As parents in this day and age, we are lucky. We are able to expose our children to arts and sports that we never had the chance to try. If you’re of my generation, (which is the one with or thinking about having small children) as a boy, you were probably in soccer or hockey, as a girl, maybe ballet? Gymnastics? Not these days! Your kids like breakdancing? Why not try some lessons? Pottery? Sure! Fencing, archery, harmonica lessons, you name it-your kids can do it. And why wouldn’t you want to uncover your child’s natural gifts? Show them as many things as possible? They could fall in love with Muay Thai and fight professionally (yikes)!
I’m all for giving my children the chance to try new things (within reason). After all, that’s how we all learn and grow. But in my house, we have to set a limit. I have three children, and they are each in a maximum of two activities. Any more than that-not only would we go a little bit insane, they would just be too exhausted! Not to mention exhausting our wallets…this stuff isn’t cheap!
One activity that is a non-negotiable in our house is swimming. In my opinion, it’s a life skill that every Canadian child should be comfortable doing. So that takes up one spot. The other? Completely up to them! My oldest has chosen hockey (which some would also argue is a life skill, but I digress). At his age, he practices 2-3 times a week and has a couple of tournaments throughout the season. My younger son, following in his brother’s footsteps (monkey see-monkey do), is in skating lessons. That’s once a week-although we try to take him on weekends as well. He’ll probably play hockey too so at least we’ll be saving money on equipment! My youngest? Well-she’s already bouncing off the walls, so we figured gymnastics might help control some of her unharnessed energy. Phew. And somehow we still have 2-3 nights a week at home to relax. Well, relax as much as a family of five can!
This works well for our family. It wouldn’t work for everyone. Every child is different and has various passions and energy levels. Some children would crumble with this much activity, especially with five full days of school a week! Other children need much, much more. You know your children best, try a few things and scale back if necessary.
Overscheduling children can be very detrimental to their health. Kids can get irritable, angry, sleepy or start acting out. Or resent you and the activity. Watch for signs and ask their opinion. If they really want to try a new sport, sign them up for a week long camp rather than a 10-week-no-refunds-ever session. Talk to instructors and see if they can sit in on a class before starting. Also, watch the times! If your child usually goes to bed at 7 PM and you sign them up for piano lessons from 6-7 PM at night…I’m guessing they won’t be too motivated to put on a recital.
Oh-and parents? If your kids aren’t in any activities-THAT IS OK TOO. There is no rule that says your child needs to be busy! If you’re content with their schedule as it is, and they’re getting outside and exercising on a daily basis-as long as they are happy and moving, that’s all that matters. And I’m not just partial to sports-music and art are just as important. Choose what is right for you!
Ultimately, only you can be the judge of what is going to work for your child. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. As lucky as we are to have so many choices, sometimes the options can be overwhelming. Think back to when you were a kid, what did you like to do? Chances are, your children will want to do the same. Enjoy it-and encourage them. After all, there’s nothing that can make us more proud than watching our kids have fun.
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