Diddums loves the flugelhorn

By Mir
October 23, 2008

I have an absolutely not-at-all-facetious question that is starting to gnaw away at me, so I’m going to ask it even though it may result in the revocation of my mothering credentials.

While I very much believe that children display their own personhood, if you will, quite early on—toddlerhood is all about making it clear that I HAVE OPINIONS, DAMMIT! after all—I don’t believe that most of them have a very good sense of what sorts of activities they will enjoy, long-term. Sure, you have the occasional kid who picks up a violin at age three and is a virtuoso by eight, but for most, “activities” are a mostly an exercise in parental endurance… right?

And that’s the question: Does your child guide their activity participation, or do you? And if you have older kids, how has that changed over the years?

I have a very good reason for asking, you know.

And that reason is, I am seriously considering disallowing all extracurriculars on the grounds that THEY ARE MAKING ME INSANE. And I really need to know if other people have children who actually KNOW what they want and the parents merely make that happen, or if the parents choose (or even just steer a bit) and the kids fall in line.

It’s not even an overscheduling issue; I am very firm in my belief that ONE athletic endeavor and ONE other activity is plenty. My kids each take piano and swim, right now. That’s fine. Sort of.

The problem is twofold; first, that there are OTHER activities they’re now wanting to do, ones that wouldn’t directly replace the ones they’re already doing, and aren’t even necessarily weekly, but which constitute More Stuff. Such as:

1) All of Monkey’s friends are in Boy Scouts. I have no problem with the Scouts. I’m sure they’re a very fine organization. (I mean, aside from the whole being scared of gay people thing. Actually, maybe I DO have a problem with Scouts.) Whatever. The POINT is that I’m unwilling to add another activity to the roster.

2) Chickadee has some friends who are taking something I have been referring to as debutante classes but aren’t, really… they’re manners training, mostly. And while I originally scoffed and said “I don’t think so,” I’ve also noticed that said friends are—get this—MUCH MORE POLITE than my own darling, soup-slurping children. Hmmmm.

So that’s the first issue.

The second issue is that even at nearly-nine and ten-and-a-half, I am not super-confident in my children’s ability to figure out what they actually WANT.

Monkey played soccer for a few years. He enjoyed it. I think soccer is a fine sport. This year, soccer became a much more competitive and time-consuming venture, and what passed for skill (ability to run in the proper direction, say) when the kids were in kindergarten really doesn’t cut the mustard in the current league, and so given Monkey’s, ah, lack of actual soccer talent, we sat him down and suggested he consider another sport.

Had he said “I LOVE SOCCER AND ONLY SOCCER AND TIL DEATH DO US PART!” (take THAT, Boy Scouts), I would’ve suffered through the additional time commitment to make that happen for him. But his reaction was more of a “I really like soccer, but I like other stuff, too. Hey, look over there! Something shiny!” type of thing. And that was the end of soccer.

In contrast, Chickadee did Tae Kwon Do for many years and seemed extremely committed to it—right up until she declared she never wanted to go to class again. She had progressed to a level where you actually have to be fairly aggressive, and she is not, and it stopped being enjoyable for her. We did insist she finish out the session she was enrolled in—responsibility and money paid and all of that—but then we let her stop. She’d been begging to do swim team, so we started that.

Now both kids swim and enjoy it. But when it came time to renew for the next session, both of them were noncommittal. In the end, I feel like we re-enrolled as the path of least resistance. Monkey says it’s all fine with him, but EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Chickadee has come up with another sport she DESPERATELY wants to do that I just WON’T LET HER because I am MEAN.

One week it was that she has “always wanted to do gymnastics.” Which, okay. Couple of problems, there. One, she’s already done gymnastics. For two years! And we stopped because… she got tired of it. And two, gymnastics isn’t really a “casual” sport, and yeah, I’m not so much on board with the idea that a kid her age would have to spend 20+ hours/week at the gym. Sorry.

Another week—right after she’d INSISTED she wanted to keep swimming—it was that she “always wanted to do ballet.” Which… hey, haven’t we had this discussion before? SHE ALREADY TOOK BALLET. And QUIT. Is selective memory a symptom of chlorine poisoning? Because I’m beginning to wonder.

In contrast, Monkey is fairly content, but has taken to pirouetting and leaping about the house, and so I asked him if HE wants to do ballet, and that lead to chaos. Because NO, MAMA, BOYS DON’T DO BALLET (I think he really thinks I’m joking when I insist that they do!), and then my eardrums exploded from the wailing because HOW COME YOU ASK HIM IF HE WANTS TO DO BALLET BUT YOU WON’T LET ME?

And then I lay down on the kitchen floor with a loaf of bread over my head and told the children to wake me up when they’re leaving for college.


  1. Aimee

    Ha! Well, at least with a loaf of bread on your head, you won’t starve to death.

    Maybe rent “Billy Elliott” for Monkey and show him that boys DO SO do ballet?

  2. Julie

    We’ve had great experience with the manners/dance thing, as it’s only every other Sunday, and they really *do* learn a lot. The year-end cotillion is worth the entire price…a whole new level of entertainment. Other than that, we are sticking with swimming, but beware: middle school brings a new, tempting activity EVERY DAY. Just this week we have yearbook staff and book fair crew…yikes!

  3. Leandra

    We directed Bubba at first. We tried soccer but Bubba declared that there was “too much running around” so when it came time to sign up again, we didn’t. He is now determined to take some kind of martial arts, but we had to stop for the summer and so far haven’t re-started. Punkin, although she was born with her mind made up, hasn’t specified a preference yet, but we’re going to try either ballet or gymnastics, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.

  4. Brian


    I want to share an anecdote with you that I hope will help you in your consideration. Your mention of the “debutante” class made me think of it. In the town where I grew up, there was an organization that did ballroom dancing or some such “manners” type class for 6th grade students in town. You went through the class, then you got a fancy invitation to the dance, yada yada yada. For whatever reason, my parents did not let us participate in that activity. We moved away after my 6th grade year, so I didn’t really notice. My brother, on the other hand, spent time in that town after the 6th grade year. We’ve had some family issues in recent years and one of the things that has come out is that my brother resents the fact that he was not allowed to do that activity and he claims he suffered because it made him less popular. So, with regard to the debutante class, if it is some sort of widespread rite of passage/social activity, then I think you should consider letter her do it. As for the sports question, I’ve got nothing.

    Hope this helps. Take it for what it’s worth.

  5. Jen

    I have one child who is a joiner, and one child who is a loner. I keep the joiner from joining things and I make the loner join things. And I do think that activities at this age (mine are 7 and 5) are mostly an exercise in torturing the parent–if not the with the whining about going/not going/getting ready to go/stopping what they’re currently doing, then certainly with having to open your pocketbook and have the moths fly out…

  6. tori

    1. My brother is a professonial ballet dancer, so boys most definitely do ballet. My older son took ballet/tap before Kindergarten and was the only boy in it so he got the lead in the recital.

    2. I finally feel like I have a grip on the kids activities after school this year. I’m not sure what is different than the previous years where I felt like I would go insane, but I am not going to question it too much. My girls are doing swim team, my son is doing tennis, and my other son is doing gymnastics. The end. Sorry I can’t be much help right now, but if it means anything, I will probably be emailing you in a few weeks complaining that I can’t figure it all out. I think this parenting thing is a flip flop of sometimes totally having a grip on everything and sometimes feeling like it is all falling apart. I think it is designed to slowly drive us insane enough to let our kids go off to college away from us someday. Something I am not at all excited about right now, but after a bunch more brain cells sneak out of my head, who knows?

  7. Monica

    I am a bad mother. We went through several years where other than swimming lessons the kids participated in nothing. NOTHING. I was so cruel. They just weren’t interested enough to commit to it and I’m sure not paying money and driving all over the world AND spending the time to bully you into getting ready every week.

    They were 9 & 10 when we stopped, and I settled the issue by creating an “Activity allowance” and they could choose to spend their money on a weekly activity, or on Mom approved outings to the science centre, museums etc. During that period we did a lot of specific allowances and let the kids drive the spending. Book allowance, clothing allowance etc.

    It half worked. My son is very frugal and careful with his money, my daughter, not so much. She is good at budgeting however so I guess it just worked differently for both of them.

  8. Erin

    I have seven children and the older children were more able to guide their own activity choices when they were small. My daughter wanted to try dance so we tried it. She didn’t like dance so the next year we tried soccer. She played a couple years. She took a year off. She wanted to try violin and surprised me by being good at it. She later tried flute and decided to stick with it despite my desire that she should stick with a stringed instrument.

    Now my fourth and fifth children are getting old enough to get involved in activities and I’m more in charge. Number four wanted to try deck hockey but because I would have had to another different place to be onto the schedule and because he could play football for free (we already reached the fee cap with our older two boys) I told him it was football or nothing. He tried football. He’s not crazy about it. I’ll probably let him play deck hockey next year.

    I guess it’s a bit of their choosing with my guidance but there was more freedom for the older kids. I still listen to what they want though and they don’t have to participate in anything they don’t want to–except my teenage daughter. I’ve inisisted that she play an after-school sport every season since being in the band means she doesn’t take gym and she’d never, ever get up from reading her book if she didn’t.

  9. Beachgal

    I can offer nothing. My kid would probably love joining any of those things, but they aren’t in the budget. And with hubby so far out of whack and out of commission for driver/supervisor, there’s only so much I can do while chained to this desk. Someday I’ll get him into something.

  10. dad

    To paraphase an articulate, deep philosopher: “Be one with the child.”

    Good Luck!

    Hey, isn’t today Love Thursday?

  11. Dawn  - Texas

    I have five children, I’m a single parent, I work outside the home (full time) and I live in a large city. The “father” is elsewhere. I am a FIRM believer in extra-curriculars. The more the better, BUT once you commit there is NO quitting. A very wise school principal once told me a long time ago, “a busy puppy is a tired puppy”. Extra curriculars require extreme organization (and by that I mean the children should be organized, not particularly the parent). If someone forgets something in the morning that’s needed after school, my response is… “Sorry about that, I don’t play soccer, you do”. They go to practice and deal with the consequences. If that means they sit out while everyone else plays or practices, that’s fine. It’s the coach’s call. By the way…they very rarely leave anything at home. The more sports they play the better time management they have for homework, social things, volunteer for service work, etc… It’s a great motivator, and if you start early, it carries thru high school and college. I currently have 2 in elementary school, 1 in high school and 2 in college. I’ve been doing this for 10 years by myself. While the choice was mine to have five children, it was not theirs to have 5 siblings. My theory is if I had one child then they would play this or that, and be in scouts, or whatever, and attend birthday parties, etc… I never say no based on the fact that it’s too much for me to manage. The benefits far out weigh the downside. And how do I do it all, and how does it work? Oh, I’m not exactly sure, but occasionally you get a rainout :) and all is right with the world. It just works, and I always remind myself, it is so not forever, and we are making memories!

  12. Lisa

    I have 2 boys (6 & 12) and I have two simple rules: 1) Once they sign up for something, they finish it. 2) Only 1 activity at a time; although, I sort of broke that rule when I allowed my younger son to join cub scouts last month while soccer season is still going on. I too have problems with the scouts, in fact my sister laughed at me when she heard how much he wanted to join, but it’s a small time commitment and lots of parent involved at this age. I tell my boys they are welcome to do ANY sport/activity they want. I want them to try things and hope they find something they enjoy and/or excel at.

  13. Susan

    Guess I was lucky. My daughter started dance at 3 and kept at it until her Junior year in high school when she decided she wanted to devote more time to debate which she had started with her Freshaman year. By the time she quit, she was taking 5 hours a week. I was also lucky that her studio believed the mission was fun. They didn’t participate in the regional competitions and while the teacher encouraged them to be the best they could there was no high pressure.

    There were yearly recitals and the first year my daughter did a solo she was thrilled. She wasn’t the best dancer but she was good and her memory meant she rarely made a mistake on stage. What she took away with her from the whole experience included many friendships, confidence on stage and grace. There was only one time when she started to whine about going to class and I said she had to finish the month I paid for but didn’t have to go again but if I paid she was going. She changed her mind by the end of that month.

    In her Junior year after quitting dance, debate took up a lot of time. Again what she took away from it included friendships, confidence speaking in front of people, the ability to argue both sides of any questions – tricky when she wants to argue with Mom.

    I’m very glad she felt involved in an activity she enjoyed. I don’t know what I would have done if her interest changed every few years but since I do think children should be busy with something, I probably would have let her do what she enjoyed but limited the number of things she could do. And try to avoid anything that involved a huge up front investment.

  14. JNo

    Right now school nights are “sacred” and I think it’s important for the kids to get what homework they have done and get to bed on time. So far, they’re a lot like you children – love stuff in the moment and then it tapers off. I try to do the stuff at home with them and see how long it lasts. We do summer sports, but as my oldest moved to the next league up and heard a father yell at his son “how stupid are you? Can’t you even play catch right?” we’re trying to guide him in another direction. If that ends up being our coach – money be damned – I’m NOT putting my son throught that abuse. It’s hard – there’s no easy choice. If I had a better answer, I’d be on the talk show circuit!!

  15. Lucinda

    We aren’t quite there yet. My kids are in kindergarten and 1st grade. But what I have seen so far does indicate they don’t really know what they like. But I think as parents, we do see their personalities and their inclinations and can encourage towards areas we think they may enjoy. That’s where we are right now.

    As they get older, I do agree with 1 sport and 1 other activity (hopefully music). I also agree that you finish what you start. Other than that, I don’t know.

  16. Half Assed Kitchen

    I’ll be following this thread with interest…I feel like at 5 and 3 my kids are too young to get much out of the extracurricular stuff. We dabble. And Kindergarten takes up just about all my son’s energy, so that’s our activity for now. School.

  17. Fold My Laundry Please

    Whatever you do, DO NOT get them into ice skating! Sure, it’s great fun and a fabulous way to get in shape, but it is a time and money suck like no other. I started ice-skating when I was in first grade (a recommendation from my pediatrician to try to increase my appetite) and at first it was cheap lessons and cheap equipment and before anyone in my family realized what had happened, we were paying $500 for the boots (not the blades, they were an additional $300), $45 for a 15 minute lesson, and enduring 4 am wakeup calls to get to the rink by 5 so that we could get some lessons in before school and then back to the rink after school until 7. And Saturdays were day long ventures that started at 6am and ended at 6pm. And we were the ones going cheap. There were two families there that had sold their homes and moved into trailer parks to pay for ice skating. And then there were sponsors…you send your child off to live with a rich person who dictates when they practice, what they eat, where they go to school, etc. It, like gymnastics, is not a casual sport.

    And the injuries are always atrocious! High speed, slippery ice, and powerful jumps are a recipe for disaster. I broke my tailbone at least twice, sprained wrist, dislocated hip, dislocated shoulder, inch deep stab wound on my calf from the back of the skate blade, ice burn on the entire side of my face, the list goes on.

    I cringe every time my husband suggests we get our own kids (6,5,3, and 1 years old) into it since I used to coach young kids to help pay the bills. Maybe if we win the lottery…

    All that said, I loved it! I’d go back in a minute!

  18. Jenni

    We currently just do Girl Scouts. And the Wednesday night church kids group. We’ve done swimming lessons (and probably will again in the spring). We’ve done Cheerleading (until bio-mom put a stop to that). We did Gymnastics (but she wasn’t THAT into it and money became tight). We did Running Club through the school (that was great, except it only lasted 8 weeks).

    I’m looking at getting her into a different cheerleading program, one that doesn’t have weekend commitments. I would like to get her involved in a sport. Because otherwise she likes to sit on her butt and do nothing physical at all.

  19. Anna

    I guess I would wonder about if this was a ‘cool kids’ request or an honest desire to try another thing. I think it’s fine to jump around trying different activities until you find one that really clicks for the child.
    (Sob story warning!)
    I wasn’t allowed to be in much at all. I was in band and speech, and… choir. All things that really only had one thing going for them- I had someplace to go while mom and dad were at work. From that, though, I don’t feel like I have any dreams or passions. I really struggle as an adult to enrich my own life because I just don’t know what I like to do.
    (blah, blah, the end)
    For my own kids, fortunately, they’re all girls and close in age. We started with ballet, then tumbling, now we’re back in ballet and this was all just this year! (There’s a good reason for it, though, related to medical issues.)
    We may go back to tumbling, we might trying swimming instead. It hasn’t been a problem this far, so I guess it’s working for us.

  20. Sabrina

    My daughter is 7 now and an only child so in some ways it’s easier to manage but I am a firm believer in allowing kids free time to just be kids with nothing scheduled. That said we average 1-2 activities at a time. Currently she has karate as her only activity but since she goes 2-5 times a week she is plenty busy. The number of times she goes depends on what within karate she is doing–tournaments, demonstrations and the like. She tried dance class this year and after a month she decided it was to much so we didn’t sign up for the following month. However, she has tried many activities–usually short term try it lessons or seasonal activities because she asked things but once we sign up we don’t quit but she can choose not to do the next session. We’ve done at her request (and dropped after): tennis (1 week session once), swimming (18 months), soccer (3 seasons), gymnastics (6 months), dance (1 month), lacrosse (1 session), guitar (3 months) and I think I’m missing something. She has also done summer camp and fallen for things there that she is asking to do at home including archery, and has asked for snowboarding lessons so she can go with Daddy. I think as young children it is great to expose them to a wide variety of things but now that she is older she is committing more to an activity and understands the commitments involved. Karate has been 9 months and she still loves to go with no problems plus Daddy takes karate too (different class) and they practice together and have a family class weekly!

  21. Mom24@4evermom

    Just a thought…kids interests do change. I know you know that. The fact that she did gymnastics for two years or ballet previously and then quit, should not, IMO, keep her from ever trying them again. I would however, make her commit to it for whatever time frame you deem appropriate. A session if it’s gymnastics, or a year if it’s ballet. That’s the time frame where we live.

    I really think at their ages they should be trying different activities on, even if it means over and over to see what fits. I know you’re not necessarily talking about this, but I don’t like the trend where we’re expecting our kids to join an activity and stay in it. Period. I think it’s healthier for kids to try different things.

    While I’m way out on the limb in danger of falling over the cliff anyway, I love scouts. If, and it’s a big if, you find the right Pack, they do a wide range of activities than will expose Monkey to a lot of different experiences. I think it’s really good for them. Also, the whole gay thing? Totally depends on your particular Pack/your particular area. Never been an issue where we live.

  22. Colleen

    I agree with Dawn, if they want to do it and we can afford it, we’ll let them. The only rule we have is that if we commit to it as parents, so do they. My almost 11 year old son plays baseball in the Spring (which can extend into Summer due to All Stars), football in the fall and karate year round. Normally he plays a Winter sport as well, but not this year because he is focusing on taking his black belt test in the Spring. He’s also doing the Odyssey of the Mind thing and Service Club at school. He loves every minute of these activities and I’ve never been faced with asking to quit, but I can tell you if he decided to quit, it would take alot of talking to convince me to do try it again at a later date. My daughter is five and does gymnastics once a week because she begged me to do it. If she really enjoys it and concentrates on it, I’ll let her up it to twice a week next session, but since she’s five I have veto power.

