Trying to decide how many activities are too much, and wondering if there are parents out there who don't have their kids in any activities.

We have a 13yo and a 5yo.

The 5yo was in ballet for two years and then quit because it was no longer fun. She tried one skating lesson and spent the whole hour crying, wanting to come off the ice. She seems perfectly content to not participate in any extra-curricular activities, and no matter what we suggest or sign her up for, she doesn't want in.

In contrast, our 13yo seems to over-extend herself (and us!) by signing up for every school council, sport, play, instrument that she can, to the point at which we've had to put our foot down and say "enough is enough!"

So I'm wondering: How many extra-curricular activities do your children participate in, and how old are they?

asked 01 Nov '09, 23:41

YMCbuzz's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%

When our daughter, who is 5, showed interest in ballet, we enrolled at a local arts school, that offered two lessons a week. After several months I saw her losing interest and just after the end of June, after their end of year show/ production of Nutcracker she calmly told us that, they had had enough of ballet :) She seemed to feel like it was not enjoyable or fun.

Then recently at birthday parties of her school friends, I had the opportunity to chat with some other parents, and the common issue was that with school and the extra curricular activities and clubs, the children didn't get to have much free time. (This was particularly the case for parents with more than one child)

I askd whether the kids ever get to just lie down on the floor, head in hands, and daydream ? and the answer was "no". It seemed ironic that although the parents were not happy about it, they didn't seem to compelled to change the situation either.

I think that, that time, is also important for children. We would like to make sure that she has that. I think a couple of extra curricular activities could be enough for 5-7 year olds. Particulary if it is something that they can be expressive with or burn up energy with. ( We saw that the discipline required in ballet, dulled her enthusiasm )

Our 5 year old has weekly swimming lessons at her school so it would be fine if she wanted to join the swimming club next year, which would be her first year of primary school, in addition to that I would wait and see if her current interest in music and dance continues, while she has started to show a particular interest in the piano, I don't think this is a signal for us to be signing her up for lessons just yet. I believe that some good quality "free time" is valuable for all children (and for us too)


answered 02 Nov '09, 11:09

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I would love it if my kids wanted to lie on the floor and daydream. Unfortunately they usually just want to either run around or squabble over toys :(

(02 Nov '09, 11:12) Jon Skeet

This reminds me of the new idea that the "millennial generation" just now entering the workforce have been "over-scheduled". Ref: "Interestingly enough, however, for all of the nurturing, scheduling, and education that this group has received, the Millennials also appear to be the most stressed-out generation in history. Importantly, they seem to require constant stimulation to thrive..."

(02 Nov '09, 11:29) Scott ♦♦

Yes that so true, I just know this much, without clinging on too much to the cliche "good old days" record, I would love her to also have a taste of a childhood, where imagination conquers all, it could just be possible :)

(02 Nov '09, 12:00) Emi

All our boys (5, 3, 3) have swimming on a Saturday morning. Our eldest (who is in school) had a term of extra-curricular football, and we were going to give him Judo lessons but the timing didn't end up working appropriately.

I think it really depends on the child's nature and their age - I remember being somewhat over-committed when I was a teenager, but not a lot before then. I think it's worth offering whatever activities you can, but not pushing too hard.

We did quite a lot of "music and movement" type activities when the boys were younger, but that's fallen by the wayside for the moment... although Tom (the eldest) was in the kids' Christmas musical for church last year. I wouldn't be surprised if all of them enjoy drama and music as they get a bit older, although probably in different ways.


answered 02 Nov '09, 07:14

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Jon Skeet
accept rate: 35%

I'm the oldest of twelve children ranging in age from 3 to 24 years. Our gaps are 11 months to about 4 years.

Because there are so many of us, my parents limited most of us to 2 major activities. Almost all of my brothers are on the swim team over the summer and boy scouts year-round. My sisters and I were girl scouts and took piano lessons, but I'm the only one who stuck with piano for very long. One of my sisters wanted to take drama lessons, so Mom made her give up piano at that point. In high school and college, I pretty much managed my own activities, so I could over-commit all I wanted provided that I took care of the details.

I'm pretty happy with how my parents handled activities, and I intend to take a similar approach.

Emi makes a very good point about leaving time for children to daydream and relax. I spent much of my childhood reading books quite happily or playing make-believe in the backyard, and I wouldn't trade that for ballet or karate or art lessons.

So, I would keep kids at 2 activities (maybe 3 if they don't overlap much) until the child can take responsibility for them on their own.

Edit: How to make productive use of free time

I would recommend enforcing rules about how much time can be spent in front of the TV, video game console, or computer. The idea of holding on to free time is to let the child imagine and play. I think children need a certain amount of time to let their brains work in more creative ways. Small activities with loose rules might be a good way to go. For example, "Paint a picture of an alien!" Very basic guidelines give them somewhere to go but open it up for them to get very creative.


answered 03 Nov '09, 02:56

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accept rate: 11%

edited 03 Nov '09, 14:52

I'm beginning to worry myself about the number of activities my kids are involved in my 6 year old does piano, swimming, ballet and has taken up drama and in September guitar lessons. She is very active and wants to do everything but we have had to drop violin and French classes as those were offered in her old school but not in her new school Must say though that at the end of the week I am extremely tired and wonder how she copes my guilt is also not helped by people around me as they seem to always pity the kids as if I am punishing them,but honestly I see them being grateful in the future my 3year old also does ballet and starting string time at the junior Trinity in September . She's already showing interest in the other activities her Big sis is doing and hopefully my 1year old son will start music session at one of the music school as well


answered 17 Apr '10, 14:50

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Titi kayode
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My seven year old does piano, swimming, gymnastics, choir, violin, Brownies and ballet.
My five year old does piano, swimming, musical theatre and ballet.
My two year old doesn't have a curriculum, so I don't suppose he counts.

They are busy, and I would like them to have more free time sometimes, on the other hand, I think all the things they do are worthwhile in various ways. We have got to the point now where I won't let them take on anything new without dropping something else.

As Jon Skeet says, they don't always use their free time in ways which I would like - the school holidays, when everything else stops can be filled with squabbling if I don't think creatively enough to keep them busy or apart.


answered 03 Nov '09, 12:42

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Meg Stephenson
accept rate: 7%

I'm a sibling of three and my sister and brother both have extra curricular activities: boxing and the gym. I have just came across the idea of doing an extra curricular activity. I'm 13 and have always been interested in modeling and dressing up so I was thinking about doing that, but I'm not sure of what other things that I could do.


answered 08 May '10, 13:53

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edited 08 May '10, 15:13

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Scott ♦♦

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Asked: 01 Nov '09, 23:41

Seen: 14,568 times

Last updated: 08 May '10, 15:13