School is out and you rush there to pick up your kids directly from school because if the bus brings them home today, you won’t have enough time to get a good snack in them and shuttle them off to practice.
Once football drop off is done, you drive across town to gymnastics drop off. By the time you’ve accomplished that, you’re back on the road for skating lessons pick up, it’s your day for carpooling.
Tomorrow, the story is similar, but swap it all out with viola lessons, ski club, and karate.
Extracurriculars can be very beneficial for our kids, but at what point is it causing everyone more harm than good?
Mary wrote about this a few years back, originally sharing one of my all-time favorite videos in her post. Her wise words have stuck with me. She wrote,
“Here’s my highly scientific equation for why:Mary Wade
Stress of making activity happen > benefit of activity = CANCEL regret-free!
There’s already enough hustle in our lives just to keep things running smoothly.”
We’ve kept up with this same mindset in our household when it comes to extracurriculars. It can be easy to forget from time to time and sign ourselves up for too much. But right now we are in a sweet spot with activities outside our home where they aren’t a long-term commitment. For the most part, everything is on a month-to-month basis, so choosing to stop if it no longer suits our family’s needs is easily done. Once we enter the stages of paying a lot of money out of pocket for them, the considerations made in order to sign up will be much more serious. I love Mary’s outline for qualifications she looks for in extracurriculars:
- kids must be able to walk or bike there (which means I don’t have to play my least favorite role of taxi, we get exercise, and we help our air quality. Win-win-win.)
- cannot compete with meal times (I’ve found that it’s way too slippery a slope for me to be like, yeah, fast food is fine just for now…)
- must have a compelling reason to take kids away from free play time (which is at least as valuable as the vast majority of extracurricular activities).
Being able to walk or bike there can be very situational for each family, but it worked beautifully for hers.
Competing with meal times is a big one for us, too. We also fall down the slippery slope of yeah, fast food is fine just for now…
Free play is crucial. It’s essential. It’s the highest form of learning they can have. So extracurricular activities really do need a strong, compelling reason to take our children away from this time.
Yes, extracurriculars will teach your kids discipline and new sports or hobby skills. It can also help them manage their time and it can be a great social connection, too. But the ultimate question you need to be asking yourself when signing your children up for the next thing to keep their week full and busy is, “is this activity helping or hurting the overall well-being of our entire family?”
In the meantime, check out this video by GoGo squeeZ on the importance of independent, free play. It’s truly eye-opening.