Five smart ways to halve your kids’ activities

Five smart ways to halve your kids’ activities

If you and your family have felt the strain last academic year of taking your kids to and from multiple activities, here are five ways to cut the number of things they do outside of school:

  1. Get curious – ask your kid why they want to at

    Don’t be ruled by the clock!

    tend dance or musical theatre or karate or whatever it is. If s/he is ticking a box or doing it to please you, tell them they can drop it.

  2. Be honest – if arranging a lift each week or rushing from one venue to the next is placing strain on you or the family, explain it. You are human, too.
  3. Get analytical – If your kid isn’t progressing in the activity, find out why. See if they want to continue. You could make a list of the pros and cons of each. If, say, a pro is that they meet a pal they used to be in class with, promise to arrange a play date with that kid or tell them to get together on their own turf.
  4. Be united – make sure your partner sees the value in your child doing less and you two having more time to be with each other. If s/he has a gripe with you wanting to reduce the activities, could all the hustle and bustle be a sign that you’re avoiding each other?
  5. Stop – Explain to your kid that unless s/he has an overwhelming passion or ability, there’s no law to say that s/he has to continue

Seriously, you are a human being as well as a parent. If your kid watches a bit of TV or plays with his or her mates on the street, that’s fine.

Get off the hobby-go-round
The hobby-go-round puts a strain on children and their parents. I’ve met mothers with schedules that would make a military field commander baulk: arranging lifts, picking up one kid, dropping off another, rushing here, rushing there – buying uniforms, sewing badges, volunteering themselves, oh and holding down jobs.

It’s literally leaving no room for a mum or dad to follow their own interests let alone have an interest in each other. Author Tom Hodgkinson urges parents to cancel all clubs, ditch the after-school activities and leave those kids alone in his book The Idle Parent. Despite some reviews on Amazon saying this is a charter for lazy parenting, I’m inclined to agree with Tom.

History revised
In the pre-contraception age, mums mostly got on with looking after the latest addition to the family, and shooed their kids from age three-upwards out the door in the morning during the school holidays with a sandwich. Children went off in a big group and scrumped apples and knocked on people’s doors, and they became independent.

With my sons getting older, it’s become clear that the child genius-like kids racking up badges and medals often burn out by the time they come to do their exams.

They seem to have done too much before the age of 18. Few of them make their childhood activities their life. As the British Heart Foundation found in their survey, nine out of 10 people give up their hobbies.

Despite many hours of tuition I can name few young adults who are professional karate practitioners or who can say anything beyond “Ni hao” or hello in Chinese.

Say au revoir to some or even all of the activities. You never know, doing less could mean enjoying life more.

Check out my mad round of activities.

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