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Too Many Choices! How To Prioritize Your Kids’ Activities

Kids activities

By Jen Murphy

Swim team, soccer, karate, robotics club, band, music lessons, and the list goes on…. So. Many. Choices. The options for after-school activities are mind-blowing. Yet we want our children to find their “thing” and to discover a passion. We want them to be incredible, of course!

Well, the good news is, your child is incredible. He or she has many talents and strengths, and sometimes those qualities shine through in an activity, and sometimes they don’t. But that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK. Here’s why: There is less than a 1 percent chance your child will use his or her soccer skills or music lessons in a professional career, but there is a 100% chance he or she will benefit from the character gained from participating in that activity. In other words, when you weigh the pros and cons of participation, you might include a holistic approach that looks at more than just the activity itself.

Avoid making a ‘mad dash’

It’s easy for a child to want to do everything, and many kids have a wide range of interests, but a number of factors (including time and money) make it impossible for each child to take part in every activity. To avoid over-scheduling and undue stress, time is a critical factor to consider. Before adding one more thing to the weekly schedule, ask yourself if it’s practical. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Will it create a “mad dash” to get everyone in the car, out of the house, and somewhere on time in order to add this activity?
  • Is there free time in your family’s schedule?
  • Most importantly, does this help build an aspect of my child’s character that isn’t being met in some other way?

If it doesn’t help in a way that school, home, friends, and the undervalued “free” play time can, then it probably isn’t worth it to add another “to do” to the schedule. Free time not only allows for relaxation with your family, but it also allows children to use their imagination and creativity – which is so important in their growth and development.

When you get a curve ball…

That said, there are times when activities ARE worth the extra time, money, and effort. A few years ago, our foster son announced that he wanted to play baseball. Well, this came as a surprise since the only sport we had seen him even mildly express interested in was basketball — and only because his friends enjoyed it. At first, we dismissed the idea because neither of us enjoys watching baseball, and we both were busy juggling full-time jobs. But then we considered what his involvement in a team would mean: an additional sense of belonging, a coach that would be a positive male role model, and a place for discipline and structure in an active environment.

Looking at those benefits, we knew we had to make the time and re-adjust the family’s balance to meet his needs. So, instead of an end-of-day workout at the gym, I took an early morning class. And, the three nights a week he had practice, we ate dinner a bit later. It worked.

There have been other times we haven’t added activities to the schedule because it’s just too much. We have learned to say “no” more often, and that’s been healthy for our family. But in this case, the baseball team for a bookworm was a very positive experience. In fact, those years have become a time in our foster son’s life that he looks back on with great fondness. And for us, that makes all the difference.

Jen Murphy is a working mom with two teenagers. She has more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk youth and is a former middle school teacher. She and her family love living in northern Michigan with their chickens, goats and bees. 

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