Ballet, baseball, piano — oh my! Read about our approach to scheduled activities for our kids here. We get into the good, the bad, and the “we probably shouldn’t have done that.”
Growing up, I was a kid that wanted to try everything. And I did — and my parents logged the hours in the car driving me around to prove it.
My sister and I experienced it all, from 4-H to ballet, from band and choir to competitive sports, from riding horses to community theater.
I am so grateful for such a rich background and the experience of having tested so many things. It means that I truly know what resonates with me (and what doesn’t), and what I have wanted to pour my energy into because I truly care about it.
It also means that I have an appreciation for the things that I didn’t continue with, because I have seen the inner workings and understand the skill or time it takes to get good at it.
All that being said, Ryan and I have tried to take a healthy and balanced approach to it all. It’s more challenging than I thought it would be to help kids navigate the world of winners vs. losers, coming to terms with their own skill or ability levels, and traits like patience and perseverance.
Does it feel good to win? Sure. Is it okay to lose? Yep. But should you always try your best? Of course. And what if your best isn’t good enough? Ummm…
This is truly tricky stuff to tackle with a 4 or 6 year old who is interested in the world of competitive sports or learning a new skill.
So as we’ve tried out a few different activities for the kids during the last few years, we’ve learned and realized so much about how we as a family want to approach it all.
Competitive Team Sports
This has been Henry’s first year in a competitive team sport. He chose to join the baseball team, and has loved it.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t had ups and downs. He’s had innings with incredible catches and big hits. And he’s also struck out, been tagged out at first too many times to count, and been stuck in the outfield when he really wanted to be playing pitcher.
All in all, I find that competitive team sports are an incredible place to learn so many things — sportsmanship, supporting others (including the other team), patience, perseverance, and digging deep to try your very best even when you may not want to (on top of the actual skills of the sport).
However, we’ve also found that you can end up on a team or in a league that may have a very different approach than you do to team sports. We’re in a league that gets very competitive very quickly as the kids age. At the 5-6 level, I’m honestly not even interested in keeping score. But some people are, and that’s fine.
So my best recommendation is to learn a little about the team or league that you’re joining to be sure that your approach and expectations align with the vibe of the organization.
Skills-Based Group Classes
Henry and Maggie have participated in a number of this type of activity — ballet, theatre, karate, gymnastics, and so on. As a parent, I feel that a skills-based group class can be so enriching, in a different way than team sports.
With a focus on learning a new skill, I’ve seen our kids struggle in these classes as they realize that maybe they’re not as able or natural as they’d like to be. Henry, for instance, isn’t super intuitive physically, so karate and gymnastics are challenging for him.
But! The payoff is huge when they finally master a skill and are able to do what the other kids are doing. Then you can talk about how you improve with practice, how not giving up is key to reaching the next level, and how accomplishing a goal that you set feels really good.
I find that the struggle with these classes is that sometimes you reach a plateau and have to decide whether to push through or let your kid move on to something else. I talk more about that down below!
Henry started taking piano lessons during the pandemic. I wasn’t sure he was quite ready but he was really eager and it was him that actually convinced us to go for it.
I was a little hesitant because it was his first time doing an individual lesson type activity where he would be expected to practice daily (and I would hold him accountable to that). Daily practice is so challenging — I was a music major in college and we all disliked it! But it’s necessary to improve, and that is so hard to grapple with as a 6 year old.
I have to say, if your kiddo doesn’t thrive in a group environment, something like piano lessons might be right up their alley. I’ve seen Henry be challenged in a new way, where the focus is all on him and he really has to take ownership of what he’s working on.
And the daily practice has been going…. okay. He definitely doesn’t run to the piano every day to practice. But we’ve also developed a routine that he helped decide on, and that ownership makes him more prone to be positive about it.
For us, we’ve learned that if he practices in the morning (even before school on school days), it usually happens with a good attitude and is really productive. If we wait until later in the day, all bets are definitely off (tears, tantrums, the whole shebang).
I think it’s super important to fiddle with your family’s process until you hit on what works for your kiddo, if they want to commit to something like that.
How Long Do You Try?
And finally, a question that we’ve come up against now and then — how long do you try an activity before you let your kid quit?
We’ve struggled with it in the past, because on one hand we don’t want to set a precedent for our kids that when the going gets tough, you just stop trying. But on the other hand, we certainly don’t want to force them into activities that they either dislike or aren’t right for them.
I think often, you can have a very candid chat with their teacher or coach to get feedback. A good teacher will be able to see whether your child just needs help getting over a hump, or whether it’s time to cut and run.
An honest, open conversation with your kiddo can also reveal some pretty interesting things too. They’re so much more perceptive, intuitive, and eloquent than we give them credit for!
And finally, the big one for me: avoiding overscheduling.
I spent so many years of my life with a planner that was full every hour of every day. And I don’t want that any more — not for me or for our family.
This may not ring true for you! I really think it ebbs and flows for every family and the best thing is to be very conscious of where your family thrives in the spectrum of business.
For us, a general rule of thumb is to try to not have activities regularly scheduled more than 2-3 days a week. That way, we feel like we have time to just be — to let the kids play, to be together, to get outside and run around.
I’m positive this will change as our family grows and ages, and that’s fine. But I hope that it’s something we continue to check in with each other about, and make sure that we’re doing what’s best for all of us.
Hopefully this resonates with you if you have kids and are navigating activities! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. xoxo