I have read many different blog posts and articles about letting children have free time and not scheduling their every moment of life. I don’t remember having an after school activity (except playing at a friend’s house) until middle school.
Now we have 2-year olds in preschool, soccer, swim, t-ball, basketball, dance, tennis, music, gymnastics, karate, piano… I’m sure there are many more activites that toddlers are part of that I don’t even know about! And when I say “we” I mean, me too. I remember I couldn’t wait until my son was old enough to put him into sport, while I did mommy and me classes at My Gym and Gymnastics. As for my daughter, this is her 3rd year in dance and she’s only 4!
I am not speaking as a mom that feels I’ve done it “right” but instead as a mom that realizes it’s not necessary. Kids do not need more structured activities, they need more free play time. I would ask my son what his favorite thing at school was that day and it was always the same answers, “playground or lunch.” Wonder why? Because it was the only time he was FREE. It was his free time to do what he wanted.
Don’t you like your free time?
What do you do?
What does it help you do? Decompress, relax, rejuvenate?
Is this your creative time?
When my son was in traditional school I would pick him up, do homework, go to an activity, and come home for dinner and bed. Where was his free time? Where was his time for discovery and imagination? To just dig in the dirt and make mud pies?
So many parents were right there with me. We’d talk about how busy our lives were driving form place to place, activity to activity. Why? Why did my kindergartener need to be in soccer and karate, running club and music?
Why was I driving myself crazy?!
Last year I decided. Only one activity per child. It was wonderful! Not only because I wasn’t running from place to place but because it gave Kade more of that free time he so desparately needed, even if he didn’t know it.
Now that they get more of that free time throughout the homeschool day we are adding more activities again. When I think back, I would have changed it. I would’t have started them in any activity so young or done so many. I even feel now that I’m getting sucked back into that slippery slope of feeling I need to add something else– soccer for Taylin, piano for Kade.
Kids learn through play. Not through adult supervised, adult taught, rule abiding sports.
Just plain old “dig in the dirt” play.
Why do we as parents have the need to schedule every second of our children’s lives? Is it because everyone is doing it? And we don’t want our kids to miss out? And what are they missing out on? Are we trying to create mini-athletes that are going pro?
Or should we let our children embrace being kids? Just kids.