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After School Activities -How many is too many?

Ever met a ‘Taxi Mum’? A mother who’s in that stage of driving kids to and from after-school activities? And how many activities is too many? My oldest is 5 but I have lots of friends who are in what they like to call the ‘Taxi driver’ stage of Parenthood. You know the ones, when you ask for a ‘play date’ they have to consult their calendar and book you in 3 weeks in advance on a day when they’re not racing to gymnastics, piano, swimming or ballet.

It seems to be an exponential equation, the more kids you have, the more activities you’re involved in -especially once they enter the school years. My sister has four kids at school and they all do swimming plus 1 or 2 after-school activities. And one of them is a competitive gymnast! The logistics of it all is mind-boggling and I know when my mum ‘grammy’ helps out she needs it all written down!

It’s great when friends can take turns ferrying kids to and from activities as we do with some friends for our daughter’s gymnastics class. Maybe I’m slack but in efforts to conserve (her) energy and (our) money, we ask our daughter to choose only one activity per term. My husband thinks she should ‘commit’ and stick to something but at such a young age I’m happy for her to alternate between Hip Hop and Gymnastics. We usually do swim lessons on saturdays but are taking this term off to save money while our Earthquake-damaged house is getting sorted out.

So how many activities or hours a week is too many? Is it a combination of kids personality and energy, parental time and money? I think it’s a balance between giving them fun and valuable experiences and skills while also allowing them enough time to relax and play. Each term seems to cost just over $100 depending on the activity and then there’s extra travel or uniform/costume costs on top of that! And that’s just one activity for one child!

My friend’s child is a real bookworm and they like him to do team sports to encourage more social interaction. It’s a great idea to cater to the child’s individual needs. Here’s an interesting article about the best after-school activities for kids with ADHD.

It’s interesting to look back at our own childhoods and after-school activities. What ‘activities’ did you do as a child and what do you now wish you had tried? My sisters and I all did running and gymnastics. Retrospectively I wish I had done a more ‘team’ sport like soccer but hand-eye coordination and ball skills are were never my forte. Did you (parents) choose your child’s activity based on existing skills, skills that they could benefit from or did you sign them up for what you did (or wish you did) as a child?

Written by

Raised in Toronto Canada, Nat received the 'enthusiasm award' in Grade 7 and not much has changed. She has always loved bringing people together and challenging them to be more than they thought possible. Her background includes Personal Development, Corporate Team Building and Environmental Education. She now lives in Auckland New Zealand with her husband Matt (Nat & Matt) and their 3 children Ruby, Jonah and Xavier. Nat's excited to be blogging again (previously blogged for 'Eco Centric') and sharing parenting and relationship stories with others around the world.
  • Michelle

    I was interested in this article because I struggle with finding the balance for our children. I truly believe young school aged children are very tired by school, and need down time when they get home. With after school activities, we struggle to have time and energy for them to do their nightly ‘homework’ e.g. readers, mathletics, etc There is nothing more important in my view than setting them up in the first couple years with good reading, writing and math skills. And being at home allows them a chance to ‘learn to make their own fun’ rather than being constantly herded from activity to activity.

    That said, we find that our boys (just in Year 2) are enthusiastic about EVERYTHING. They seem to want to try every activity and then want to keep doing it – even though they are tired. Plus, there are couple things that are taken like a ‘given’ such as swimming lessons, or if you have a musical family, starting an instrument very young. What I have started doing is restricting some activities as things for them to do during school holiday periods, e.g. swimming. I can only imagine how hard this must be for people with 3 children of all different ages!

  • Nat

    Thanks for your comment Michelle!

    Yes it’s definitely about balance. It seems parents sometimes fall into the trap of not wanting to disadvantage their children but sometimes ‘Less is More’.

  • Charlotte

    I also find it really hard. I dont remember doing much when I was young but now there are so many fun things to do I don’t want them to miss out but then we end up doing homework and reading just before bed when really they are tired and I don’t have my usual(!) level of patience. Also find we are short of time for playdates…… On going dilemma but I think next term we are going to have a break from activities…..

  • Jacqui Lockington

    It’s interesting how many mums who are a few years ahead of your own stage who forwarn you how much busier it’s about to be.

    Obviously the baby years are busy, so are the toddler years. Then when they get to school it changes again. And it gets BUSIER…yep, ballet, dance, swimming, football, rugby, playdates, birthday parties.

    Personally we have really tried to limit the amount of after-school or kindy activities. A good friend, Ruth once told me “Children need time to just be children.”
    I have never forgotten it. I therefore limit each child to one after school/ kindy activity during the school week. Jack has rugby, Sasha gymnastics. Playdates after school are seldom. The children are tired and are happy to be home just playing, reading and relaxing. AND, personally I just love spending time with them.

    The time will come when they will want to be out the house all the time – let’s enjoy our at home with them while we can.

  • Sue

    When the little darlings hit a certain age (the tweenage years, 7+) and the hormones start to fly big time, you will suddenly become DESPERATE for them to do something outside the house as often as possible, so the activities increase tenfold haha!

    Demand is so high in my area that, in order to get my youngest into Beaver Scouts (he needs discipline!) I had to open my own group. Now *that* is putting your money where your mouth is….

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