    I understand the thoughts of people who think that some parents push their kids to do too much and I also agree that’s not right either. But if the kids want to do it and school isn’t suffering, then I’ll do what I can to make it happen. I do realize that I’m lucky though, I work for myself and can set my own hours. Maybe it has something to do with never getting those opportunities as a kid, but it’s important to me to let them try new things. My husband was the youngest of six and his dad traveled a lot, but his mom made it happen for all the kids (she also didn’t have to work and had a neighborhood support system). He has a lot of fond memories and lifelong friends made through extracurriculars.

    In the end, I you know your kids and your situation best. You’ll do what’s right.

  23. Rachel

    Is this sort of a middle class problem? My son is only 8 months, so obviously, I haven’t run into this yet…but with working full time (don’t get home until 7) and barely making ends meet, who has the time or the money for these activities? I mean obviously a lot of people do, but it doesn’t seem like it will even be a problem for us.

    School, some form of afterschool care, home, bed will fill up our time. Family outings on the weekend, but I don’t foresee having the luxury of running all over town. I guess what I am saying is that I don’t see HOW anyone does it at all.

  24. beth s

    Oh, I feel your pain and I only have the one to cart around. This year we are doing Cub Scouts (I too don’t like a lot of their “policies”) but our group is non-church based and all the parents seem good. Plus, I am the den leader so have control over what we do. I like it so far since they do all kinds of different stuff and lots of field trips. Plus, Doug is making some new friends. We also do karate (I started and now Bug is in too) twice a week. Karate is much more of a time commitment for me but I love it so deal with the occasional late school night. I hope Bug loves it as much as I do but if he doesn’t, we’ll let him drop out after a good trial run. We’ve tried to do a few one time art classes and parks/rec classes but we seem to busy and end up having to drop things at the last minute alot. We also have season tickets to a local children’s theatre so keep ourselves very busy.

  25. Lady M

    And what if mom and dad both have activities they think the kids would like? That could lead to serious overscheduling. Ours are too little right now, but I think that many lessons are in our future.

    I think my mother picked most of my activities, certainly through elementary school. I played piano from 4 until graduation. Cello for a subset of that, which allowed me to join orchestras and such. I skiied for one year. Baton twirled for two. Ice skated for a winter. Did gymnastics for a bit. I think the plan was that one activity was supposed to continue forever (music) and the other activity was for dabbling.

  26. Randi

    Good for you Mir! I see far too many parents now a days (like a few in your comments here) who place too much emphasis on extra activities. I think that one sport and one other is more than enough!

    At the first parent teachers conference last year, Toad’s teacher sat me down and said that the only complaint she had was that he wasn’t in any of the after school program things. At the time he has done soccer during the summer and was trying to decide if he wanted to do basketball again or not.

    His teacher said, “I think the after school program would be a great thing for him.”

    “Why?” I asked. “He doesn’t need help socializing, as he’s the most popular kid in his class and extremely comfortable with it. You’ve got no complaints as to his attitude and his work is great. He is choosing which sports he’d like to do, so he does do extra curricular stuff. But he’s SIX, and I have the luxury of being home, and his dad gets home at 3:30 – why wouldn’t we want to spend the few hours a day that we get with our kids actually WITH our kids?”

    She shut up after that.

    He did choose this year to take one after school program – it goes one day a week and it’s running. Considering that he chose to not do basketball and doesn’t have anything else on his plate, I’m fine with that.

    While extracurriculars are great, I like to focus on spending family time together and enjoying the time we all have while they’re still young enough to want us to play with them.

  27. tracy jones

    My almost-10 boy did 1 year of cub scouts. It was not worth it for us. The larger pack meetings were a fiasco, and he wasn’t much interested in the smaller group activities. When we found out about the bullying going on, that sealed it.
    My girl child was heavily involved in girl scouts until middle school. We then limped along another year because she said she really, really wanted … In 6th grade she joined band and has mostly stuck with it. The key is to never tell/ask her anything about practice, then she’ll do it. Now as a ninth grader, she is in band as a main activity with pep band (for High school sports) and jazz band. In elem. school she wanted to join every activity that sent home a notice.
    So, I say that YOU should mostly call the shots.

  28. Megan

    I’m no help. We totally lucked out and all three Children did the same organized activity (soccer) for three really excellent years. They also all trained as refs so I counted that as two activities and that’s pretty much all they wanted to do. Unorganized (usually disorganized!) included mountain biking every week, hiking, surfing – general stuff like that. Now they are older they do a lot more but the general rule is that Mum Does Not Get Volunteered To Drive and Mum Does Not Get Asked To Pay For Anything Without Prior Knowledge And Approval. Child 3 has taken up guitar but is foodling on its own and hasn’t yet wanted lessons (it’s a darn good foodler, irritating Child) but is also beginning to make ju-jitsu type mumblings so we might look into that. All their other activities are in organizations and the deal is that they fulfill their commitment to said organization as long as it’s reasonable to do so. Child 3 who has overloaded itself a little this year actually chose to drop the fun activity it was doing (although we’re talking to the school to see if that will be allowed) and kept the boring and irritating one because it knew it was needed there – cue much impressed gaping from me.

  29. Deb

    Good question…I thought since bubby was young, I would make a few of these decisions for him. Then I learned that it is best if he chooses:

    1. I at first picked a tee-ball for bubby when he was in 1st grade, he loved it but had been saying for over a year that he really wanted soccer. Of course I thought every kid should enjoy baseball. I signed him up for soccer the following fall and was told by the coaches that he is a natural. Of course that had him giving me that look “see mom!” lol We have moved up to traveling soccer which is a lot more time consuming but it is obvious that he loves it. He gave up baseball for spring soccer too.

    2. I heard that the school would be offering instrument lessons at school for free. But I knew he loved the guitar so figured we would do that instead. He comes home after the first few days of school and says that he signed up for saxophone lessons….hummm…never would have suggested that to him (he has oral muscle tone issues). I said of course he could try, but pointed out that it could either be wonderful or might have a problem. After lesson one, the teacher emailed me and said WOW…he is great and is picking it up super fast.

    Guess I should keep my mouth shut and let him decide. He seems to know better than I do…;-)

    About cubs..we did that for a few years and thankfully it is super casual in our town, we meet about 2 or 3 times a month. But he is deciding that it is time to leave. I have no problem with that, the meetings are too chaotic (kids not behaving at all) and bubby doesn’t work well with that. I give him credit for sticking it out for 3 years.

    My only rule…if you start something new…you have to give it a chance, you can’t join for a month then quit. Obviously if there is a serious reason why, then I will allow it. But just because you get bored or feel like doing something new, that is no excuse. You have to stick with it (for a season for sports, or whatever a signup period is) then you can decide to try something new next time.

  30. The Other Leanne

    You know I have no children and therefore don’t know what I’m talking about, but here’s my fargin’ opinion anyway.
    1) No, kids don’t know what they want, because it’s all new to them and they aren’t very self-aware. Childhood is absolutely the time to explore, explore, explore whatever interests you. If it sticks, great; if it doesn’t, no harm done and maybe some social or intellectual or physical benefit results. Or you just learn what you don’t like.
    2) That said, some parental guidance is required if it seems there might be too much activity and not enough time for rest and reflection and just plain spendin’ time with the family. Or if it makes unreasonable demands on the parent’s time/energy/finances. Or if they already did gymnastics and quit.
    I don’t think it’s a matter of the child guiding activity levels vs the parent guiding. It’s a partnership like always, where the parent helps the child make good choices while maximizing the opportunity for growth while setting limits. No problems there :)

  31. Karen

    I wish I had something to say on this topic. I struggle with this myself. I spend enough time trying to figure out everyone’s schedule. I say, do what is right for your family, whatever that is.

  32. ~annie

    Maybe do what my parents did? If it costs money, forget it. But seriously: If two things are all you want to deal, with that’s OK. Don’t do anything YOU will regret having gotten into. That being said, the manners class is probably just a limited time, so it’s not like Chickadee will be doing this for years to come. And yes, watch “Billy Elliot!”

  33. Michelle

    We moved north, from the Deep South, about three years ago, and one of the best things I did was to get my son involved in after school activities. It has helped him so much to assimilate and make new friends. He has been in Boy Scouts for three years now and has tried baseball, basketball, the chess club and is now taking a marksmanship class. We are lucky that, in this area, these activities are partly community sponsored, so they are usually not very expensive so, if after an activity has run its course my son doesn’t want to participate again, we are usually only out the cost of a t-shirt, pair of pants/shorts and a pair of shoes. Our rule is that, if you start a sport/activity you have to see it through for the season/year and we stand by that rule. Knowing that, my son has been more careful with his choices. As for the “manners class” you may really want to consider it. Not only will it make your daughter more polite, it will give her the confidence that she can comfortably fit in socially in any situation. As a kid that moved from Ohio to Alabama in the third grade, Southern manners were a mystery to me, one that caused occasional embarrassment. I would have loved to have been able to take a class like that!

  34. Jenny

    Not being a parent, I gots nothing. Except: mmmm, bread.

  35. Cindy

    Wow, I’m amazed at some of the activities available at such young ages. I live in a fairly rural community. At my son’s age (9), we have Parks and Recreation sports. It is the most messed up program that I have ever seen. We’ve tried basketball, baseball, soccer and football (not all at once). It has been a dismal experience, at best. Coaches cherry pick the kids, last minute changes to scheduling (practice and games) with little to no warning, running ALL over the county to watch my kid warm the bench.

    My kid is not uncoordinated but isn’t that schooled in sports. Silly me, I thought this is where you learned these things.

    I made my son stick out the season for everything except football. When he sat on the bench for all but five minutes of the first scrimmage game, I said enough. I let him drop football and go to a swim team that costs more money ($125 vs. $10 for parks and rec stuff for the season) because he gets to compete.

