Helping Elementary-age Kids Choose Activities
by Tricia Goyer
My daughter, Leslie, has always wanted to do it all — drama, music, dance, church group activities. If there's a sign-up sheet, she's first in line. As a mom, there were years I worried about squelching her enthusiasm, so I typically said, “Yes” to her activities. Then I tried to fit them into our schedule. Ouch. Did I mention she has two brothers, Cory and Nathan, who had activities too? For many years I lived out of my mini-van. When I became overwhelmed and worn out, I knew we had to come up with a solution. If this problem sounds familiar, here are some ideas that might help you, too.
- Consider your child's talents. Many activities interested Leslie, but she excelled in piano. Her teacher often commented how quickly she picked up the concepts and learned the songs. Around the house Leslie was always singing and she taught herself to play the guitar. I wanted to foster that God-given natural ability.
- Consider positive influences. Leslie played basketball with a home schooling team in fourth grade. She wasn't very good, but the friendships she made were great. The other girls were positive influences in her life. She didn’t mind if she sat on the bench. I didn’t mind either. We chose basketball over art and theater because of the friends she'd made there.
- Consider what things are fun and what things are necessary. My friend, Marie, signed her four children up for swimming lessons every year. “It's an activity, but our family considers swimming an essential skill to learn,” she explained.
- Consider trying out activities. “There are many camps offered where we live during the summer,” says another friend, Tina. “These camps range from one day to one week long.” Consider trying out some of these camps — tennis, soccer, gymnastics, museums, to see what your kids like best. Trying out an activity short-term helps your children see if it's something they'd like to commit to long-term, before you spend money and schedule the time.
- Consider your family's schedule and priorities. Our children were allowed to do one activity per year. If Cory wanted to play soccer, then he couldn't play basketball. Plus we showed our children the family calendar and marked out what their commitments would look like. As Cory got into high school his soccer practice would have been on Wednesday nights. Cory decided he'd rather attend church youth group, and I agreed. As a family, we also enjoyed dinner together and story time in the evenings.
- Consider setting a limit. Janet Cooke, a teacher, recommends that parents limit children to two activities. “Kids are so over-scheduled they don’t have time to be kids, nor can they really give anything a fair shot when it's just part of the juggling act,” she said.
- Consider prayer. There have been times when an activity sounded great but when we prayed about it, we didn't have peace. God knows what's ahead, and he's able to guide us and our kids. Seeking God's guidance is an activity children can learn young and use for the rest of their lives!
Tricia Goyer is an acclaimed writer, publishing hundreds of magazine articles while authoring more than 25 fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas.