year old daughter goes to gymnastics two times a week, and takes piano lessons once a week. It’s the perfect work load for her. She has time to play with friends on weekends and time to practice the piano every day and get her schoolwork and housework done. I run kind of a tight ship here during the week with her. But she works best on a tight schedule and with a set routine. She’s lost without it.
My 6-year old son (now that March is here) has baseball practice 3 times a week, soccer practice once a week and piano lessons once a week. Starting next week we will spend our Friday nights and Saturdays huddled in a blanket, videotaping baseball and soccer games. Somedays, it’s still not enough for him. He’s a ball of energy and could play sports literally all day long. He finally drops at night after slam-dunking his mini basketball a hundred times into the little hoop in his room. If he had it his way he’d go straight to golf after school, then to swimming, then to baseball and then to soccer. And he’d beg somewhere in between to please play basketball. Even though he could take on more, we physically can’t as a family, so I become his basketball partner and he practices putting golf balls in his room and he swims in the tub.
I love this time of year because it means that our winter laziness is over. The XBOX will gather dust and heaps of Vitamin D will start to soak in our skin. Little hearts will be pumping faster, confidence will start to soar and our family will get a chance to sacrifice for the needs of each other. Believe it or not, our family becomes more united as we load up our plates with these fun extra-curricular activities. I also get a chance to help kids make goals and work hard to achieve them.
After my son’s first baseball practice, he came back to the car and looked a little sad. I asked him what was wrong and said he didn’t win the $5 coach gave out for catching the fly ball. My son is competitive and driven and boy, did he want that $5. I’m so thankful for coaches and their ability to push and motivate and mentor my kids. My son came home and practiced catching his ball over and over and over again, so that he could win the $5 next time. He loved practice and he set a new goal for himself without any help from me. I think sports and extra-curricular activities help keep kids busy which later on in life can keep them from getting into trouble.
Like I said before, I don’t make these decisions without a lot of thought though. There are factors that have to be considered when committing to a sport or any extra-curricular activity. It’s basically the whole family committing to the sport and everyone’s needs must be taken into consideration. What we’re doing works for us because it’s seasonal. We aren’t crazy busy in the winter or the summer. I have help from Grandparents and my spouse when I have to be in two places at once. It just works, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when making the decision to put your child into extra-curricular activities:
1. Expense. Can you afford to do it? Big one here, if you can’t afford it, there’s your answer.
2. Child’s confidence. What will this do for my child and his/her confidence?
3. Sacrifice of the family. What sacrifices will have to be made in order for my child to be involved? Family dinner, naps, bedtime, etc… Are you willing to make those sacrifices?
4. Stress. Will this add extra stress to my child, family or myself? (If so, it’s probably not the right time! Mama doesn’t need more stress.)
5. What is the desired goal? What do I hope my child will get out of this activity?
6. Is it age-appropriate? Is this something I should start them in now or would they benefit more from starting it later?
7. Will this interfere with schoolwork? This is a big one for us. Academics comes first in my house and if we can’t keep up with school, well, adios soccer.
8. Is this for me (the parent) or this for my child? Is this what I want or is this what my child wants? They should have a say in what they’re doing.
9. What are their talents? Is this something that can help strengthen one of their talents? If so, it’s probably a good idea!
10. What are their weaknesses? Would they benefit from some tumbling if perhaps they’re a little uncoordinated? My guess is yes. I’m all for strengthening a weakness as long as it doesn’t bring their confidence down.
There are times when my kids want nothing more than to be lazy and quit everything. And I can totally relate. There are days when I want to do nothing too. But in the long run, they are grateful they have things to do and I see their confidence spike when they’re able to master a new skill. When that happens, I don’t hear those complaints.
How many activities do you allow per kid and how do you make that decision?