Even though my kids are still young, I have already spent years taking them from one activity to another.
I started taking my first-born to playgroups regularly since he was about 6 months old.
I desperately needed that outing for him even more so after my second child arrived.
So participating in team sports and activities just became a natural extension of what we were already doing since they were babies.
But now I was watching from the sidelines. I remember my son running beside the soccer ball but not being interested in touching it.
I remember my daughter spending her entire dance recital taking her cardigan on and off but refusing to hand it to me.
I also remember my son’s excitement when he scored the game winning basket and my daughter’s joy each time she put on her tutu and ballet slippers.
But still, there are days when I wonder why I’m torturing myself, running from one activity to another, especially after school.
There have definitely been moments when I felt like maybe it wasn’t worth it – neither the time, nor the expense.
After all, my siblings and I grew up just fine without being in any organized activities outside of school.
Why do we feel obligated to have our kids in so many activities now?
The Benefits of Extra-Curricular Activities for Kids
We know there are several benefits of children being involved in extra-curricular group activities and classes:
- Being active improves physical health
- Being healthy improves mental health
- Developing soft skills like improving communication
- Learning teamwork and cooperation by participating in group sports and activities, helps improve social skills
- Builds confidence
- Teaches children to set goals
- Reduces screen time and playing with electronics
I’m sure there are studies that have proven even more benefits than what I have listed.
This is why I never believed it was a waste of time. But I did often feel the stress of having to rush from one place to another to make it to these activities on time, amongst the other challenges listed below.
The Challenges of Taking Kids to Activities
Having to bring younger siblings to the activities is no easy feat, especially if they are in the toddler stage. They can’t sit still or be occupied by any activity for very long.
If the activity is not outdoors, then they are restricted by where they can go.
Even when an activity was for only a half an hour, I had the hardest time dealing with my younger one! If I tried to take her outside to walk around, my son, who was still in a clingy phase, would run over, stop participating and get upset.
I have seen moms bring in 3 kids at a time and wait with 2 of them.
I always secretly commended them for their bravery. We would stand there, holding on to a child tight so they wouldn’t run into the class.
We would be desperately pulling out dinosaurs, cars and dolls to try to keep their attention.
Eventually, some of the mothers with the babies and toddlers didn’t return. I often felt like doing the same and I only had one to look after!
For the older kids, parents would just hand the waiting siblings an electronic device and of course, things would go a lot smoother!
Often the activities really didn’t work with our timings but there was little choice.
Either it would be a sprint to get there right after school, or the activity would start too close to dinner time. Not only would I need to find more snacks to pack, it would result in us getting home late and shifting the entire schedule for the evening. Which brings me to the next point!
3. Shorter Evenings
Now we would have less time between dinner and the other things that needed to get done such as any school work, baths and reading time before bed. Also less time with Dad, since he was rarely able to leave work to attend their activities.
Ways to Better Manage Kids Activities
1. Limit Activities and Try to Coordinate
I only allow for 1 activity per kid at a time.
I know moms who took their kids straight to soccer right after karate. I prefer not to do that after a long day!
Although my kids are 2 years apart, there were some seasons where I was able to coordinate their activities so that they were either one right after the other, or at the same time and same place.
The best ones for this are swimming and ice skating since I can keep an eye on both of them at the same time. This made life so much easier!
It’s getting more challenging since they are in different age groups but I will always look for this option first.
2. Look for Weekend Activities
I love weekend activities and so do the kids. First off, everyone is just more relaxed.
Its typically the start of the day and everybody has the energy to get out and do something. Second, their Dad can be involved.
We can take one child each and sit relaxed on our own, without worrying about entertaining the other kid.
3. Try to Find Activities Close to Home
Its really helpful to be no longer than 10 minutes away from home. Its typically been a long day for everyone when it’s a weeknight, so being able to get back home quick for dinner really helps.
4. Be prepared
I have always carried around my large trusty, over the-shoulder bag that evolved from carrying diapers to lots of snacks and activities.
- Dinner might get delayed so pack healthy, high protein snacks instead of sugary ones with little nutritional value. Try these one-bowl peanut butter oatmeal cookies and these chocolate energy bites. My kids love them and they keep them energized. Plus they are quick and easy to make.
- Extra water is a must in case you are outdoors and there are no fountains around.
- Generally the activities I pack are coloring books, word searches and small toys. Sometimes it was only 5 to 10 minutes of entertainment for them and then they were done. But I think every minute of peace counts!
5. Fun or Competitive?
If the activities you sign up for are just for fun and for the kids to be physically active, you probably don’t need to sign up for every session or every season.
Sometimes everyone needs a change and if you have no interest in becoming a regular hockey or soccer mom, find an activity with better timings or just take the season off.
My final tip is to make sure you are not living vicariously through your children – as in trying to get them to do things you wish you could have done in your youth!
I really wanted my kids to take piano lessons. I once read that learning to play the piano could ultimately help children excel at math.
I convinced myself that this was a great reason to sign them up. Well the kids found it boring and getting them to practice was a total pain.
As I lectured them about how I wish I could have learned to play an instrument, I realized that I wanted them to do it more for me than it was for them!
Make sure its something your kids actually want to do and not something you wish you could have done when you were their age. Otherwise its just additional stress to get them to practice and take interest.
Well, we have now missed a full season of activities and are ready to start again.
My daughter misses her gymnastics classes and my son wants to get back into basketball. Even I’m looking forward to them getting back into things.
So I guess I’ll pull out my trusty snack bag and start signing them up!