I’ve always tried to put limits on how many activities my kids sign up for at one time. Too many activities means too little time for other things. Too much running around for the parents too, potentially. But what if your child really, really wants to do more than you think is a good idea? Is an immediate “no” the right answer? How many activities are too many?
This has come about because my son has expressed an interest in three activities outside of school this year: soccer, running club, Lego club. All good activities, and he did the first two last year. The last two activities are both at the school after school, and don’t require a lot of my time most of the time, although Lego club may involve going to competitions. The soccer takes a lot of my time, but I knew that already, even if we did sign up for it before I knew quite how overloaded this school year would be.
It’s all great stuff, but I’ve always kept my kids to no more than two activities outside of school during the school year at a time. I’ve never liked overscheduling kids because they need time to just be kids, but in this case it’s my son wanting to do more, not me pushing him. If he believes he can handle it, I’m inclined to let him try.
Consider the Impact on School Work
First and foremost come the rules about school work. My husband and I decided our son can sign up for each of these activities, but he must be prepared to drop at least one if grades become an issue. Odds are that would be running club first, as it’s the only one that doesn’t involved being on a team. I don’t like making my kids leave a team that is in part counting on them because it’s not fair to the other kids. Bad enough school work would make that happen, of course, but I don’t expect that.
The good part is that only the running club and Lego club run the whole school year. If things are too much, we don’t have to sign up for soccer again in the spring, and that’s one activity down… or rather two practices each week and a Saturday game down.
Discuss how much later this may mean your child has to work on homework, and how much less time to play with friends. Also consider what happens when a big assignment comes around. Plan ahead so your child knows what will happen if they start running out of time to finish homework before bedtime due to activities.
Make Sure the Activities Are Compatible
Most especially make sure activities won’t overlap too much. Soccer has started already, while the other activities haven’t. There may be issues if Lego club wants to meet too long on the same days as soccer practice. Running club isn’t a big deal because the kids just show up on the days they want to run; it’s about individual achievement.
But can you imagine the problems if Lego club meetings run too long on a soccer day?
It’s entirely possible that this whole thing will be a nonissue once club schedules come out. If the time between activities is likely to be too little for homework, he won’t be able to do it.
Decide If You’re Comfortable With What’s Being Asked of You
It’s not all about what your child wants to do – you get to decide if you’re up for any extra obligations the activity may put on you. I’m not a big fan of feeling like my children’s chauffeur, especially not this year when the school is asking a lot of me, and I have my youngest in a parent participation preschool.
Fortunately, the extra activities are at school, and so shouldn’t require much at all of me. That’s great for my son, as being asked to drive all over town for still more activities probably would have meant a fast “no.”
Plan For Disaster
So you go ahead and let your child go for it and do more activities. Then his grades drop. Now what?
Our plan is that if things don’t go well with school work, activities will be dropped. Probably running club first, as it’s not a team and can even be added in later if things change. Team based clubs go last, and which will go depends on which is most the problem. As I said before, soccer ends before the others, so if there’s an issue with it, it will take care of itself in fairly short order. That’s good because soccer is huge around here, and this is the year that my son starts the more competitive levels.
Plan For the Best
On the other hand, things may go great. Your child may learn to manage his time well with a lot of commitments. That’s a wonderful lesson.
Even if things are going well with school, you may have to help with finding time to relax. Hopefully the activities are a kind of time with friends, but what about just fun time with friends, just being kids? Try to help your child have time for that too.
It’s a bit of a risk letting your child do more activities than you have allowed in the past, but it can be a good thing. Take a good look at the activities and your child and decide if it’s right for your family.