A big part of parenting school-aged kids is getting them to and from all the extra activities they do outside of school. It can be manic, most definitely time consuming and in many cases, pretty expensive.
I think in the first few years of school it is great to be able to try as many things as you can with your child, just to see what they are drawn to and what they enjoy doing.
I feel we know pretty soon what our little ones like and don’t like. So from junior infants I was happy to introduce a variety of activities to see what my daughter Joan gravitated too.
When she started school we introduced weekly swimming lessons, to me this one was non-negotiable, and gymnastics and stuck with those for her Junior Infants year.
In Senior Infants, we started basketball which she quickly fell in love with and the school introduced GAA as an after-school program, which she wasn’t as keen on. Then this past year, in First Class, she began piano lessons and, thankfully, she really enjoyed them and the teacher.
But by the end of last year, I felt we just had too much on. I was in traffic way too much and when we tallied up her annual spend on extra circular activities, it was a bit of a shock.
And that is with just one child, I really felt for all my friends and parents who have two, three, four kids and more, who simply have to say no to all of the extras.
I have said before in this column that I am lucky enough I can fit in going with Joan to all her extra activities across the week after school, unlike most families who have to pile weekends high with gymnastics, GAA, swimming etc.
But even with the extra freedom I have working for myself across the week, I found myself rather pooped at the end of the week, as did Joan. So in August, we took stock before Second Class started to see how to best map our week for us as a family.
Again, swimming has to stay in my opinion, plus, she really loves it. We dumped gymnastics, which I know has so many benefits for developing cognitive abilities and physical strength, just there wasn’t a cartwheel in sight after over two years of classes.
We kept basketball as she and her classmates are doing so well and have moved up to a new level in basketball which requires two training sessions a week.
I’ve always loved supporting girls in sport and like the idea of her doing a team activity, plus she has progressed really well in it. The double-training sessions is a good thing for eight/nine-year-olds to get use to as well.
And I really feel learning an instrument early in life has so many benefits.
They might not go on to play The National Concert Hall, but they may just foster a life-long love of music and become confident playing an instrument or multiple instruments. Joan loves music and wants it on all the time, at home and in the car. Like clockwork every time we get into the car, she shouts “music please!”
Plus, a bonus is her piano teacher is a lot cooler than the one I had growing up and is asking Joan which songs she likes off the radio, then teaching them to her.
Each child is different in what they really love and excel at and each family has different limitations in what they can manage across the week. So whatever extra circular activities you settle on, pack loads of snacks, coffee and your phone charger as they can make for long days but rewarding ones too!
Catch Alison’s Weekend Breakfast show every Saturday and Sunday, 8am-11am on Today FM