When I was a child I did just one activity. I rode horses. Anyone who has been involved with horse will understand why. It’s all consuming, a lifestyle choice more than a hobby. Not to mention the fact that if your parents are paying for riding lessons, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to afford anything else. The other kids I knew mostly did something like ballet and maybe Brownies. These days, children have a huge range of activities to choose from. They could try a different activity every day for a month and still not get through them all. With all these options, it’s hard to decide which activities our kids should do and how much time they should take up.
They want to do everything…
Given the choice, Boy Child would say yes to every activity going. His endless enthusiasm means he’s always up for trying something new. The trouble with this is that it makes it hard to judge what he’s really passionate about. Girl Child has had a bit of a wobble lately where activities are concerned. Despite loving them before we’ve had a bit of a spell where they have made her anxious and we’ve had to work hard to stop her from missing out on things she loves. The other problem I have is that both children are influenced by what their friends do. They both regularly come home telling me they want to try a particular activity but, on questioning, it will turn out that they really only want to go because their friend will be there.
At 6 and 8, they are at a great age for tying fun new things and finding their passions. That makes me feel a lot of pressure to let them try new things to help them find “their thing”. The trouble is, there are only so many hours in the week and if they are in structured activities all the time, I worry about them missing out on other things.
…but they can’t do everything.
Much as I moan about playing with my kids, I do think family time is important. I’m incredibly lucky that my Mum lives less than 5 minutes away. She has each of the children one day a week after school. That gives me an afternoon a week to spend one to one time with each child. Both children love this arrangement but it does mean two days a week that can’t be used for activities. We’re also not overly keen on giving up large amounts of every weekend for activities. We avoided this for as long as we could but, now that Boy Child’s love for football has become clear, we’ve had to sacrifice Saturday and Sunday mornings to it. He loves it but it does limit the scope for family days out.
I also think that unstructured, free play time at home is important. I think children need to have the opportunity to get bored and then find ways to entertain themselves. While the school holidays are great for this, if it only happens then, they essentially have to relearn it every holiday which means I lave to listen to far too many complaints of “I’m bored!”. While many will find their passion in activities, I think plenty of kids will find things they love at home. Boy Child has discovered his passion for designing things just by sitting around doodling in his notebooks.
So where do you draw the line?
For us, I’ve generally tried to stick with 3 activities. Both children have swimming lessons and both children are involved in scouting (Beavers for her, Cubs for him). Boy Child plays on a football team and Girl Child goes to a basketball club before school. However, Boy Child recently asked to join the school dance club and I’ve agreed to that. It’s straight after school for an hour so impacts less than an activity where I’d have to drive him somewhere else. Luckily they have both progressed well with swimming and are almost at a point where I am happy for them to stop. That will free up another night and there are a couple of things that they are both interested trying.
The other thing I do is try to get them trying new activities in the school holidays. Over the last few years they’ve been able to try lots of different activities at sports based holiday clubs and have both had a taste of drama through theatre workshops.
As they get older, I imagine more and more of our time will be taken up with structured activities. Particularly if Girl Child finds something she really loves. Even then, I still plan to make sure I ring fence some time for them to just do whatever they feel like, even if it is less than we manage now.
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