  36. Carla Hinkle

    Well… my older daughter is only 4.5, so I really am doing most of the choosing. But I am mandating swimming, because I want her to know how to swim. She is actually showing quite a knack for swimming, so I want to keep it up until she is old enough to see if she would like to be on a swim team.

    She loves (LOVES) ballet. I am not entirely convinced that she shows much talent, but it is hard to tell in a 4 year old and the ballet class is offered after school, AT her school, so all I need to do is pack her ballet shoes and show up 1 hour late. Heh. Not too tough of a choice.

    I am mandating soccer. When I was a kid I was in ballet and gymnastics but never sports. You know what? I suck at sports. And it sucked getting picked last for every team in school. I am not uncoordinated but I just never learned how to do athletics. So for a few years I am going to insist that she play soccer, to instill the basic “sportiness” that makes life so much easier for a kid — I don’t know how long — 7? 8? On the easy side, again this is offered after school, AT her school, no games on Saturday, etc. So it isn’t a very tough sell for me and she gets to go with her friends.

    OTOH, once kids get to be around 10, I think they should have some more liberty in choosing what they want to do/not do. I don’t think adding an extracurricular to what they have — especially the etiquette class, which sounds low-key — is out of line. I would make them stick with it for a term (year, month, session, whatever) though.

    I am with the commenters who say the more (within reason) extracurriculars, the better. So long as school, sleep, etc isn’t suffering and we can afford it, we’ll let the kids do it. I was in about a gazillion activities when I was growing up and I loved, loved, loved it. Bring it on baby!!!!

  37. Laura

    My 2.5 yr old son saw “Ice Princess” and declared he wanted to skate. Three was the youngest the rink would go, so at 3, he got lessons. On & off for 2 years. The rule was, if mommy paid, he went. When it came time to sign up again, he could choose to do it again or not.

    At 5 he wanted to take karate, ice skating, and gymnastics. I said, “Pick one”. He picked karate for a session, then went back to ice skating.

    At 6 he wanted gymnastics. I LOVE GYMNASTCS!!! It is 3 miles from home vs. half an hour to the rink. No skates to buy. He wears a t-shirt & shorts. We have a month long commitment. At the end of the month I ask if he wants to sign up for another month. He has said yes so far.

    I made him take swimming lessons, starting as a baby. We live on a lake & have a boat. I told him he had to do it until he could swim the length of the pool & get out by himself. He can do that, so it is up to him if he wants to continue.

  38. Fabs

    I am torn on this issue. We have two kids, 6 and 9, and probably have them in too many activities. I agree that they should have time to just be kids, but I also want them to try as many things as they can while they are young so they will hopefully find one thing to stick with when they are older. My 9 year old daughter is in softball (year round, played in an arena in the winter twice a week), hockey (Sat. only), girls scouts, and guitar (each once a week). My 6 year old son does hockey (3 days a week) and boy scouts. They both are in jump roping and a singing group at school. It seems like we got sucked into all of this without really realizing it. Next year I will make my daughter pick one, because I think the softball and hockey together is just too much. At this point I don’t think their school work is being effected and they are getting to bed on time, but they just don’t have enough time to just be kids and play unstructured. Sigh.

  39. tara

    We have the same problems. Where we live I was told your kids have to pick ‘their sport’ when they’re young if they want to be good at it in high school. I always wanted my boys to try lots of sports/activities before we figured out what that was. My oldest wrestled last year, went to 5 tournaments and took first at all 5. This year he wasn’t even sure he wanted to go out for wrestling, but is now. He loved soccer and never even scored a goal. I think their reasons for liking something aren’t the same as ours.

  40. StephLove

    Mine are younger than yours (2.5 and almost 7.5). The younger one is in Kindermusik, one forty-five minute class a week. Obviously, I initiated that. We did a five-week session in the spring and she liked it so we enrolled her in a three-month one this fall.

    The older one has no extracurricular activities at present. However, in the past he’s had swim lessons, yoga class, music class, violin lessons, science class, and drama class. Usually just one at a time but sometimes two. With him, we suggest things we think he’d like and he decides whether or not he wants to do it.

  41. karish

    Oh, Mir. I love your blog. It’s actually really nice to get the perspective of parents, especially since my parents were the martyr sort, who would never really tell me how much I was driving them crazy, it was just up to me to notice it myself.

    But on that note, I’d like to give you the perspective of a kid who was involved in about 1987983249838 bajillion activities, because I’m in college and the memories of my extra curricular activities schedule are still painfully fresh.

    Basically: your kids will drive you insane, but let them lead, but only as long as you have pushed them long enough that they actually know whether they like the activity or not. They’ll find what they like and learn to take the initiative to seek out what they like. Example: My mother started me off in a type of ethnic dance at a very, very young age, along with piano and another type of ethnic singing. This was around the age of… 6? 7? Basically what ended up happening was that yeah, I sort of liked all these things, but by no means was I about to go and practice all by myself without someone kicking my butt into it first. And oh LORD, you should have heard the fights my mother and I got into over the practice schedule. This lasted for a solid 4-5 years. What ended up happening was that as I reached higher levels in my dancing ability, guess what? It started to grow on me! I genuinely started to love it, but even so, it didn’t mean that I was about to go practice myself. It took maybe two years to reach that point.

    And just to tell you how psycho my mother is? She drove an hour each way back and forth for group/private dance lessons every Saturday morning, starting at 8am, for 6 years. Same for music lessons, 45 minutes each way every Friday. While working a full time, intense IT job. Now that I think about it, I don’t know how she lasted six years. Then, it turned into Sunday mornings from central Jersey to PENNSYLVANIA!!! (another hour commute) (god she was insane, but I love her for it) for another 4 years.

    But finally, she became sane and decided that I had to choose between music and dance. This was when I was 11. I chose dance. I then eventually chose to make dance my life, of my own accord. I then became accomplished in dance, and piano flew out the window, as dance took over. Of course, then my mother completely lost her sanity over dance, which became an all-consuming family activity, going back and forth from classes, organizing five solo performances that each required a year’s worth of active organization, etc. (Ohhh, my poor brother) But I LOVED it, and she was willing to do it if I wanted it that badly.

    Just the (very long) perspective of a kid who was EXACTLY like your own, but who finally found that One Thing, even though it took a large amount of time to actually realize it. If my mother hadn’t insisted that I stick with dance for those first couple years, I might not have ever realized it. She just knew that I would, and that I was too young to figure it out for myself.

    But, um, fair warning? The one sport, one activity thing? I am in full agreement with the ideology behind it, but that plan won’t last two seconds in high school. The all-holy “Resume Builders” will chase you down, and you won’t know what hit you. My schedule in high school? Looked like the schedule of a psychotic girl who never slept. Which I didn’t…heh. But whatever, one sport one activity should work just fine for now, and you have a loooong time to go until high school. It’s just a matter of finding what those activities should be, which will happen eventually. It’s a matter of patience, which I know, is easier said than done.

    (Side note: I do agree with Dawn, tho. There was a shockingly direct correlation between the number of activities I did and the quality of my time management and level of general laziness. A tight schedule is a fantastic motivator.)

    But yeah. Sorry that was so long. It was just a long story. :)

  42. Kate

    You too? I’m totally with you on the one sport and one other activity. That’s my theory too. Except….it hasn’t worked out in reality. Both will do fall basketball. My son because he’s decided that that is his sport. My daughter because dad coached brother’s first grade team and must be exactly fair. Lil girl is also in gymnastics because she’s been begging for years and finally hit the top of the waiting list.

    Both are in scouts. I always swore that no son of mine would join BSA because they always lose kids, are afraid of “the gays,” and are way too worried about God. Still, son and dad ganged up on me last year. Really, it pains me to say this, but it has been fantastic for my son and family as a whole. Shhh…don’t tell anyone I said that. I hate eating my words.

    Speaking of God…the kids are in the bell choir because I made them drop out of regular choir this year because the rehersal time sucked. Bells suck too, but how can you argue when they feel the need to make a joyful noise unto our Lord?

    Oh, and I can’t forget what I make my son do: speech 1x/wk, reading tutor 2x/week, OT 1x/week.

    Still, it’s just too much. I don’t know how families whose kids are serious about sports do it.

  43. Katie in MA

    My girls are too young for me to have firsthand experience with this particular topic, but I think it’s a combo of the two based on your kids and your schedule. I think you should let them pick and choose and let them taste a variety of activities – but you’ve still got to be the parent. One who makes them stick it out till the season or schedule is fulfilled (which you do) and then let them pick something else. You know them. Go with your gut. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying lots of different things. How do you know they won’t eventually find the one thing they were meant to do that way? And think of all the fun things they’ll get to try!

    Limiting it to two activities is a GREAT parenting decision, I think. What if you picked one – or steered them towards one – and you let them pick the other? (Within reason and you still get the veto, of course.)

  44. Ariel

    My daughter is 5 and does gymnastics once a week and dance once a week. The teachers come to her preschool. I’m currently fighting a nasty custody battle with my ex husband and those classes are just about the only thing I CAN do for her… We don’t go see movies, eat out, nothing, cause attorneys cost a lot of money :) But we (fiancee and I) have thus far managed to scrape the money together to keep her in them because her face lights up SO MUCH. I think eventually gymnastics will go away, because she seems to prefer the dance a bit.
    Part of me struggles to keep her in them also for the reason that it looks better in court, if you will, that she has activities that she loves that he can’t take her out of…Just another example of the stable home we have for her… But honestly? I have no idea how I’d handle after work stuff too…

  45. bob

    I used to play the flugelhorn. ahem. I DO NOT answer to diddums.

    at their age, I think active parental guidance is necessary. Kids have trouble determining their motivations and being able to discriminate true vocation from mere interest or outright peer pressure/wanting to fit in. As they get older and have a more defined sense of self, they get more choice and the parent’s role lessens and becomes more supportive.

