Activities & Over-scheduling

So being a dad to a smart, inquisitive boy, I of course want Liam to experience everything possible, to help him find things that he likes. But I also firmly believe in the power of free time, of idle thought and quiet alone time – I don’t want to fall into the over-scheduling trap, which is all to easy, when I think of all the things that I’d like Liam to try out:

  • swimming
  • gymnastics
  • skating/hockey
  • tennis
  • snowshoeing
  • cycling
  • baseball
  • soccer
  • arts & crafts
  • pottery
  • music

Essentially, as Leah & I read through the Community Centres’ program offerings, we almost invariably ┬ánodding our heads and saying “yes, we should try that”. Liam’s not much of a filter, as he, being the aforementioned smart & inquisitive, is just as curious about trying out new things as we for him to try them.┬áI have established certain “imperatives”. For instance, whether he wants to or not, I want Liam to learn how to swim comfortably, safely. Fortunately for us, Liam absolutely loves swimming.

This fall, Liam is continuing swimming. I’d like to sign him up for skating lessons, and Liam is certainly very excited about that. Browsing the programs, we came across “Parent & Tot Indoor Tennis (3-5 yrs)”, which is described thusly:

This program introduces your child to the joy of running chasing, and hitting a ball, all enjoyed with Mom or Dad. Racquets provided if necessary.

What 4-year-old boy wouldn’t love running around and hitting balls with a racket? Particularly given how much Liam loves to play T-ball & baseball in our back yard. So then there’s that. And also soccer.

So thinking about it last night, I came up with the following guideline for scheduling these sorts of things with Liam: No more than 3 scheduled activities a week. This should leave plenty of time for us to just play, read, explore, do whatever, but also, be enough that Liam can try out new things on a regular basis, and see if he particularly likes any of them to continue.

Of course, this means there’s lots of things he won’t get to try. But that’s ok. I think. I am, of course, feeling guilty for not enabling him to do everything. Perhaps if I didn’t work, so had more time with him, I’d be more willing to share my time with him, but given that I only see him evenings & weekends, it’s hard to justify. For Leah, who’s just starting shiftwork as a nurse, this will be even harder – today, Liam’s staying home from daycare to hang out with her because she’ll be working all weekend, and it is quite clear that Liam gets upset when he doesn’t get much time with one of us over the course of a week.

So. How to balance trying new things, learning skills, playing sports with family time, alone time, etc? I’m not sure I know. I’d certainly be interested in hearing about what other parents out there are doing to find a balance.

4 Replies to “Activities & Over-scheduling”

  1. so speaking as a child who was extremely over scheduled. from the ages of 5-15 i was put in figure skating, gymnastics, trampoline, ballet, jazz, piano, swimming, synchronized swimming, chinese school and independently i chose the school band, basketball, volleyball, softball, hockey and golf. most were done concurrently until i was 13, then it was just school sports and piano.

    being in alot of physically active activities when young led me to really enjoy sports and music when older. i was one of the few who chose to take gym class all the way to grade 12 whereas most found gym class traumatic. i learned alot of hand eye coordination which i found invaluable.

    i still had plenty of time for reading, school, watching tv, video games, riding my bike, going to park etc… the main reason i was put into so many classes was that my parents were older and i was an only child.

    do you have liam in any sportball? my nephew loves it

    altho i’m not a parent, i think putting kids in as many activities as possible is great. the classes were mostly 1 hour and didn’t require practice except for piano. i never found going to classes tiring or stressful as i was pretty high energy. the most stressful thing was the coaching and pushing from mom – a topic for another post i’m sure….

  2. so speaking as a child who was extremely over scheduled. from the ages of 5-15 i was put in figure skating, gymnastics, trampoline, ballet, jazz, piano, swimming, synchronized swimming, chinese school and independently i chose the school band, basketball, volleyball, softball, hockey and golf. most were done concurrently until i was 13, then it was just school sports and piano.

    being in alot of physically active activities when young led me to really enjoy sports and music when older. i was one of the few who chose to take gym class all the way to grade 12 whereas most found gym class traumatic. i learned alot of hand eye coordination which i found invaluable.

    i still had plenty of time for reading, school, watching tv, video games, riding my bike, going to park etc… the main reason i was put into so many classes was that my parents were older and i was an only child.

    do you have liam in any sportball? my nephew loves it

    altho i’m not a parent, i think putting kids in as many activities as possible is great. the classes were mostly 1 hour and didn’t require practice except for piano. i never found going to classes tiring or stressful as i was pretty high energy. the most stressful thing was the coaching and pushing from mom – a topic for another post i’m sure….

  3. Hmm, that’s interesting to know – so you seem to have quite liked being highly scheduled. And Day last night suggested that until can be his own filter and say what he wants to do or not do that putting him in as much as possible might be a good thing, as we may not be able to get him to try things in as little as a year or two.

    I don’t know what sportball is, but now I’m going to go find out.

  4. Hmm, that’s interesting to know – so you seem to have quite liked being highly scheduled. And Day last night suggested that until can be his own filter and say what he wants to do or not do that putting him in as much as possible might be a good thing, as we may not be able to get him to try things in as little as a year or two.

    I don’t know what sportball is, but now I’m going to go find out.

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