When you have 3 kids in activities, finding balance can be a challenge. It’s hard when they are little…and I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t get any easier as they get older! Gone are the days of our childhood where playing an occasional sport or taking a ballet class was the extent of our extra curricular activities. Gone are the days where busy activity schedules, carpools and weekends of juggling 3 different schedules were for Middle School and High School. In this day and age, it starts now. But, having a plan and knowing your priorities makes all of this manageable. At least, a little bit more!
After the years of Mom groups, Play Dates, and Gymboree or Little Gym, what do you do with your kids? We want our children to be social, well-rounded and engaged…and to grow up to be social, well-rounded, engaged and productive teens and adults.
When my kids were younger, starting around age three, our goal was to let them try several activities. It was important for us that the focus be on foundation and fun. We also wanted to keep our family time a priority. Your local Youth Sports Association or YMCA are great outlets for this. They offer age appropriate, recreational and seasonal sports that introduce your children to each sport. All of my kids have tried a few seasons of Soccer and my older 2 played Basketball as well. My son even played Flag Football and a season of Baseball. This gave them (and us) an idea of what they enjoyed and loved doing. It also introduced them to the basic skills of the game, while encouraging teamwork and healthy competition. And the time management for recreational sports is very doable.
My girls also started Dance classes at a young age, around 2 years of age. They took just a regular combination class of Ballet and Tap for years, at one hour a week. My son even took a class during the summer when he was 2 years old. I really just needed a few hours to clean the house…and like I said, being well-rounded was a goal of ours!
Speaking of Summer…when the kids are small, their summers are a lot more flexible and open. We used this time to try different activities. One Summer we tried Gymnastics. One Summer we tried piano. My older two tried to continue piano during the school year. We added this in while still letting them do sports and dance. We quickly discovered that was too busy of a schedule for our family. So, after a year, we had them choose what they wanted to focus on. My son chose sports and my oldest daughter chose dance. One Summer, my older 2 did the Summer Swim Team. It was so much fun and they learned so much. My son tried to continue it when school started, but once again, we realized it was too much to juggle for our little family. Once they are in school, you can also take advantage of the activities and clubs the school has to offer. My kids have done Art Club and Art Camps, Chess Club and Garden Club and run for Student Council.
Adding a 3rd child to the mix has made things a little harder. There are only 2 of us adults and sometimes dividing the activities means one of us misses something, although we try our hardest to be at everything. I’ve also realized our youngest daughter didn’t get to try as many things. By the time she was old enough to try a lot of different activities, we were already busy with our older kids’ schedules. We have tried to make it as fair as possible and to give her similar opportunities, using the Summer for her to try new things.
We are at a place in our lives now where each of our kids have really decided what they love doing and what they want to focus on. I realize not everyone is in this situation…I have plenty of friends whose kids love doing everything and narrowing it down and finding balance is a real challenge. I also have friends that have made a conscious decision to simplify – to take a step back from activities and focus on their family. Although my kids have narrowed their focus, it’s still a challenge to keep our priorities and find balance with everything. It is a daily struggle.
My oldest is dancing competitively on a Dance Team through her studio. This requires up to 9 hours of dance a week, plus occasional extra practices during Competition Season.
My son has grown to love soccer and is now playing up on a Select Team through our Youth Sports Association. This requires up to 3 practices a week, weekend games and occasional tournaments.
My youngest, my free-spirit and least competitive of the bunch, loves Gymnastics and Cheer. She is taking recreational classes at our local studio. She is also doing aPre-Team Dance Team to feel out if it’s something she is interested in pursuing. Even though she loves her classes, she is equally happy to be home and to play with friends! Hmmm…I think my 6-year-old has discovered the balance!
If I had it to do over, I’m not sure what I would have done differently. I feel like we are in a tough place now with a busy schedule and struggling to find balance on a weekly, even daily basis, although I feel like we did a good job with balance when they were were younger. Somehow and at some point, we crossed the line that is best for our family, but we still want to provide these opportunities for our kids. I don’t think I have the answer yet…it’s something we are figuring out as we go…one day at a time. So, I suggest keeping it simple when they are young and strive for balance as they get older. This will look different for each family, so make the choices that work best for your family. And along the way, have fun! It is such a joy to see your children grow and find a passion for something. You can see it on their faces.
What does your activity schedule look like? Are you competitive to the core or less is more?