  46. kim

    I don’t have anything to add to this discussion, because I run the extracurriculars exactly like you do. I do get grief from other parents that just cannot believe we’re not further enriching our children’s lives. But that would take more time and money than we have and my kids don’t seem to care too much. I did want to comment though, because you are just too funny. I’d love to lay down with a loaf of bread on my head too. Hahahaha!!

  47. Lisa

    When my kids were younger like yours, I had them booked in a variety of things. Doing this helped them and me determine what we could weed out and what they would love and be good at now that they are getting older. I have a 15 year old who is happy doing nothing, but with her strong swimming back ground, this gave her a sport for school and I am working on making it outside of school again as well. But I only found this through the process and sort of overscheduled children that they were. Busy isn’t bad at that age. It isn’t bad when they are older, either. It keeps them out of trouble. But the school sport and piano are all she can handle (she also attends a weekly youth group for church) right now with her school load.

  48. Sara

    My oldest boys are 5&6 and have been playing soccer since they were 3&4. It was only $30 to sign them up for 8 week seasons and they’re on their 4th season now (spring/fall). The LOVE, LOVE, LOVE soccer. I think the reason that I keep them in it is that it’s affordable, it has brought them friends, and it gives them an outlet for their energy. My hubby had some trepidation about signing them up so young but my oldest has ADHD and so do I.

    I know how important it is to have somethign you love doing to channel your energy into. Jeremiah gets single-minded-to-the-point-of-recklessness and in soccer that was amazing! He could take it from almost scoring against his team around every other kid and score on the opposite end of the field (when they first started it was “bee-hive” soccer) Now that they are at the point U7 (I have cody play up to make him a better player and to make scheduling easier) and soccer takes a lot more commitment I see my kids striving to be better. On days where they don’t have practice, they want to go out in the backyard and practice. I’ve coached them a few seasons and i usually assistant coach too. I’ve watched a lot of my players blossom some with the help of their parents and some with the help of me because their parent behaves as though they don’t give a crap. I wish all parents were as devoted to their children as the women I read on here. It’s so frusterating being a coach and a scout leader and a band instructer, craft project leader, etc and not having parents that even act interested in what their child needs, wants, accomplishes, etc.

    Whatever you sign your kid up for, make sure that you at least act interested and know what’s going on, especially if you sign them up at a early age.

  49. Dragon

    I also say “one culture/music and one sport” for school-age children. Younger children get to do an extra activity if they want because they have more free time and no homework. Some extra activities are allowed for older children if they are very, very reasonable about expenses/driving requirements. School cross-country team falls into this category – no special equipment required, just a ride to school a half-hour early three times a week to run around the block for practice. We can do that. Especially when it turns out that the neighbour child is also on the cross-country team so we can share rides.

    Manners class sounds like it falls into the category of “not too difficult for Mom/Dad”, plus it has the potential to provide great benefit – so I would go for it.

    As for the kids’ ability to figure out what they really want – they’re supposed to experiment and try lots of different things at this age. That’s normal and healthy, IMO. Let them try a different thing every semester if they want, as long as it’s not too onerous for you.

  50. jennielynn

    I won’t tell you what I do with Missy and Red, because they are so young it wouldn’t do you a bit of good. Unless you want to take one. I highly recommend Red. He already has a southern accent!

    With Drama Queen (13) I let her drive it. That being said, I’d love for her to take a manners course, since I think they provide much needed social skills in a setting where children actually might listen (that being anyplace but home.) She takes a twice yearly drama class that culminates in a play and loves it. Next year is high school, so I think her drama fix might be satiated there.

    Can I just tell you how much Monkey and Chickadee crack me up?

  51. KD @ A Bit Squirrelly

    Muirne stopped ballet and I am sad. I hope she wants to do something else soon. Both kids do swimming twice a week. This has been a constant for them, both starting at about 4-6 mos of age, so swimming is a must. I want to start an instrument, but I am waiting. Good luck.

  52. Stephanie

    Mir, first, I think the swimming thing is GREAT. It’s wonderful exercise. However, since you guys have a pool, you *could* get the exercise there…at least in the warm months. I’m not “into” the competitive aspect of anything. I believe in doing it for the “fun” or the “experience”, or even “because it’s good for you”, more than “because you need to WIN!”….That being said, I agree with the posters who said that, just because Chickadee quit ballet a few years ago, shouldn’t keep her from giving it another try, if she wants to commit to a year of it, instead of something else. As far as gymnastics…at her age, the kids are either VERY committed or they’re just jumping around on a trampoline a bit…Personally, having been involved in gymnastics for several years with Sydney, I would nix that. Sydney got tired of it, once she got close to the “competition” level, so we stopped. Luckily, she has after school dance, drama and volleyball at her school. So, in addition to being reasonably priced, I don’t have to cart her around to other places and the activities don’t encroach into her “home” time like “real” extracurricular activities would. I *do* believe that kids need time to just “be”…I think they need to learn how to entertain themselves and not be constantly “entertained”. I think they’ll be happier adults, if they can learn that every day doesn’t have to be scheduled down to the millisecond.

    Oh…and, as for Boy Scouts…well…I think you and I may be on the same page there.

  53. Karen

    Having no children to rear myself, I will tell you what was done to me. My parents chose dance and swimming for me, which I did willingly until I was old enough to decide I didn’t like dance or swimming very much (about 4th grade or so). Then I choose softball and I played competitively and got myself a free ride to college. At that point, I think my parents were happy I choose softball and grateful for hours they spent dragging my butt around.

    Also I did scouts until I started high school and Polish school 2 nights a week until I was 16. If your kids are looking for a fun activity, I totally suggest Polish school. Uh…NOT.

  54. Wendy 2

    I have a twelve year old daughter who played volleyball this year at the start of school, she joined show choir, is in regular choir, and we as a family are VERY active in Girl Scouts. My five year old is back in gymnastics after begging to return after one session of ice skating. All three kids will take swimming lessons, totally non-negotiable there. My attitude is, as long as the sports seasons don’t run at the same time, the kids can play, although I did let my oldest do both volleyball and soccer at the same time, because I knew the following year they wouldn’t overlap. Come middle school, the seasons are different. Now she has decided that she won’t do soccer this year, and that is fine. The 5 year old and the 4 year old want to try everything, and over the years we will probably let them. At least until they find the one they like. Our parks and rec department here in town is great, so the kids have a lot of choices in what they get to try.

    I had planned to have the rule of one sport one extra, but as I am her Girl Scout leader, I am not willing to let her give up Scouts, nor does she want to, and I think chorus is too important and apparently she is awfully good, so I don’t want her to give that up either. It all boils down to what is best for you family and your kids. Each kid is different and can handle different schedules.

    That being said though, I love running my kids to activities. I love chauffering and my husband is awesome about helping, I am lucky that way.

  55. carrien

    It is possible, given Chickadee’s age, that she really does want to do ballet or gymnastics again. It’s entirely possible that she wishes now that she hadn’t quit so soon and wants to give it another go. Don’t discount things just because they didn’t work out the first time.

    My little brother has spent his entire adulthood wishing our parents had forced him to stick with guitar lessons and practice. He wishes they had not left it up to him.

    I was such a driven music activities child that there was no problem beyond me wanting voice and guitar and piano lessons all at once. Fortunately, for my parents, by high school it was I who got myself up at the ass crack of dawn for early morning band practices and stayed late after school for choir and took the bus to piano lessons. I WISH they would have driven me more often, but I did it anyway.

    Now I teach my kids their music classes, so we don’t really have to go anywhere for that one :) Makes life easy. And they don’t have any other activities right now. Because of the crazy schedule I don’t want.

  56. AKD

    Re: “a busy puppy is a tired puppy” from above – My dad was a high school vice principal who from years of observation decided that the best way to keep kids out of trouble was to get them involved with activities – I played basketball, ran track, was in clubs and student government. I think sports are especially good for girls, because it helps them see their body as something useful, that being physically powerful is a good thing, and as they hit the teenage years I think this protects them from eating disorders and over-emphasis on their physical appearance. This is especially true for girls who are bigger than average, whether overweight or tall.
    I don’t have any kids of my own, just wanted to offer my experience.

  57. Headless Mom

    I haven’t read all of the comments so I’m sorry if I repeat…

    With my older daughter, she had girl scouts and (usually) some sort of dance/gymnastics. Scouts was only about 2x/month, and dance 1x/week. She tried a variety of classes through the city (read-cheap to try) before she decided on cheer. At the time I was having babies and it worked for all of us.

    Currently, my boys (6&8) are both in scouts (total of 4 meetings a month), and an after school bible study. They usually have a sport also.(1 per season). I let them choose for the most part-except for this fall when I blew it, missed the deadlines for sign up, and then didn’t have the $ anyway. The only stipulation is that they finish what they start. I don’t think 2 things (i.e. scouts + 1 sport per child) is too much- for the child or for the family, but that is just me. It seems to give them responsibility, family time, and just enough ‘down’ time to suit everyone.

    Finding the balance for you, your children, and your family is usually the tough part.

  58. Lisa- Domestic Accident

    I think 2 activities per child is generous. I refuse to be a chauffeur, but my kids are younger and for the most part, prefer to be home.

  59. shannon

    show monkey a youtube vid of boys and ballet.
    my mom let me try everything, hoping i’d commit to something. the most i became committed was to violin and flute for 6 years, though i hated practicing and after 6 years was still at maybe a 3-4 year level.
    my plan for my boys: they must be proficient at swimming. they must always be involved in one sport. i think the long term teamwork lessons will serve them well, and maybe keep them out of trouble. hopefully one sport they’ll stick with and not jump around. and they must learn piano. for me, piano is non-negotiable whether they love it or hate it. i hope for any musical interest, but if not, i choose piano because as i got older i wished i’d had that skill, and they may appreciate it when at some point they realize they can wow their friends, or a girl, or whatever. it seems there’s always a piano around and it was always a good time when someone in the crowd could play!
    i think you’ve done a great job balancing what you’ve described above. the selective memory part sucks, but…kids.
    i’m not where you are yet so i have no advice on what exactly to do except keep providing opportunities. i fear your dilemma….i really don’t know where to draw the line between forcing them for their own good, letting them try a million things, yet teaching them accountability, long-term payoffs and what not….
    sorry, good luck!

