If you’re like me, you’re thinking about the coming year and the many activities that are available to our children. In truth, most kids begin their activities in the fall with the start of the school year, but there’s nothing like the fresh start of a new year to ensure we’re following our child’s interests when it comes to their activities.
First of all, let me be upfront with the fact that I am not a proponent of signing kids up for activities just for the sake of keeping them busy. Kids are so busy these days! Let them rest and play after a long day at school, and make family dinners a priority. These early years at home are so important and will do so much more for your child’s social and emotional development than any soccer club or karate class.
With that in mind, step back a minute and assess your child’s activities. Does he have too many? Too few? Most importantly, are they addressing his interests?
I have seen a few soccer games where the kids don’t seem to be having much fun. It often seems like it’s more about the parents and coaches than it is about the children. The same goes for any tutoring or “educational enrichment” classes. Of course, fun probably isn’t the goal there, but nonetheless, assessing the need is key.
The first priority in assessing your child’s activities is to make sure you are discovering and honing his interests. What is your child most interested in? I feel activities need to center around the child’s interests because this is where the child will truly learn. A child forced to join Cub Scouts when his true passion is playing the piano does the child a real disservice.
I’m reminded of the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. The author says that to reach true success, it takes a bit of timing and good luck, but also lots of practice. Specifically 10,000 hours, he says. So if our hope is that our child will reach success the likes of Bill Gates, then we must first find what will inspire and guide the child toward greatness. Then we give him the opportunity to get their 10,000 hours in.
Realize that choosing the 10,000-hour activity for the child won’t do any good. The child has to have the inner drive to want to put in all those hours. So if you’re dragging a sporty kid to piano practice and violin lessons, I suspect you’ll be met with great resistance.
William, my oldest, inspires me with his inspiration. He is truly gifted in many things. I will say that we are still defining his one or two interests. His top interest at this point is drawing. In his free time, he writes comic strips. They are very detailed and very funny! I haven’t yet felt the need to sign him up for a drawing class because I’d like to see how this interest morphs on its own, without an outside influence. I cultivate this interest by giving him plenty of time to draw, encouraging him by sharing his drawings and comics with others, and by giving him the materials he needs. I bought him a book for Christmas that gives step-by-step directions for drawing cartoon people!
Another interest of William’s is piano. This kid amazes me with his ear. He learned to play “Deck the Halls” by listening to it in a commercial and pounding it out on the keyboard. We’re taking Suzuki piano lessons, and I love that it teaches him to play by ear, but I have to say, I’m not thrilled with the lessons. I feel like we might benefit more by devoting that time at home on the piano. This remains to be seen.
Lucas, my five-year-old, is my sporty one. The child could throw a perfect spiral with his little football at the age of 3. I have him in a sports class at our homeschool co-op. When we have the time, I’ll sign him up for flag football or t-ball. Beyond sports, we’re still waiting to see what other interests emerge. He takes the same piano lessons William does, but he gets less time on the piano. I’m not sure it’s an interest or talent of his. Besides, at his age, I think imaginative play at home is more important than any activity that I could sign him up for.
As you look ahead to a new year, what interests has your child shown? Are you doing your best to hone those skills with the right amount of outside activities?