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Do Our Kids Need Extracurricular Activities?

kids extracurricular activities

It’s almost the end of the school year and I am so excited. What? you say. WHY? you say.

It’s not the end of the school year itself that excites me. It’s the end of the DANCE school year. I am so over taking my girls to dance class it’s not even funny.

Having lots of commitments and always rushing around to meet them all is not my idea of good life. But enriching my girls’ lives and giving them the opportunity to do and learn things they have an interest in is definitely part of my good life plan. It’s just that sometimes those ideas don’t play nice together.

I (mistakenly!) thought putting the girls in back-to-back dance classes on a Monday afternoon was a decent idea. We check that box all on one day and don’t have to worry about the rest of the week, right? It turns out, no: this is not a great plan. Why? Because picking up the little one early to get in the car line in time to make it to the first dance class is extremely unpleasant, for one. For two, the waiting area for the parents is so crowded and loud during the first one’s dance class, I am really surprised I survived this long.

overscheduled kid
Poor girl fell asleep waiting in the car line for her sister so they both can go to dance class

So we probably won’t be doing dance next year.

The question is: do we need to do anything?

I really want to say no. I really don’t want to support the case for making my children’s days (and therefore mine) any longer than they already are. But if I say no, where in their lives are they exposed to organized physical activities, encouraged to try new things, or allowed to excel in something other than classwork?

I should know better than to argue with myself.

But I am still absolutely against overly scheduled and unnecessarily busy lives. So I am left with the conundrum: do I or don’t I?

I didn’t have ANY extracurricular activities growing up. I’m sure one reason for that was we were definitely on a budget when I was kid. Because these outside activities are NOT cheap. I don’t even want to think about how much we’ve spent on recital fees and dance costumes alone, not to mention the cost of the actual class. And is it worth it?

NO. Dollar for dollar it is absolutely not worth it. Not for us. Not dance class. But, we had to go through the experience to know that.

For the summer we will be activity-free, save for a science camp and an art camp. But both of those are for my eight year-old. My four year-old just gets to be neglected and forgotten with no special activities of her own. Poor girl. I hope she gets in to college.

Realistically, our “good life plan” as a family is much greater than after school activities. Having a multi-cultural family means we can travel and experience things not everyone gets the opportunity to do. Regardless of what “activities” we pay for, we are always trying to encourage our girls to try new things and we support their strengths and interests. I hope that counts for something in the long run.

What’s your take on this? Did you have activities as a kid that made a difference in your life? What about your kiddos – do you have them in activities? Why did you pick the activity you are in?

9 thoughts on “Do Our Kids Need Extracurricular Activities?

  1. OMG, I love this so much. We are in the exact same dance boat (except I only have one girl, so God bless you). I am DONE with dance. I am looking forward to a no-class summer, though I have already put her in a sports camp at church for one week (mostly to get her out of the house while I deal with a newborn) and want to do swim lessons at the end of summer (but that’s a life-saving skill, so it’s justified, right?). I have the same conflicting feelings of wanting her to experience new things and find her passions by doing so, but it is SO much work (and $$) for the parent. It’s hard to find the balance… Glad to know I’m not alone in my struggle!

    1. You are not alone! And yes, the summer after my youngest was born I put my then four-year-old in an activity because I really needed that time with my newborn. From the discussion on Facebook, it sounds like maybe we are right: now is not the time. BUT when they are older we will feel differently…

  2. I definitely think people over-do the extracurricular activities. I think there needs to be days of downtime for the family to just have family time. While I do see the benefit of outside activities, I think they need to be in moderation and not the priority, especially when having to choose between those activities and spending time together as a family. I say ditch the dance class sister!

    1. Thanks, sis! I knew you would back me up now that you are in baby mode. I feel like I have to fight for family time some weeks… I’ll be glad to be less busy!

    1. That’s just the thing, Becky. Some weeks they LOVE it and some not so much. Overall when I ask them about it they don’t really seem to care. I think maybe it just isn’t their thing. Or not right now anyway.

    2. Really I should add: they enjoyed the actual dance class part. They did not enjoy all the hassle involved in getting/being there or the late night that came with it.

  3. I wonder about this often and never come up with a good answer. We limit to two activities per kid (one of which we all share: karate) but it stills feels like we’re always running (go figure with 3 kids). The youngest has taken to asking, every day as soon as he gets off the bus, “Are we going anywhere? Please say no.” This is typically followed by the whine, “We never stay home anymoooorrre.” I did no extracurricular activities as a child (money issue); school and home was it. I think I turned out alright; though, I’ll admit it’s sometimes debatable. 😉

    1. Comparing my children to me when I was growing up, I can say that extracurricular activities were definitely for the privileged few back then. Not things like summer baseball, but I didn’t know any girls who did stuff like that! It really is such a long day for them when they are young. I’m definitely not in a rush to fill the “void” left by this year’s dance class.

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