  60. Melinda

    In my experience age 11 or 12 is the magical year where a kid “settles” on what his or her interests are. I have a fifteen-year-old son who is very committed to percussion (yea — not my first choice to have to buy him lots of sticks and mallets for the purpose of making noise that gives me a headache . . .) and a 12-year-old daughter who loves karate. Up until sixth grade, their after-school hours looked like yours — different activities nearly every year. I have an eight- and a four-year-old, and I plan to grin and bear it until they settle on something. Childhood and adolescence are all about figuring out who they are, and if I can facilitate that in a reasonable way, I’ll drive to acting class and soccer and basketball! One caveat, though — music lessons plus the youth group at church and one other activity at a time are my absolute limit.

  61. Ray

    Two activities per child – you’re a better mom than I… Mine take swimming lessons once a week. And I beat them when they suggest another activity that involves leaving the house.

    We participate in competitive reading. And rousing Monopoly Jr tournaments.

    Hope you’re getting some helpful advice here.

    Luck to you!

  62. zigaziga

    Delurking “Hi”
    I can share on this topic. :D

    It makes sense to guide a child’s activity participation until an age when they have clear opinions as to what they’d like to do. Monkey and Chickadee are old enough to make decisions on the type of activities. Even if you’re not super-confident their ability to figure out what they actually want, this is the age to let them try new things. It’s part of the process to discover what you do want by exploring different activities. My rule is simple. If I sign you up, you’re committing to the duration of the activity and when we near the end of that time frame I leave it to you to tell me if we continue or end that activity. It’s always worked for me.

    I’m with you on not over-scheduling a child into too many activities at one time. The choice of how many extra curricular activities they can participate in should ultimately be yours Mir, because the activity level has to work for the entire family’s schedule. I’d say you get veto power until they can get themselves to the class.

    Now the sharing part:
    Billy Elliot, yes one of my favorite movies. My ex took ballet when he was young & loved it.

    As the mother of a child who started gymnastics at 4 and still loves the sport at age 12. If Chickadee wants to take gymnastics classes again, let her. Most children in gymnastics participate in the recreational classes which meet once a week for an hour. The type of commitment you refer to for the sport (20+ hours a week) is for the high level gymnasts looking to compete in college or Elite gymnastics, and most will leave the sport before reaching that level. But any child that does take gymnastics will benefit by becoming stronger and more flexible while developing good balancing skills. It’s a very compatible sport for other activities such as diving, martial arts, dance and even (ack) cheerleading. There was a child who enrolled in gymnastics this week who participates in equestrian vaulting. OK, off the pro-gymnastics soapbox now…I’m going to see if there are any of those Miss Manners classes in my area.

  63. Sue @ My Party of 6

    We have some of each – my oldest loves baseball and will forego other things to play it. So I find the closest league that costs the least, that practices a reasonable amount of time AND has carpool-ability. My next kid, not so much. She will try anything, but rarely sticks with it. My rules are similar though – only 2 activities at once. Period. And they must be budget-friendly and schedule-friendly (gymnastics team? forget it).

    I think the best you can do is let them try different things. If there’s no ONE thing, that’s ok. That is well-roundedness.

  64. Jess

    My daughter (6) actually has a fair amount of input into her activities. She started gymnastics pretty little, in part because I wanted a social activity. (Incidentally, she can’t do a cartwheel, and I blame the little-kid method.)

    When she was not quite five, she started asking and asking to do karate. Our TINY LITTLE two-stoplight town has two dojos; I picked the one I was able to reach first. But that meant she was doing karate AND gymnastics. Because gymnastics was half an hour away (and because she was reasonably bad at gymnastics but was rocking karate), she dropped gymnastics. She was also feeling kind of enh about gymnastics but loving karate. If she had expressed a big preference for gymnastics, I probably would have sucked it up and traveled the half-hour.

    Karate meets a ridiculous number of times a week, and, as it’s only five minutes away from our house, I have no real problem with her going as often as she likes (which is REALLY REALLY often). She also recently started taking piano lessons–the teacher comes to our house, so I love that. I too have the one-athletic-activity-plus-piano rule, though, and whenever she has expressed some vague interest in soccer or whatever, I let her know that she can’t do X plus karate, so she says, “Never mind.” It helps that she really, really loves karate, though.

    There, how’s that for writing a novel and not actually giving you any helpful advice. ;)

  65. Nelson's Mama

    For what it’s worth…I have two daughters, five years apart and with my older daughter, (now sixteen), I limited the things that she could do because I felt like it interfered with family time and that she didn’t have time to be “just a kid”. I still feel that way. However, the reality of it is, that’s not how the rest of the people worked…now she’s kind of left hanging, because she never found her niche.

    Now five years later with my eleven year old my approach is different, I will be more pro-active, I will insist that she find SOMETHING to do through her high school years, be it soccer, band, chorus, whatever, so that she will have her place. What I didn’t realize is that unless your child is involved with particular groups or activities is that they aren’t included socially (or they aren’t here), it’s not really intentional, it’s just that EVERYBODY else is so overcommitted that they don’t think to include others outside of their “groups”.

    It’s just something to think about…

  66. Amy

    I don’t have any children, but I can tell you how my parents handled it. I took piano from 1st grade all the way through high school. I wanted to play piano and my parents wanted me to learn so that I coudl play in church. Except for a short stint in girl scouts, my sister and I particpated in no other activities until high school marching band due to the fact that all other activities were “too expensive” and “we don’t have that kind of money”. My sister and I never questioned those reasons and my parents only had to drive us to lessons once a week. I have no hard feelings towards my parents that I never got to play any sports or take any dance classes or things like that. I did do all the school clubs possible (Beta Club, 40H, Spanish Club, the Math Team, Prayer & Bible Club, etc)- just nothing extra that cost money. And I think I’m a pretty well rounded person despite a lack of extracurricular activities. So, to make a point, I think you’re completely fine in limiting the number of activities. Also, don’t discout Scouts too soon – all my friends who were in Scouts are wonderful folks despite the organization’s homophobia. Thankfully that attitude doesn’t extend to all the members of the organization.

    Also, for the ballet, my nephew takes ballet and the teacher actually has the local high school football team come in once a week to practice, it apparently helps for them be more agile on the field. So maybe that will help with the boys and ballet.

  67. Barbara

    Lots of wisdom here already. My $0.02 for free. “Billy Elliot” is so foul in language and mistreatment that you may be investing in counseling for Monkey if he watches it. There are lots of ways to encourage him to dance, ballet or not; keep it as an option. My son was the only male in his high school dance program several semesters – ballet and modern. He asked to start in his soph year to cross train with his final year of karate (black belt). Both looked good on his college apps. I hear you on the BS organization, but the BSA does not actively preach or teach exclusion. Perhaps you could spend some time with the leaders of the particular troop he might join, and attend a meeting together. The Eagle Scout also is a HUGE impressor on college apps. You have made good decisions for Monkey all along. Trust yourself.

  68. Darcie

    I have three kids. One picked up a baseball at age three and never looked back. That one was easy. Baseball, baseball and more baseball. That is it. We have explored other activities through the years (he is 11) but he always came back to “I just love baseball”.
    The second kid was not so easy. We have tried many different actitives (all asked for by him)but after a full season/session, he would not be hot on it. I don’t think we have hit on what he is passionate about, so we just keep trying one thing at a time and see how it goes. The third is a girl and loves dance. So far that’s her thing.

    My only comment in general about extra activites, is that as a parent you know what you and your family can and want to handle. There is no right/wrong method, number of activities or philosophy. Like so much of parenting it is a trial and error thing and can change from year to year and kid to kid.

  69. sheila

    As I sit staring at the lightly used $180 set of beginner archery equipment we bought 3 YEARS ago, I must laugh alittle.

    I have always been a firm believer that at around 8 yrs old they are able to pick and choose what their interests are fairly well. In no time they’ll be old pros! You know…try something for a week or two and decide ‘nope, don’t like it’.

    Our only rule has been that if they join something that is a TEAM, they must give it their all until the season is over, because they joined a TEAM…and they must do their part.

    THey will find lots of interests, so let them be free and blossom. They may find they actually LOVE something, and they might have to go through 10 things before they find ONE.

    It’s great to give them a say. More importantly its imperative to let them experiment with their own likes…it helps them develop into themSELVES. Now, this doesn’t mean that they can do 3 or 10 different things at once. Try them seasonally if you can.

  70. Vane

    I only have one daughter but I’m a single, full-time working mom, so extracurricular activities usually put me in trouble, however, I’ve always allowed extras twice a week.

    She did art classes for two years (I decided to sign her up and she loved it), she then took tae kwon do for a year and has been on a cheerleading team for almost 3 years now. This year she said she wanted to stop because it was just too much work, I told her she could quit if she didn’t like it anymore, but not if she was just too lazy to continue. She stayed on and is doing great, however, they increased practice to 3 sessions a week plus one gymnastic session, so that’s four days, 8 hours a week, and I just think is too much, so we decided she can try something else next year, she says she wants to go back to art lessons and maybe take on guitar and I’m fine with it.

    I guess in the end is a little bit of both, a little bit of guidance by the parent (involved parents usually know what their kids enjoy or would be good at) and allowing them to choose, but not allowing them to jump around activities without finishing up at least one full term.

