After school activities can be great for keeping your kids active and entertained beyond the school day. They can encourage your children to hone skills they might not necessarily have the chance to practice in school, and it can be a wonderful opportunity for kids to make new friends outside of their classroom. However, having too many after school commitments can become tiresome and stressful, it can get in the way of quality family time, and can even do more harm than good!
We recently received the following question from a reader, a mother of three in California…
In the States, the after-school routine can be all-consuming especially with multiple children. I have taken a more relaxed approach than many in my community but am constantly struggling with how to provide an enriching and confidence building environment for my kids, while being sensitive to over scheduling and the stress it causes for the entire family. I would love to know your approach as well as any cultural differences that stand out.
I thought it was such an interesting question, and it really did make me wonder what sort of cultural differences there are surrounding this topic.
For example, when we lived in London, after school activities were very common. (I always felt like our family had way fewer activities compared to our friends and the children’s classmates.) I had several friends whose children had a lesson or scheduled activity literally every single day after school. It was even more noticeable in the winter when the days were short and cold — parents would organise all sorts of indoor activities for fear of keeping their kids cooped up at home every afternoon (which I totally understand). While here in Australia where the weather is milder, scheduled activities are much less common. It seems like kids tend to have one or two scheduled activities each week, and then more free time to head to the beach. So perhaps weather plays a part? I also think maybe it’s a difference between living in a city, where there are more options and therefore more hype and pressure, than living in smaller towns?
Another interesting aspect is the age of the children. My three eldest children (12, 10 and 8) play tennis on Mondays after school, and on Wednesdays they have a drama class after school, which they love. Thankfully we live in town and the kids can just walk home after their drama class, so it doesn’t require any extra driving or coordinating on my part. Marlow, who is 5, doesn’t currently have any extra curricular activities, as I think school is already tiring for her, and I think it’s important for her to be able to have unstructured time at home in the afternoons. She’s lucky she has plenty of siblings to play with, so she is very rarely alone or bored.
But this is the thing, I guess: boredom! It seems parents nowadays are trying to do everything they can to keep their kids from becoming too bored. But boredom is actually a good thing. It’s always when my kids are home, feeling bored, with nothing to do that they end up playing in the most imaginative, creative ways. Giving our kids unstructured time can be so beneficial for their imaginations and also for their sibling relationships. I really feel like my kids are so close because we give them plenty of time to play together, which of course is more important to me than anything else.
So let’s talk after school activities. How old are your kids and how many structured activities do they have? Do you feel the pressure to have more or less? Please share below.