When my daughter was a toddler, I couldn’t wait for her to join some local activities. The little mommy and me gymnastics class – “so adorable!” The combined tap and ballet class at the local community center – “look at her little tutu!” All of these activities fit well into our budget and were a great way for the whole fam to socialize and make some new friends. Little did I know what was lurking around the corner.
Somewhere along the way to turning seven, this extracurricular stuff gets serious. I heard the expression “bigger kids, bigger problems” but no one warned me about the busier schedules! And I can’t even mention the thousands (yes, you heard me correctly) of dollars that are required to participate without needing to grab a chair or a glass of wine. Remember the raise that you earned when your child finished daycare? Insert evil laugh. Get out your checkbooks, mama.
How do we not get EXTRA maxed out from these extracurricular activities? That’s a question I continuously ask myself as we embark on this next stage of life. And though I do not have the answers, I do have a couple of tips that I’ve picked up along the way to make it more manageable.
- Prioritize – just like in adulthood, we can’t do it all. Choose what makes them the happiest. Recently my daughter was ecstatic when she learned she was chosen to have a place in our local girls’ choir. However, when I received the paperwork, the rehearsals conflicted with her dance classes for the upcoming year. She was devastated, but what a great lesson in realizing that often in life we have to choose and hold true to prior commitments.
- Teach them to be appreciative. I think that my children should be aware that many of the things we enjoy aren’t free. These activities take our time and money. Rather than an allowance you can have your child help around the house to earn special classes or extras pertaining to the activity.
- Stay grounded – don’t get swept up in the “must do” clinic, class, etc. We all have that friend who is pushing the private lessons or extra clinics that go beyond the basic activities offered. It is easy to feel like your child might get behind if they don’t participate. Believe me – your child will be okay and your calendar will thank you.
- Make it a present. If your child is begging for those horseback riding lessons or ninja warrior training sessions, these may make some meaningful gifts for Christmas or their birthday. Often times, relatives may like to chip in for an activity that can be more special than a plastic toy or a gift card.
- Make sure they are doing it for the right reasons. Have conversations with your child about their interests. Allow them to try things out before committing to something they may not want to finish. Does your child want to do it because their BFF is doing it or is it really something that delights them? Are they just doing participating because they think it makes you happy? Talk and explore together.