Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do Your Kids Play?

A new school year has begun and we are finally getting back in the swing of things. Homework, packing lunches, nightly reading, and so on. And as this school year begins, I once again find myself contemplating how I can make this year better than last year.

The emails and papers coming home from Dylan's school about various after-school clubs and sports are well ... to be honest, a little overwhelming.

They all sound wonderful, but come with a price. Yes, the clubs and sports programs will cost me money - money that isn't really in my budget - but the other cost is much greater in my opinion.

The cost of my son's childhood.

He loves Cub Scouts and the after-school science program. He joined the science program last year and really got something out of it. I don't mind paying for this. The program meets right after school one day a week and lasts only one hour. It ends just in time for me to pick him up after I get off work.

So what about soccer, tennis, Spanish, keyboard, chess, art, music, and swimming? These are all excellent programs for children, but do children really need to participate in all of them? Many parents will sign their children up for multiple after-school programs. Who makes this decision?

Do the children really want to participate in everything or are the parents trying to keep up with the other families?

Between Cub Scouts one night a week and science one afternoon, we barely have time to get homework done and dinner on the table most nights ... let alone time for Dylan to play outside.

I know some parents who do nothing but drive the kids from one activity to another 5 days a week. My son knocks on their door to see if they can play and the response is something along the lines of  "we are just about to leave for soccer" or  "sorry, he is at music class" or "no, this is swimming lesson day"

Really? I get that as parents we want the best for our children, but when does the best become too much? Forget about the monetary cost, when does the price of your child's childhood come into consideration? Yes, times have changed and kids don't play in the streets like when we were young. Yes, we want our children to excel in academics. But these are children. Elementary school, not high school.

If your child likes art, then spend an hour on the weekend with them visiting an art gallery or dare I say it - doing an art project with them at home.
Do they like soccer? Go to the park and kick the ball around with your child and some of the neighborhood kids.

Bottom line, your children will only have a few short years to be children. To play. To have fun. Remember how much fun we had riding our bikes when we got home from school? Let your children play more and remove some of the structure. Let them choose what after-school programs they want to do and limit it to maybe one or two at a time.

What do you think? How many after-school programs do your children participate in?


  1. Awesome post Michelle! It's even harder with two kids! Must admit, that by the time we get home from school, eat and do homework, it's time for bed. I don't like this. I feel like I hardly get to see my kids during the week. We do Girl Scouts twice a month and gymnastics once a week. That's plenty! But Sunday is our family day, we don't make any plans and just spend time together; it's nice.

  2. This was one of the main reasons I pushed to get my kids into charter schools. All their "after school" type programs are now included in their daily curriculum. The school day is 30 minutes longer, however they start summer a month earlier because of it.

    I allow each of my kids to play one after school sport and the rest of the time is with meeeee! :)


  3. Cari - Scouts is a great way to teach your kids so many things. We love Sundays at home too - unless we have some awesome outdoor event that we can do together. I think you are doing it right with Girl Scouts and gymnastics. :)

  4. Great post. I see other mom's driving their kids to 3 or 4 activities a week. I just don't have the energy for that! My daughter is 5, and we take her to ballet once a week. We do swim lessons in the summer and that's a big time commitment (4 days a week), but it's only for 2 months, and I think it's an essential skill to learn. My son is 2, but when he gets older, I assume that we will invest in some sort of fun activity for him-- a sport of some sort. That will be more than enough for this family!