Just for a minute, forget about the cost of after school activities. Pretend you have unlimited money. Ignore your own time constraints and the fact that you have to fix dinner and go to work.
Now that’s out of the way we can have a philosophical conversation.
How busy should we keep our kids?
And what should we keep them busy with?
There are a number of ways of looking at this. The two extremes are of course
- Keep them really busy so they stay out of trouble, and
- They’re kids, let them be kids and let them play.
I think the answer is somewhere in between these two, and of course some will depend on your religious, community, or family involvement which will take away from activity time.
With our children, our philosophy with our children is that we want to give them the best start to life that we can, learn as much as they can at a young age, give them broad experiences, and hopefully set them up for success later in their lives. So, we keep our kids pretty busy outside of school in a variety of activities. At their ages now, 4 and 6, it’s not about keeping them out of trouble and keeping them out of the mall, it truly is about a broad education. It’s about life skills and self confidence as well.
Also, keeping them busy right from the start sets the stage to keep them busy through their teenage years and will hopefully help keep them out of trouble.
With our youngest we will be increasing the activities she is in over the next year… Right now she goes to school mornings only 5 days a week, and takes swimming lessons and ballet each once a week. Our 6 year old is involved in a lot more and more variety… Karate, dance, swimming, piano, and either hockey or soccer depending on the season.
This year Wednesdays and Sundays are days off. We tried to keep one weekday off and one weekend day so that they could just be kids and play.
That’s now, and I imagine it will change over time s they grow up and become more opinionated and want to spend more time with their friends. That’s important too. But in our house there will always be a requirement to be involved in one sport and one artistic activity.
Philosophy is great, but back to real life. As adults we have time constraints and we have financial constraints, both of which can affect what we are able to do for our kids.
Up until three age of 8 or 9, I think we should get our kids involved in as much as we can while still reserving a little time for play. I don’t think we are stealing their childhoods by keeping them busy, I think we are setting them up for a life of successes.
In our house we are fortunate that our philosophy matches reasonably well with our ability and time availability to keep the kids involved and active, but it’s not without some sacrifices – a couple of old cars instead of new car payments is a trade off I’m willing to make.
Is there a right number of activities to keep our kids in? Does it depend on the child and their age? On other factors? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I know the more they’re involved in the more rounded they will be as adults.