Ready to conquer the world of extracurricular activities? Maybe your little one is barely toddling on their way to the nearest Little Gym. Or maybe you have a 12 year old that is ready to try out for school sports. Regardless of how old your child is, here are some things to keep in mind before you take the leap into any extracurricular activity.
Rule #1 of Extracurricular Activities for your kids – Don’t get attached! Say you take your daughter to ballet. You loved ballet! You were going to be a ballerina! Or maybe you just WANTED to be a ballerina, but you were never allowed to take classes. Remember, this is your kid’s life…not yours. They might love it, they might hate it. It’s really not up to you to decide.
Whenever possible, schedule a trial run. In some cases, you might be able to get a free class for your kiddo. Try to schedule it for the time you would actually sign up, to see how well it fits into your schedule. If you can’t get a free trial, ask for a discount. Also some places offer Groupon or Living Social deals, so be sure to look there first.
Team sports don’t really offer a “trial” so you have a few different options: take them to a game and show them how many millions of times those soccer players run up and down the field. Take them to the batting cage and let them see how fast that ball comes at them. The trial run might be enough to make them fall in love, or fall quickly towards another sport/activity.
Once they commit…it’s a commitment. This is activity specific of course. A month of gymnastics (not team) can easily be quit at the end of the month. Team sports and sports with a “performance” aspect require commitment though. If they quit, they let down their peers. This is a great time to teach your children to follow through. There is definitely wiggle room here if something goes horribly wrong, they get hurt, the coach/teacher is abusive, etc.
This is commitment for you too since you will be the one transporting them to and from this activity. Be sure you can fit the various practices/games/rehearsals on your calendar!
Be overly cautious when discussing fees and expectations. Sure, the sign up fee for cheerleading sounds fair. However, read the fine print! You also are required to pay for 3 pairs of shoes, cheer camp, lodging at cheer camp, 3,000 new bows and the coach’s first born’s child’s college tuition (seriously…kidding. Cheer IS expensive though!). If your child is 10 minutes late for football practice, he can’t play in Saturday’s game (and with your schedule, there is NO way he won’t be 10 minutes late).
Games can be up to 3 hours away, etc. For the most part, people are up front about the financial and time expectations of activities because they don’t want you to waste their time either. Just…be careful. Ask about EVERYTHING. Some examples of “hidden fees”: Mandatory fundraisers, gear/clothing not provided by the organization (specifically ask if things need to be brand specific!), concession fees, team gift fees, etc.
Finally, set expectations with your child. Age specific expectations are a great way to explain to your child what you are expecting when you make this investment in their childhood without getting into the financial details. Expectations can hopefully keep you from exclaiming, “I’m paying $100 a month for you to go to swim lessons to learn to swim…not ignore your instructor the whole time!” .
Let them know (and you might have to do this before every single class!) what you expect from them behavior wise and talk about an attainable goal for this extracurricular activity. For baseball, “This season I expect you to listen closely to your coach and work hard to improve your skills.” Swim Lessons, “Swimming is such an important life skill! I’m so excited you are going to become safer in the water. Be sure you listen closely to the instructor and hopefully in a few weeks you will be able to improve your freestyle time!” .
My kids love their extracurricular activities and for the most part, I enjoy taking them to practice/games/performances/etc ( not a HUGE fan of those 7:45pm weeknight games or Saturday morning practices, but when they love it, it is worth it!) .
I hope this helps anyone about to embark on the world of extracurricular activities with their kiddos! Comment below with any questions or additional advice.
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