  71. Kate G

    so i havent read all the million trillion responses but of course will add.
    always say yes to some interesting thing that will help in LIFE – do it (i.e. classes on manners, CPR, etc.) the rest i agree is just kinda one thing at a time and choose one, do the next next time.

  72. Sheryl

    My kids jump around and do different things. So far baseball in the summer is the only thing they’ve done several years running. Will has started basketball, and loves it. The girls are doing ice skating, and seem pretty luke warm about it. I keep hoping they’ll find something they want to take up as a permanent hobby, but no such luck so far. The only thing I require, is that if they start something they have to complete the season, or the number of lessons I’ve paid for, and they can’t play any sports outside in Fall or Spring because I don’t want to freeze my butt off.

  73. Leila

    My daughter, just 11, is in team gymnastics. Ugh. What? 20 hours a week in a gym isn’t a good thing? Anyhow, that is entirely, 100% child driven: she does the work at the gym, she motivates herself, she manages her schedule. She’s at grade level in both English and French to boot and her homework load is pretty high. Gymnastics is not the activity I would have chosen for her, really, but she loves it, is pretty good at it, so we pay the bills, are slaves to her schedule and just… deal with it.

    In addition, she takes piano. But that’s it. That is IT. Despite her whining to do cross country running, pole vaulting and Girl Scout…

    Her siblings have gym, one measly hour a week for them. They’ll start piano when they’re ready, pretty soon for the 7 year old.

    Speech therapy, alas, is not optional.

    Anyhow, one thing we did that really worked was the summer my daughter was… 6, I think, we did what we laughingly called the “Summer Sampler”. We booked her to the hilt in activity after activity. She learned to swim. Soccer. Ballet and tap. More gym. Karate.By the time it was done a few things were obvious: she detested ballet and tap. Just… loathed. She didn’t click with karate. She knew how to swim. Soccer… well, she liked it, but not enough to really want to do it again. She plays happily at recess at school now, but hasn’t really requested to join a team. Gym… she loved then, she loves now.

  74. carrie

    Another working-outside-the-home mom, here. My older son was involved in things when he was in elementary school. Because he was a sloth, I insisted on a physical activity — karate was offered after school in the gym, so that worked out great for 6 years because I didn’t have to take him, he was already there. He also did fall soccer and spring baseball, despite completely lacking skills and being lousy at teamwork (we suggested, he readily agreed and when asked each year, signed up again). Hubby pushed him to pick an instrument, so he played cello for two years. We moved just before middle school and he quit everything and refused to join in again in the new town. I was concerned, but again I insisted on a physical activity so he goes to the Y once a week for a fitness class. Then the school play rolled around and, lo and behold, he discovered a, well, not exactly a passion, but something that brought him pleasure — his choice completely, with our support.
    So, I don’t know if that helps at all, but I think my point is we tried to expose him to things, gave him a little leeway, and he found his niche.
    If the schedule and the bank account allow it, I have no problem letting the kids try new things.

  75. Leanne

    Luckily my two never really pushed to do extras. But when they did, I set them an objective. For example, if you want to do dance/gymnastics, then teach yourself to do the splits. Then I’ll be more than happy to give my time and money. If they accomplished whatever the condition was, then they really did have the drive to take on the commitment – I’m selfish and didn’t want to give up my time on something they didn’t really want to do.

    Oddly enough, neither of them ever ended up doing any extras!

  76. Dawn

    Oh! That laying on the floor with a loaf of bread over your head is BRILLIANT!!! I wish I’d thought of it.

    Mine are 19 and 23 and we were always restricted by money, so the unlimited involvement wasn’t an issue. They each took piano lessons and were in the school band (during school hours) and played one sport – one favoured soccer (although not enough to last longer than one summer in All-Stars – those people are CRAZY!) and the other liked basketball. But neither of them do any of those things now, so what I think is this. Have them do one sport and one arts activity just for balance and call it a day. If they want to switch at the end of a season, let them. If they really find their muse, they’ll know. Otherwise, it’s all good life experience and teaches them discipline and cooperation and all those good things but don’t drive yourself crazy with it.

  77. MomCat

    You could just let them loaf, without the bread…

    I’m in charge of my daughter’s extracurriculars, and it is dictated by budget and how far I have to drive. I have the same philosophy as you, Mir – one sport and one other. I think that my daughter, at ten, was just as flippy-floppy about what she wanted to do. My rule is, choose something when school starts, and stay with it for the semester. And also, no, I’m not driving across town, at 4 p.m. And just because your new best friend is doing that, doesn’t mean you should. Okay, that was more than one rule.

    Let me suggest that community service is going to become very important soon. Mine has to do four hours every six weeks for NJHS, and it cannot include babysitting or any kind of donation. If your kids can find some volunteer work they like doing, it will make it far easier in the (extremely near) future.

  78. Katherine

    I rather regret not signing my kids up for soccer when they were little (like 3.4,5). At the time I thought that there was plenty of time for that and I was too busy. However, as they have gotten older, they have more say in activities and aren’t really interested. It doesn’t help that neither boy is particularly athletic or coordinated, so they probably wouldn’t do well joining a team now (at 9 and 12). I did insist on swimming for both of them. It’s a life skill. They both swim on a summer swim league in our neighborhood – close, convenient, cheap. We tried winter swim team last year but none of us liked it. The schedule was awful – it interfered with dinner, Scouts, homework and they really weren’t as good as the rest of the kids there and they didn’t enjoy the practice. I did make them finish the season, but we didn’t go back.

    Both my boys are in Scouts. I don’t agree with them on the gay issue, but that really doesn’t come up. I like that they teach them how to use a knife safely before letting them handle one. I like the teaching of responsibility. And for my 12 yo, I like having him go off camping once a month without us – DH sometimes goes with them, sometimes not. 12 yo is at a stage where its sometimes good to get some separation – I love him dearly, but he can be annoying. And when he’s gone, we eat interesting food without him complaining!

  79. Petunia

    Faithful reader de-lurking here to ask you a question:

    Isn’t childhood a time to test things, experiment with different activities, until you actually find what you like?

    I don’t have kids, so I’m going with my own childhood experience here, but I think my parents did a great job with a) letting us experiment, and if we didn’t like something, give up and try another sport or musical instrument; b) limiting the activities to two at a time (i.e., if I was studying piano and karate, and wanted to try soccer, I had to give up one of the other activities first). I ended up doing the entire 11-year piano course, but I only had to commit to finishing it right before they actually bought me a piano, when practicing at the teacher’s house wasn’t enough anymore.

    For 2 years I was allowed to test my interest, and having no pressure to continue or to stop was a great way to learn about my own interests and intrinsic motivations.

  80. Karen

    When my kids were growing up, they were allowed only one activity each. My son played little league baseball for about two years, then was in Boy Scouts one year. After that, he got involved with a model airplane club, which was VERY expensive, but he loved it. He is now in the Air Force, for 14 years.

    The girls played softball for two years, they were close enough in age to play on the same team, which was great for me. Then they were in Girl Scouts for 9 years, and I was their leader for 8 years. We all loved it, because Girl Scouts could be anything they wanted it to be, with a lot of choices for activities. My oldest daughter was even a GS leader when she was in college.

  81. Flea

    Okay, first? DON’T rent Billy Elliot for Monkey.

    Growing up we weren’t allowed to play sports till we were in high school. As a mom, I really appreciate that rule. We were required to be kids. But that was when other kids were also being kids. Not running all over creation. You made the right choice with the one sport, one activity.

    Maybelline played piano for five years then asked to quit. We let her. She took up guitar and loved it. Then evolved to vocal in high school and is totally hooked. That worked out pretty well for her.

    My boys? Not so much. Same experience with soccer as your Monkey. Instead, we take them camping. My Hunny built a tree fort with them all one spring. We focus on homework. They build potato canons.

    Whatever we wind up doing, I’ve committed to one thing per kid. And they have to absolutely love it enough to want to marry it before I commit to another season of whatever it is. Life’s too short, y’know? I’d rather them have sleepovers with friends on the weekends than be trapped in a volleyball schedule.

  82. Jenni

    My mom let me take whatever, whenever I wanted and so while I got to experience a lot of things I never really excelled at any of them.

    She also made me go to “Charm School” and I think it resulted in my having an extrememly low tolerance for poor table manners. It’s really hard to not notice every little slurp or fork scrape. On the plus side, I never feel clumsy in social situations. Just saying.

  83. momzen

    Hi Mir,

    Wow, I think you brought up the question that EVERY SINGLE MOTHER ON THE PLANET has about their kids’ activities. I didn’t read *every* response, but I skimmed them all, and I have (yet another) perspective on the issue…

    My judgement on extra-curricular activities is defined by “what do I have to do?” Am I required to be physically present for all practices and games? Are there other interesting adults to talk to, or a quiet place to read? Do I have to drive, or is it a) within walking distance, or b) part of the school where they are already at? Also, do they offer activity/sport for different ages at the same time (so I can sign up thier younger brothers as well)?

    Do they like it/want to do it? Y’know, I never bothered to ask them. :)

    (All kidding aside, I think being clear on the time commitment, then allowing them to explore is all good).

    Was it homemade bread? Beer bread? Something really yummy? Or the southern favorite – Mrs. Baird’s ultra-white?

  84. StephLove

    BTW, my son’s never asked about joining the Scouts, but if he did, we wouldn’t let him. Being lesbian moms, it’s a bit too close to home. I don’t know if lesbian den mothers are banned, as the fuss usually seems to be about male scout leaders (and gay scouts themselves) but I can’t imagine they’d be too keen on it. Not “morally straight,” you know.

    If our daughter wanted to be a Girl Scout, that would be a whole different matter. They are much more open.

