Activities And Over-Scheduling

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So being a dad to a smart, inquisitive boy, I of course want Liam to experience everything possible, to help him find things that he likes. But I also firmly believe in the power of free time, of idle thought and quiet alone time – I don’t want to fall into the over-scheduling trap, which is all to easy, when I think of all the things that I’d like Liam to try out:

    * swimming
    * gymnastics
    * skating/hockey
    * tennis
    * snowshoeing
    * cycling
    * baseball
    * soccer
    * arts & crafts
    * pottery
    * music

Essentially, as Leah & I read through the Community Centres’ program offerings, we almost invariably nodding our heads and saying “yes, we should try that”. Liam’s not much of a filter, as he, being the aforementioned smart & inquisitive, is just as curious about trying out new things as we for him to try them. I have established certain “imperatives”. For instance, whether he wants to or not, I want Liam to learn how to swim comfortably, safely. Fortunately for us, Liam absolutely loves swimming.

This fall, Liam is continuing swimming. I’d like to sign him up for skating lessons, and Liam is certainly very excited about that. Browsing the programs, we came across “Parent & Tot Indoor Tennis (3-5 yrs)”, which is described thusly:

This program introduces your child to the joy of running chasing, and hitting a ball, all enjoyed with Mom or Dad. Racquets provided if necessary.

What 4-year-old boy wouldn’t love running around and hitting balls with a racket? Particularly given how much Liam loves to play T-ball & baseball in our back yard. So then there’s that. And also soccer.

So thinking about it last night, I came up with the following guideline for scheduling these sorts of things with Liam: No more than 3 scheduled activities a week. This should leave plenty of time for us to just play, read, explore, do whatever, but also, be enough that Liam can try out new things on a regular basis, and see if he particularly likes any of them to continue.

Of course, this means there’s lots of things he won’t get to try. But that’s ok. I think. I am, of course, feeling guilty for not enabling him to do everything. Perhaps if I didn’t work, so had more time with him, I’d be more willing to share my time with him, but given that I only see him evenings & weekends, it’s hard to justify.

For Leah, who’s just starting shiftwork as a nurse, this will be even harder – today, Liam’s staying home from daycare to hang out with her because she’ll be working all weekend, and it is quite clear that Liam gets upset when he doesn’t get much time with one of us over the course of a week.

So. How to balance trying new things, learning skills, playing sports with family time, alone time, etc? I’m not sure I know. I’d certainly be interested in hearing about what other parents out there are doing to find a balance.

About The Author: Steve Tannock is married to Leah, has a cat named Twitch and a four-year-old son named Liam with whom he’s learning a whole slew of new things. He’s also a co-founder & owner of Pencilneck Software, a local tech firm. Steve (& Liam) can be found on twitter (@stv), his blog & flickr.

Photo from Steve Tannock. Used with permission.


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