Whoever thought that age four would be the time to start worrying about extracurricular activities? The arrival of the YMCA and MSCR summer guides began my internal debate.
Perusing through the pages of both guides peaked my interest in many activities. I haven’t played tennis is over five years, and the adult tennis class sounds like fun. If only I was ten again, I could go to summer camp. . . Okay, back to my four-year-old. Up until this year, he was too young for many activities. Promoting a healthy lifestyle (including physical activity) at this age is very important for life-long health, but do I sign him up for karate or swimming or gymnastics or yoga or outdoor soccer or a soccer camp or a multi-sport camp or . . . The list goes on and on, and it will only get longer as he gets older.
As with all families, our time is limited, and I want to make the most of the time we are together. I also look forward to having trips to the library, zoo, park and many of the other amenities offered by living in Madison. We also want to take short weekend trips to explore new places and if I fill the summer with scheduled activities, when will we go exploring? My son has taught me that spontaneity can be the most fun. Children benefit from structure in some activities, but also need time to explore the world on their own and create their own adventures. My husband and I thought it was a great idea to go see the St. Patrick’s Day parade. My son enjoyed the parade, but had just as much fun running around the Capital lawn playing hide-and-go-seek. I don’t want to limit these opportunities to create his own fun (and mine, for that fact) by scheduling away all our free time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has a good article to help guide parents: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Physical-Activity-Make-the-Right-Choice-for-Your-Child.aspx.
So, I continue to have the internal debate, but for the time being, my son is only scheduled in 1-2 activities per week. I am planning to keep all weekends free in the summer for exploring and discovering what fun we can have on our own. The most important thing is for us to figure out what works for our family, stay active and have fun.