Kids and Activities

 Amy at Never A Dull Moment! asked me how our family handles kids’ activities. After I got three paragraphs written over at her place, I thought I might as well toss the answer up here too, in case others have had the same question.

We allow our kids one activity per season, besides church stuff (youth group, Sunday School).  For my own sanity, I do not start much extra-curricular stuff til kids are at least 8.  In my experience, 4 year olds don’t get enough out of soccer to warrant all the hassle of being on a team.

Swimming lessons are an exception to that– we do give our kids several years of swimming lessons, usually starting around age 5.  But that is only a 5 week session once a year.   And we do it in the ‘off’ season at an indoor pool–ie, at a time of year when we don’t have baseball or soccer.

Oh, and one more thing about swimming. “Mommy and Me” classes, though fun, rarely teach kids a thing that they couldn’t learn just with you playing casually in the pool with them.  So why waste the time or bust your tail getting to yet another activity?  Just go swim with your toddler!

Sometimes you can help a child satisfy their extracurricular longings with a more casual form of a sport.  One year we got together with two other families and played ‘baseball’ (wiffleball) all together once a week at a local ball field.  

 More recently our bigger kids have attended a casual Saturday evening soccer game where friends all meet at the park at a designated time, team up, and play soccer for a couple hours.

It also pays to be on the lookout for ‘short’ versions of activities that interest your children. 

 Several of my kids enjoy acting.  There is a local music theater group that they have thought of trying out for.  But it involves practices 5 nights a week for several months before each performance.   That is way too intense for our family. 

I have told our kids that they are welcome to try out for this after they have a driver’s license and can drive themselves.   Until then, we allow them to participate in a Missoula Children’s Theater production once a year.   This also is 5 days a week, but for only ONE week, and then there are two performances.   THAT we can handle!

It can be challenging to decide just what is truly worthwhile when it comes to kids’ activities.   There are so many neat opportunities out there.   But guess what?   Having dinner with your own family a few nights a week is also a neat thing.   For our family’s sanity, I am glad we have chosen to go ‘moderate.’

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  1. I learned the one at a time rule the HARD way. Now it is so much nicer and sweeter in our home. We have 2 daughters in ballet & worship dance, so 2 afternoons a week I have to go to that. But other than that, we're home.

    I have friends who are obsessing over getting their barely potty trained 2 year olds in dance or whatever. It is sick the hurry up/push mentality we have with children these days.

    Lately it seems I'm the oddball for only allowing 1 activity outside of church. Everyone else lives in their van and have to put a 3rd mortgage on the house to pay for it all. And they think I'm crazy????

  2. What do you do if the sport your child chooses to participate in happens to play on Sundays or during other church activities? (like those traveling teams, etc.)

  3. I think this is a great philosophy to have. I know for myself it was a very safe, secure feeling having dinner at home as a family on a regular basis and not always rushing off in a million directions. We plan to parent this way ourselves (and with a larger family, it seems like it would be a bit of a necessity!)

  4. Stephanie says:

    I was not sure on this so I thought I would ask, do you homeschool? I am thinking about it and could use any advice you might have or info on what works well.

    I agree with you too:) We always sit together at the table for dinner, except for pizza nights then we sit on the area rug in the family room picnic style.

  5. Thanks so much for your advice!
    It's easy to get sucked into the "this will be so much fun for them" and forget what it will do to the family. You can't beat a family dinner and a night together playing a game, reading a favorite book, etc. Things get so harried around here when we try to get out just one night a week! Rush rush rush! It's really not that much fun by the time all is said and done.
    I think we've been such a culture where more is supposed to be better and it's not! Thanks again for sharing!

  6. I don't quite agree with your older-than-5 philosophy: I have a four-old yearning for entertainment who loves his swim lessons. But riding him to the pool for six weeks now, I am happy they end today.
    Otherwise I subscribe to your idea — one activity at a time… it is also fun to do stuff for the activity to extend it — like preparing the snack, packing the bags etc. and talking afterwards about it or doing research on it.

  7. Amen Mary. We have similar beliefs. Our kids are allowed one extra-curricular per season and we really try to keep things simple. This fall we have NOTHING! And I love it.