Monday, April 5, 2010

Extra Curricular Activities and Kids

My little girl who is 2 years old absolutely loves to sing, dance, twirl and tumble. Though we have decided to wait for now, my husband and I have talked about how she would probably enjoy a dance or gymnastics class. In discussing whether or not we wanted to start our little girl in extracurricular activities a few points came up. One was that it can be a large expense. Another was that we have seen a few other families who are close to us end up with the parents being stressed because they feel like on top of all the other responsibilities that they spend numerous hours a week running their kids to and from practices, games, recitals, etc. And another was that a part of me just wants to let our daughter be "little" for a little while longer before sending her out into the world to "grow up". On the other hand we talked about how children can learn many good traits from being part of a team--things like leadership, patience, and the value of practice and self improvement. And as parents, I think we all want to see our children develop their talents and be involved in things that they love and enjoy. Soooo...

How do you decide at what age (and maybe for some people if) to start your children in extra curricular activities?

How do you balance your child's activities outside the home while still leaving time for unstructured family time together?

How have you chosen what activities to enroll your children in?

Did you do any research to try and make sure that the teacher or coach was a good fit for your child?

I would love to hear your personal experiences and thoughts on this.


Raylyn said...

I'm not sure about balancing extra curricular activities with family life, because I haven't tried it yet...but I was in dance and Girl Scouts growing up, and some of my fondest memories have come from these activities. I started dance around 4 or 5 and girl scouts when I was in 1st grade. I continued both of these activities well into my teen years and was grateful my parents encouraged me to do so. I would suggest finding stuff that is close by like a neighbor that teaches dance etc. both of my activities were held on the street, I lived on so I could walk there by myself.

Oak Brook said...

I started my 4-year-old in dance this past fall because she was always dancing around and wanted to do something fun. I can't afford pre-school and she's too little for piano lessons. So, I found a teacher (a great one, by the way) here in Cache Valley that teaches dance for $15 a month. It's a half hour each week, but it's the only thing she has going on. Still, I think she feels special because it's her activity.

Delia said...

You know with our first son we were SO excited for him to be in extracurricular activities. We put him in everything we could at age 3/4 - soccer and T-ball. He was initially excited because we were so excited but we quickly found out he was either too young or these sports just weren't for him. This year I didn't sign him up for soccer because he wasn't asking us to. I think I kind of mentioned it to him and he didn't seem that interested so we didn't pursue it further. I didn't expect this. Both my husband and I were way into extracurricular things as kids...and maybe he will later, but for now we are honoring his interests which lie mostly at home and just playing with friends. I learned to remember to let my child take the lead in this a certain extent that is. ;) I have a friend whose son is super athletic and interested in athletics and he is the same age as Owen. They encourage him by putting him in everything they can. I think this is also a good thing.

I just make sure that it doesn't interfere with dinnertime too much or at all. A lot of them seem to which bugs me to high heaven. You have given me a lot to think about...that is when my older son decides he wants to go for an activity and when my younger son gains a few years. Thank you...I hope my ramblings helped someone's thought process.

Jessie said...

I agree with Delia, you have to let your kid take the lead, if you can afford it. My oldest daughter (she's 4) is currently in a preschool where she has regular school time, and gymnastics, and she LOVES it. We initially put her in it because I felt like she needed some time by herself, and I needed a little bit of time with my younger daughter before our baby came. The gymnastics thing was a big bonus, because she has become SO much more confident with her physical capabilities, where she was developmentally a little behind before. I was researching schools in the area when I found this one, and was immediately drawn to it because of the extra activity. I went in to check it out before signing her up, too, and made sure I felt really good about it before enrolling her. I think it's really important to find a place you feel comfortable with. You know your kids and what they need.

When I gave my daughter choices for what she can do this summer (dance, piano, swimming, baseball, soccer, school...) she chose dance, so that's what we'll do. I feel like she's old enough to make choices like that. If she didn't want to do anything, we wouldn't.

All of my daughter's activities thus far have been in the morning, which leaves plenty of time in the evenings for our family. In some ways it's been even better for our family with her in school--it gives me a little extra time to focus on our two younger children, and it gets all of us up early enough to eat breakfast with Dad. That's been nice. I know that extracurricular activities were a big part of my childhood and youth, and I loved them. I hope my children can find places to excel in like this, as well--it's very validating to kids to have activities where they feel like they are special, I think. If that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I enrolled my daughter in dance classes during a summer session when she was 3. I thought it would be good for her because it would give her a chance to interact with different children & a chance to take direction from a different adult (she would be in the district preschool that fall). It turned out she loved it so much, that I found a dance company in town where she could go. She is still going & still loves it (she turned seven in february). I only take her 1 time a week & she only goes for an hour. The cost isn't huge - $26/month & her recital costume ($40). The money on the costume is well spent b/c after the recital it goes in the dress up's & she wears it for at least another year! I made the decision that if she wanted to do competitive, she had to wait until 3rd grade.

JeriLynn said...

Our oldest is also a natural dancer, so we signed her up for dance. It's a little pricier than what everyone else has said, but we like it. She's in a class that covers jazz, ballet, and tap dancing in an hour session. It's really helped her learn to focus, because if she does a good job listening to Miss Tracy, she gets a small reward.

As our kids get older, my husband and I will require our kids to choose one activity per season, plus a muscial talent. Depending on the number of kids we have, this is either reasonable or crazy.

I definitely think kids need to be involved, but it's pretty important to set limits, too. I hope that my kids can try out a lot of different activities, and then settle on one that will help them develop some true skills.