Having 5 kids within 5 years of each other, there are several topics that people consistently bring up. Kid activities usually makes the list.
I regularly talk with frazzled, stressed moms who are drowning in their family’s schedule. When they hear we have 5 kids, after a gasp, they ask how we manage all the activities. Since I get the question so often, I thought I would address it here.
My secret, magical answer? We limit them. 😁 We determined limits early on when our family was small and have continued them as our family has grown. We have learned that making family time a priority has to be intentional, or it just won’t happen.
In our family, we held off on organized sports for as long as we could. IMO, 5-year-olds have just as much fun playing soccer with friends in the backyard or park as they do on an organized team. (Probably more, if we’re going to be honest here. 😉) And the truth is that most of our children will not play sports in college or professionally. Even then, I’ve seen several college coaches quoted to say if a kid has natural talent and the grit to work hard, starting them much earlier than middle school isn’t going to give them some exponential advantage. And it could potentially burn them out on the sport before college. What it will do, however, is give you a CRAZY schedule with little time left for family, rest or for kids to just play and be kids, which study after study confirms is exceedingly important for the development of creative thinking and self-regulation. In addition, nothing wreaks havoc on behavior issues in children like lack of sleep, and too many week night activities quickly put kids at a deficit. Dealing with little monsters lately? Check your bedtimes. ⏰
In the younger years, instead of teams, classes are great options. They teach a skill, but don’t require a practice AND a game. Children get to do something fun, learn a little, burn off some energy, and it only fills one slot on your schedule, rather than two. Dance, gymnastics, martial arts and sports skills classes are all great options.
Once children are old enough for team-related benefits to kick-in, moving over to a team might make sense. After all, great things come from sports, dance and the arts! They teach discipline, teamwork and help children begin to learn their strengths and gain confidence. The goal then becomes BALANCE.
Thus far, the rule in our house is one activity per season per child. In addition, every child isn’t entitled to an activity every season. Until this year, we have limited ourselves to 2 kid activities each season, but it really has more to do with how we can fit something into our schedule than some legalistic number or rule. We have some kids in school sports now, so those more easily fit into our schedule with practices during school hours.
Running around stressed, always in separate cars, without a day free for family doesn’t allow us the margin to parent our kids the way we feel the Lord calls us to. We need time to just ‘be’ together. Kids spell love T-I-M-E. We want to model to them that relationships are more important than activities, and loving others is more important than serving ourselves. Those things require time, margin and energy, and an overloaded schedule just doesn’t leave enough room.
Now, I’m not naïve. We have 5 kids. We will get to a place where everyone is in school activities, and there is little avoiding everyone being in something all the time. My point is that while kids are in elementary school and younger, and everything we add is outside of school hours, we have a choice. Let me empower you – YOU HAVE A CHOICE!
I’ll end by saying I’m not trying to encourage legalism here. There isn’t some ordained number of activities that should be the rule for all families. What I am saying is that we all have to work hard to create margin in our family schedules. To ensure we get adequate time every week to pour into our kids and get to know them intimately enough to know when something is bothering them, to know their strengths and weaknesses, and to be able to truly disciple them in the way they should go, we have to intentionally make decisions about the number of activities in which we allow them to participate. That being said, each family has its own capacity, energy level and bandwidth, so everyone’s limits will look a little different. We just all have to fight for time with our spouses and children, making sure we don’t sacrifice any of it at the alter of sports or kids’ activities.
Doing This Together,