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Why So Many Activities?

As September approaches, my two oldest children are reminding me to enrol them for judo.  I will.  They enjoy the sport, put a lot of energy into it, learn a lot of skills, and get a huge amount of exercise.  The price is very reasonable for four hours a week, and the drive takes 5 minutes, return.  This is the third year they’re taking judo. 

Another child takes gymnastics, at the same place.  This will be her second year. 

The three oldest children will also attend some church classes and get-togethers.

The little two, like their siblings 2 and 3 years ago, are enrolled in nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  (Gasp!)  Yes, we’re extreme, perhaps, compared to the average family which seems to be out and about all the time, but we have discovered some advantages to doing less:

  • The children have time just to be and just to play, especially when they are young. 
  • The older ones have more time to follow their own, unstructured interests.
  • Because they started their chosen activity when they were at least 10, they are not bored by it but enjoy and appreciate it. 
  • Because they are enrolled in one activity, they can really concentrate on it and master it.  Anything done well gives joy; anything done poorly leaves a niggling unhappiness behind.
  • There is more time for family suppers and evenings together.
  • My husband and I don’t have to spend our evenings and Saturdays juggling schedules and ferrying the children around.  We, too, have more of a chance just to be…and this is good for busy adults as well as for children. (Not that it always works out since there’s so much that needs doing; but at least there’s a theoretical possibility that it could.)
  • We spend less on enrolment fees and gas.

Deciding how many formal outside activities to include is a decision each family has to make for each child, every season again.   Of course, as children grow older they need to spread their wings, although even they still need lots of free time to decompress.  On the other hand, many little ones in North America are over-programmed, leading to stress in their young lives as well as in their families.  

I encourage you to reconsider the fifth, the fourth, the third, and perhaps even the second activity each of your children is planning to be involved in this fall.  You’ll be amazed at the difference.

This post is entered in

Canada Girl’s Tightwad Tuesday , Being Frugal’s Tightwad Tuesday, We Are THAT Family’s Works-for-Me-Wednesday Back to School Edition


  1. 2boysmom says:

    You are so right! My husband and I were just having this discussion last week. We were trying to figure out the reasoning behind the rush to get kids involved in sports. We know parents who put 4 year olds in soccer and T-ball. WHY? Honestly, I think it's about the parents and not the kids.

    We have always kept our kids in one activity – TaeKwonDo. When my older son became involved in playing guitar at multiple venues he finished his black belt and then left the sport.

    Like you said – you can do one thing well, but you can't do everything well at the same time.

    I think more moms should learn this too!

  2. Anonymous says:

    my children stay busy with activities in sports, school, and church and love them all. My children heading off to college are also looking forward to activities there so I believe by allowing them the head up with activities they chose they will continute being active through life

  3. proverbsmama says:

    I remember reading about Fibonacci numbers. I may not have spelled that right. Anyway, how they do it is 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8…… so your numbers climb rather quickly because you are always adding the second number of the previous equation to the answer from the previous equation.

    In looking at how many activities we do, we often count 2 classes as two more activities. Yet, what if those 2 classes run 3 times a week? What if those classes are at two different times, and you have to tote kid #1 to their class, kid #2 to his class, then back to get kid #1, and off to get kid #2? Suddenly, those "two" classes require you to be running 3 nights a week, with 4 different trips EACH time! No wonder we mothers are exhausted!

    It really *is* something to consider when you think about adding more activities into your day.

    Edited by proverbsmama on Aug. 4, 2009 at 4:13 PM

  4. solidrock says:

    I so agree. We use to do the soccor thing with a 4, 6, 9 and 14 yo. We lived on the field. We also did swim team. For us less is best but each family has to do what is a fit for them.

  5. AnnieKate says:

    Thank you all for your comments. Obviously this can be a controversial topic, partially because it is a symptom of a huge divide in thinking: the 'have it all' mentality versus the 'less is more' simplicity mentality.

    Wishing each family wisdom to determine what is best for their children this fall.

    Annie Kate

  6. LarabaK says:

    I know that the whole issue of activities is one about which there is much disagreement.

    Usually it is not a moral issue, though I think it CAN be. Partly it has to do with the personalities of the parents and the kids. Some mothers love running around, some don't. Some kids love it, some don't. I REALLY don't. We have none of our children in any activities at all except Sunday morning church activities. Our eldest is 9.

    I think the moral issue can revolve around finances (straining ourselves too much) and family relationships. If our relationships are lost in the midst of ceaseless activity, then we are not doing our job as parents. I am not saying most people have that problem, but some do.

    I think we also shouldn't operate out of fear. My fear is that our kids will grow up warped if they aren't in gymnastics or soccer. I don't think they will and we feel God's leading to live mostly peaceful, at home lives during this season of life.

    I am leaning towards a 2ce monthly co-op this school year which could be good for us.

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