Updated on 01.24.12

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Youth Activities Edition

Trent Hamm

Sometimes, I wonder what the line is between an appropriate amount of youth activities and too many activities is.

My older children have tumbling/gymnastics one night a week, ice skating one night a week, soccer two nights a week when the weather is appropriate, and they both want to join tae kwon do which is one or two nights a week.

What’s too much? I don’t think there is an answer. The only “rule” we have to this point is that we only sacrifice one family dinner a week to activities, though I know that will slip in the future.

Get Your Financial Life on One Page (FLOP) I have something like this saved in an Excel spreadsheet. It’s just a single view of my financial situation that I’m happy with. (@ christian pf)

Do You Have the Courage to Be Wealthy? Being wealthy means making sacrifices to get there and often struggling with new issues when you arrive. (@ watson inc.)

The Calculus of Convenience Convenience certainly does have a value. The challenge is that many people (in my experience) greatly overestimate that value. (@ get rich slowly)

The Habits That Crush Us For me, the crushing habits are ones that eat up unnecessary time. I am “crushed” when I find myself without enough time to do something I want to do with my family or with my friends. (@ zen habits)

It’s completely up to you Some interesting thoughts on having too many choices to really analyze. My solution is to usually cut away big chunks of my options very quickly using rules I’ve thought about in advance. (@ seth godin)

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  1. David says:

    Not sure you wonder what the line is is, for a line is is a line. You may wonder where it is is, but that is is a different matter.

  2. Johanna says:

    A line is is a line? I would have thought that a line is is a line is. Isn’t he Lucy’s brother?

  3. Evita says:

    Want your reader’s opinion ? here is mine: it is too much already. They are pre-schoolers with full days at daycare and school !

  4. Jon says:

    WAY to much already. Would you schedule yourself for 6 nights a week out of the house for your own activities? Then why do it to your kids.
    Kids need to learn how to cope with downtime just like adults. Unfortunately, most adults have forgotten how to actually ENJOY not being busy. It’s sad that they then push their kids in the same direction.

    Our kids are going to be limited to probably 1 extra circular activity at a time.

  5. Riki says:

    Agreed. Two activities is already plenty. If they want to join another, maybe it’s a good opportunity for a lesson in sticking with something you signed up for and waiting for an appropriate time to start something else.

  6. Johanna says:

    Is there any particular reason why all their activities are athletic?

  7. Andrew says:

    I read “The Habits that Crush Us.”. The author apparently believes that being depressed is a habit, which is so far off base as to be laughable.

    The rest of the article was standard boilerplate pep-squad stuff (clean up clutter! exercise! think positive thoughts!) — trite and not particularly insightful.

  8. valleycat1 says:

    I agree with the others that this seems to be too many activities already for your kids. An alternative to Riki’s suggestion at #5 is to make this an opportunity for selecting the one or two they want to do most. There’s nothing that says you have to keep adding on. And that’s in keeping with your values of not accumulating tons of stuff (or experiences) or succumbing to every whim.

    Or get a Wii so they can dabble in some activities at home with mom & dad.

    And as Johanna pointed out, I’m a little surprised the kids aren’t in art lessons since they both seem to have a real interest.

  9. Tracy says:

    “Do You Have The Courage to Be Wealthy” is really one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. Not only does it spout facts and then draw conclusions that don’t correlate, it contradicts itself within the article.

    Plus, I really don’t get this mindset that people who don’t go into debt face persecution and ridicule from the crowd. Sometimes the persecution is in the eye of the beholder.

  10. Carrie says:

    That’s a lot of activities for young kids! I think your rule is a good starting place. I think it’s okay for kids to be involved in a few activities, but they certainly need balance, both in kinds of activities (team sport, individual sport, art, music, etc) and in how much time they spend participating in the activity compared to time spent simply “being” – quiet, self-directed time.

    I’ve seen how families get run around, split up, and worn out with their kids in gymnastics, soccer, dance, wrestling… I’ve seen how stressed out and disappointed the kids can be, and how irrational parents can be about how well their kids do. I don’t see a benefit to children younger than say, 12 years old getting so involved and stressed out.

    Extracurricular activities can be expensive and time-consuming. Most kids aren’t skilled enough to get scholarships or make a career out of their activities. For our family, unless a child shows exceptional skill and dedication, we’re not interested the consequences on individual and family life of having lots of activities for each child.

  11. Sandy says:

    Your kids are already doing too much. I don’t know how you have the time or money to afford to let them do all that. As they get older it will drive you nuts, ferrying them all over the place to their various activities – and it will interfere with their homework time too. I told my kids to pick two activities only and that was it.

  12. Gretchen says:

    ” The only “rule” we have to this point is that we only sacrifice one family dinner a week to activities, though I know that will slip in the future.”

    does not jive with the “family is everything!!!!!!!!!” Trent I know.

  13. Genny says:

    One sport per season in our house. One church activity. Trent, your children do not have significant homework yet, but extracurriculars can really mess with dinner, homework, etc. Also, many sports have practices/games on Sunday which is a big No for us. Lastly, too many “structured” activities take away from family time, creativity, independent decision making and just having fun playing with other neighborhood kids. I guess it’s fairly clear that I am NOT a proponent of lots of structured activities for kids.

  14. Maureen says:

    Keeping up with so many activities (too many!) is only going to get more difficult when you live out of town.
    We also set limits. Usually our children were in swimming lessons (a skill we deemed very important)plus one other. We also had trip to the library every week and frequently a trip to visit grandparents. That was plenty!

  15. Vanessa says:

    It sounds like a lot of fun to me. I like that they have a wide variety of sports to choose from. They’ll narrow down their interests as they get older. But for now they’re learning there are many ways to get fit while having fun.

  16. Leslie says:

    I agree with everyone above…too many already.

  17. Roberta says:

    Every family has different priorities. There is a serious investment on the part of parents every time you require or allow a child to chose an activity. It costs parents in time driving, the fees for activities and changes in family routines to have children involved in outside activities, as well as the direct parental involvement in certain groups. You have to choose what’s best for your family.

    With us it was school and church first, then one activity at a time plus Scouts, if they were interested in that. Scouts offered such a broad variety of activities that we thought it was worth the extra time. We also have a strict rule that once you sign up, you have to finish out the season. You never have to do it again after that, but we believe that once you commit to something, you do not let down your teammates our group by quitting.

    Our boys have all done volunteer work through our churches, played various sports, belonged to different academic clubs, and the older three did Scouts for many years. They are all bright, socially well-integrated young men who understand leadership as well as being a team player, and show discipline in their lives. I believe that our limits on their outside activites also helped teach them to manage their time well as they got older and the academic demands became much heavier.

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