  85. ImpostorMom

    I have no real advice since mine is still in those I HAVE OPINION years but I do know two children in the manners classes and both seem to enjoy it quite a lot. Which btw I find so very surprising.

  86. Katie

    This is such a tricky area and I’m still trying to figure it out.

    My 11 year old son played ice hockey for 5 years and then quit this year. While I’m a tad annoyed at the $1000 worth of equipment in the garage, I’m okay with not freezing at ice rinks at 7am. He played soccer this fall and is in Boy Scouts. One of his new best friends is in karate and I think we might let him try that in the spring. Oh and at his old school, he was in chess club.

    My 9 year old twin girls have tried dance, play soccer very well (when they want to) and are going to play volleyball in the spring. They’d both love to do some extra art class type things but I always forget to look for something and then miss deadlines. They are both in Girl Scouts and seem to survive on the crafts done there.

    My 7 year old son has tried and quit soccer like 3 times (he’s just not a group sports kinda kid) and enjoys golf. He wants to try karate too. He’s in Cub Scouts.

    My 5 year old daughter has ice skated and wants to ride horses (NO!). She doesn’t have any interest in soccer and I’m very temped to put her in one dance class to see how she does. She’s also in Girl Scouts. (What can I say, we love Scouts.)

    Band is a definite in their future (my oldest played trombone at his old school, we have to wait a year here to get him back involved) and I’m going to encourage more community service type groups in junior high and high school as well as languages.

  87. Gwen

    My kids are a little older; son is 14 and very much choosing his own activities. We have been limiting it to 2 extra curricular, right now judo and guitar. This year is a learning experience for all of us, since now he has wrestling and orchestra which are classes, but also have mandatory practices outside school hours. We may have to cut back, though I hate to because he’s putting in the effort, and wants to do them all, and I hate to cut him off when he’s willing to do the work.

    Daughter is 10 and does soccer and judo outside of school, but is also in honors choir and safety patrol. Technically those last two are outside school hours, but safety patrol just means getting her up half an hour earlier so she can get to school. She walks; I don’t have to drive her. And honors choir is after school, but when she would otherwise be in after-school care anyway, so it doesn’t affect my schedule at all. One concert per semester is the only commitment.

    We are trying to let the kids drive what they want to do, but have to put reasonable limits out there. Daughter tried out for and got asked to join a select soccer team, but we decided the time and financial commitment was too much. We sat down and explained to her why she couldn’t do it.

    One point, which will apply to both kids, is that extra- curriculars *do* matter for both applying to and getting scholarships for college. Not a big deal for your kids yet, but definitely on the front burner for my 14 year old white male son who won’t be qualifying for any minority scholarships. One of the reasons I am not complaining about costs of these activities is the hope that they will help pay us back that way.

  88. lindasands

    Right on target as usual, Mir. My 10 yr old daughter just decided to quit dance– after 7 years, mind you. seems the new teacher is a bit of a wanker and the battles and tears to get her to go 30 minutes away during traffic hour weren’t worth it. We started our kids on the “finish what you start mentality” then realized- it was hurting US more than them and the money we’d save would pay for future hours on the shrink’s couch. So , even though the 14 yr old has tried wrestling, baseball, soccer, football, guitar, horseback riding, fencing, Tae kwon do and probably something else I am trying to forget– he doesn’t do ANY competitive sport and all he’s costing me is a few tutoring sessions and the occasional gym guest fee. So, um. How about a cosmo? I happen to have a little more discretionary income thanks to a quitter.

  89. Renee

    I have a policy of letting my girls, ages 13 and 11 try one activity per semester. My younger daughter wanted to try soccer, which I avoided because of the time commitment involved and because she has a difficult time following through with commitments. I did not want our lives to revolve around soccer practice and games and felt that she needed to focus on school. Instead, she went to several summer camps in an attempt to discover her interests. This year, we settled on 6th grade band. She plays the flute, and this does not require a huge after-school time commitment. She spends 30 minutes a day practicing and is learning responsibility and is making friends, where in the past she has had trouble finding girls with similar interests and personalities. She is not a dedicated student, and I have been reluctant to schedule after-school activities for her that would interfere with homework. Currently, the older one plays basketball in fall and softball in spring. She is not really a great athlete, but has made great friends with girls from families with good values. She is an excellent, responsible student, therefore she schedules homework around practice. Our experience with extracurriculars has helped the girls make social connections, and their limited participation in various activities allows us to be together at home during the week, too.

  90. Dawn

    I struggle with this too, not just with the scheduling but also the financial aspect. However, I temper my thinking with remembering what it was like when I was a child and the world seemed full of endless possibilities.

    I mean, really, children lack the experience to know what they might like, or what they might be good at. All they have to go on is how they feel at the moment. Childhood should be the time to experiment with a wide variety of (legal) activities as they discover their strengths and talents. It won’t always turn out as they envision but that is a life lesson in and of itself.

    My seven year old has tried dance, gymnastics, swimming, Brownies, piano, violin, and horseback riding. The only rule we have is, if you commit to it, you play for the season/session.
    Dance lasted two years and then, although she liked it, she traded for gymnastics.
    Gymnastics lasted 18 months until a jerk coach made a comment that has turned her off to the sport forever. ☹
    Swimming, two years and running…loves it.
    Horseback riding went 18 months but the stable expects you will eventually buy a horse and stable it there. When I have an extra $1000 a month for a pet, we will reconsider.
    Violin lasted a year and then she chose to focus solely on piano (she was learning both concurrently.)
    Girl scouts = 3rd year in… Where does that leave her now? She recently tried out for and made the school dance team and has decided to try cheerleading as well. She would also like to take a cooking class as well, and with a Young Chef’s Academy fairly close by, in the spring she will get to do that (ha! I’m hoping she loves it and takes over the family meals…please, please, please!)

    My four year old is going into her second year of gymnastics and loves it. Her schedule hasn’t exploded…yet.

    I think I lost where I was going with this, but I think it’s that I want to capitalize on this willingness to try new activities, because a lot of this passion will fade or be hidden in middle school where it won’t be cool to just be learning something for the first time. So, we recently joined the Y because she can try all sorts of things without breaking the bank… as for the running around, the day will soon come when I will miss this chaos.

  91. Cele

    I am a firm believer in Scouting, I was a scout for nine years, and learned a heck of a lot. You’re the parent and in charge of what they hate and what they embrace.

    Personally I can see where manners classes would hurt anyone, besides people who hate indescrimantely, the only thing I dislike more is bad manners.

    As to your rules about activities and the amount they are into, you’re being smart and saving your sanity.

  92. Jen

    This is really interesting – so are the comments! As the single parent of one, struggling to make ends meet, my child went to after-school clubs till 7pm every night when we were in Paris and till 6.30pm when we moved to the UK. Needless to say, I couldn’t sign her up for anything during the week because a) all my cash went on the after school club and b) I couldn’t take her anywhere… French school was pretty good, they had various activities on a Wednesday afternoon, including fencing, and we lived near a pool so that took care of our Sunday mornings. Here in the UK I did manage to sign her up to Saturday morning jazz/musical theatre and she did that for a few years until she felt self-conscious and “fat” in the leotard and stopped. I had to get her dad to pay half though and he didn’t always pay up…. Oh, and I became a Girl Guide leader when she was 10 so she came to that with me for a few years. (I have to say, I didn’t know about the anti-gay thing at all! Maybe it’s just in the good ol’ US of A?) Personally, I think some kids do too much. I’m not sure I subscribe to the idea that busy = tired = keeps them out of trouble. I think too many activities = tired and not keeping up in class. But that’s just my humble opinion….

  93. K

    We attempt to keep each kid to 1-2 regular activities at a time. For the 9 year old girl, that is currently soccer and piano. For the 6 year old boy, it is currently soccer. Soccer will end next week, and we’ve signed up for swimming to begin in January. We try to keep Nov/Dec free & clear of organized sports just for our sanity.

    We let them chose the sport – except there is one mandatory swim lesson session a year. Learning to be a strong swimmer is non-negotiable – we live a block away from a lake and both sets of grandparents live on/near large bodies of water.

    My daughter was just invited to join a girl scout troop, and on her own said, “No, I think that will be too much.”

    I think that every kid is different. Some kids might need more down-time than others, while others relish a scheduled existence.

    My kids fall on the down-time side. They still enjoy going outside and playing – just pure playing – for hours at a time. I am worried that if I schedule too much, that pure-play time will vanish.

    But in our neighborhood, we are the exception. 80% of their friends are in 4-5 different activities. They get home from school, pile into the SUV and race off to the activity of the day. My kids are the losers left behind, building a fort out of sticks and leaves in the yard. When they don’t get into Harvard, they can blame me!!!

  94. Mom on the Run

    I have three children, 5, 10, and 12.

    My 12-year-old is the typical oldest child…she has tried everything. Kindermusik for 3 years, ballet for 1 year, gymnastics for 2 years, soccer for 5 years, basketball for 4 years, T-ball for 2 years, piano for 4 years, Girl Scouts for 5 years. Now she does none of these activities. Instead she plays volleyball yearround and swims on a summer swim team. Loves the volleyball, hates the swimming. I regret letting her drop piano, but she now has found a love for art/drawing/sketching. She is a self-motivated kid who would rather read than do an activity for the sake of it.

    My 10-year-old is a busy, busy kid. She loves activity of all kinds. She swims year-round and plays volleyball yearround. At some point she will have to decide what sport to do, but for now she practices on differnt nights, so it works for her and us. She played piano, dropped because her sister did, but also plays clarinet.

    The 5-year-old has done fewer scheduled activities. Up until he started kindergarten I was home all day with him. I avoided signing him up for activities since I felt guilty for dragging him to all of his sister’s after school activities. He and I attended various playgroups and visited museums, children’s centers instead of classes. This fall he is on a soccer team and I am surprised how much he loves it.

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